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Viva Voce

The Art of Artist Development

(Photos by ISO Staff)

Prof. Harold K.L. Mok
Chair of the Department of Fine Arts


What makes the Department of Fine Arts unique?

The Department has a long history which can be traced back to 1957, when a two-year Fine Arts Specialized Training Programme was set up at New Asia College. Two years later, it was developed into a four-year programme. In 1963, New Asia College joined CUHK as one of the University’s constituent Colleges. The Department of Fine Arts then became the first provider of fine arts courses in Hong Kong tertiary institutions.

In the decades that followed, we witnessed a growing number of art programmes in higher education. Some focus on studio practice, others on art history. Our curriculum covers both aspects, with a strong emphasis on traditional Chinese art. The Department has a low student-faculty ratio and therefore the relationship between students and teachers has always been very close.

How do you unite all faculty members with different expertise?

Having faculty members with diverse expertise is a valuable asset to the Department. It means we always have a wide range of talent to support our academic and outreach endeavours. In fact, our faculty members have a lot in common──they are all passionate about art, education and research. We respect each other and a powerful bond between us is natural.

Does more art programmes in higher education mean fiercer competition among tertiary institutions?

It actually means more chances to cooperate. For example, our Department is working with the Academy of Visual Arts at Baptist University to allow the students to take courses at both institutions. More art programmes in higher education also means more choices for secondary school graduates and more employment opportunities for fine arts graduates. The latter can teach or conduct research at various universities and play prominent roles in enhancing the overall development of art education in Hong Kong.

What do you look for in a Fine Arts student?

I expect the student to be well-rounded. Artistic talent aside, a Fine Arts student at CUHK has to acquire the attributes deemed important by a comprehensive-research university like CUHK. We also pay special attention to the students’ personalities. During the admission interviews, we look for students who are both genuine and serious about the study and making of art.

How does the Department nurture its students?

Apart from having lectures and studio practices, we encourage our students to participate in exchange and internship programmes in Hong Kong and abroad, as well as to exhibit their work at international art fairs and exhibitions. We hope that our students would acquire real-world experience by participating in these events under the supervision of their teachers. We also believe that mentoring is an effective way of sharing wisdom, knowledge and value in art and education.

Did the parents’ attitude towards art education change over the years?

They are becoming more open-minded. Many parents used to think that their children would end up being starving artists after they graduate from art schools. However, in a more affluent society, students of Fine Arts are given more career choices. Apart from becoming an artist, a Fine Arts graduate can work as a curator, designer, reporter or even a film director.

How about the society’s support of art?

Both public and private enterprises are investing more in the development of art. The numbers of museums and galleries have been increasing over the years. There has also been an increasing number of private galleries in Hong Kong and overseas. Many of them are eager to promote the artworks of emerging artists. Though most of them are commercially driven, a growing art market nevertheless opens up new platforms for young artists to have their artworks exhibited in Hong Kong and all over the world.

How do you feel about the Department’s 60th anniversary and how would you envision its future?

I feel very grateful to the founders of the Department. It’s our mission to preserve our tradition, but at the same time, we have to keep moving forward.

In recent years, the Department has been actively acquiring financial support to expose our students to the global art scene. We are also building a very international faculty with an aim to add new perspectives to both teachers and students. I hope that our Department can continue to provide a very favourable environment for art education and research, as well as to nurture more emerging artists with all-rounded skills to serve the international art communities.

This article was originally published in No. 496, Newsletter in Apr 2017.

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Harold Mok Art Fine Arts Department of Fine Arts Faculty of Arts Chairman art education New Asia College