Remembering the artist
Remembering the artist Szeto Keung
From writing by Eslite Gallery
On September 5th, 2011, Szeto KEUNG passed away at 63 years old in New York due to heart disease. This person nicknamed “Szeto Rose” was not only a master realist painter, but also a dear mentor to young artists and students. His sudden departure has shocked and saddened many.
He started collaborating with ESLITE GALLERY since its founding in 1989. During this 22 year period, he participated in a total of seven solo exhibitions. KEUNG took a long time to shape his paintings, taking up to a year to create four to five works. Among these works, he created several photo-realist paintings. ESLITE GALLERY director Emily Chao recalls, “One time in the gallery, a visitor said that KEUNG’s works could not be bought because the gallery used a special light and buying the painting was not enough – the light would have to be bought as well.” Not all of KEUNG’s paintings can be classified as entirely photo-realistic. Although it is true he depicted what he saw, he also added personal touches in his paintings, combining abstract expressionism, ultra-realism, pop, etc. along with collage and other creative uses of acrylic paint. He also uses his works to represent his favorite classical Chinese poetry. When he contrasts the realistic roses or objects against an abstract background, he shows the depth of his works through its illustration of culture. The work is no longer just a beautiful object but an object of scholarly refinement.
Szeto KEUNG was a consistent person, where his attention to art and painting could be described as a fanatic. He used almost all his time thinking and creating, training his extraordinary vision – Emily Chao called him the “artist Bo Le*”. Whenever he encountered good artists, KEUNG would be more than happy to share and recommend them, objectively and unselfishly, to Emily. Not only that, he would personally visit and introduce them to Emily. It is because of KEUNG that the gallery’s artists include XU Bing, CAI Guo-Qiang, Paul CHIANG, etc..
Szeto KEUNG loved to read. From time to time, he would create lists of books for the gallery to help him buy (“Young Lady” was how Keung affectionately addressed the gallery’s employees). This avid reader had small hill-like piles of books throughout his Soho apartment. KEUNG was a great romantic who loved beauty and fashion. He generally did not follow brand names or trends. He spent a lot of time creating his personal style between punk and unconventional beauty. If he were late to a gathering with friends, they’d always say “KEUNG is still getting dressed.” When he finally appeared, he’d look like he had just woken up from bed. Don’t be mistaken however, because it was all the result of careful deliberation.
Compared to how delicate and precise his paintings are, KEUNG was sloppy in his life, let alone his finance. It was in his nature to burn a hole in the gallery reception table while smoking, or have stacks of messy notes and documents stained by coffee. Because of his casual attitude, he neglected himself for the past decade and let his health deteriorate. KEUNG had said, “Death is a cycle inevitable for any sentient life. Flowers will blossom then fade, bloom with vibrant color then droop with desolate sadness. It is hard to let go right before death, when one reflects on one’s life with sorrow at memorable moments. If one is of a more passionate nature, he will feel deeper grief towards the flower’s demise.” His death calls for us to grieve deeply and ESLITE GALLERY will hold a memorial service within a month, to gather people that miss KEUNG, to once again enjoy the pure wit and style of the artist’s talent.
*Bo Le is a figure in a traditional Chinese story who had recognized potential in a horse that no one else believed could be a winner, and gave it an opportunity to develop its full skill as a galloper.
Selected Solo Exhibitions:
2008 O.K. Harris Works of Art, New York, NY
2005 Eslite Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan
2003 O.K. Harris Works of Art, New York, NY
2000 Cherng Piin Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan
1999 O.K. Harris Works of Art, New York, NY
1996 1978-1996: Keung Szeto, Cherng Piin Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan
1996 Superreal: Szeto Keung, Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong Kong
1995 O.K. Harris Works of Art, New York, NY
1993 Cherng Piin Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan
1992 O.K. Harris Works of Art, New York, NY
1991 Cherng Piin Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan
1990 O.K. Harris Works of Art, New York, NY
1988 Gallery Triform, Taipei, Taiwan
1987 O.K. Harris Works of Art, New York, NY
1984 O.K. Harris Works of Art, New York, NY
1982 O.K. Harris Works of Art, New York, NY
1974 Hong Kong Art Center, Alliance Francaise and Goethe Institute, Hong Kong; (sponsored and exhibited jointly)
1973-74 United States Information Service of Taipei, Taiwan
1971 Liang’s Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan
Selected Group Exhibitions:
2006 The Eclectic Eye: Selections of Fantasy and Illusion from the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation,
Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, LA
2005-06 Art And Illusion: Selections from the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, Carnegie Art Museum, Oxnard, CA
2004 Seeing is Believing: American Trompe l’oeil, New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT
2004 Contemporary American Realism VII, M.A. Doran Gallery, Tulsa, OK
2003-04 Everything OK at OK Harris, Brevard Museum of Art and Science, Melbourne, FL
2003 Pop and Illusionism: Contemporary Works From The Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation,
Contemporary Art Center of Virginia, Virginia Beach, VA
2002 Song of Clouds and Waters: New Realist Painting in Taiwan Since the 1970’s, Asia Art Center,
1998 Selections from the Frederick R. Weisman Collections, Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art,
Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA
1998 Contemporary Art From The Overseas Chinese, Galerie Pierre, Taichung, Taiwan
l995-96 Made To order. America’s Most Wanted paintings, Alternative Museum, New York, NY
1994 Between East West Transformations of Chinese Art in the Late Twentieth Century, Discovery Museum, Bridgeport, CT
1993 Neither East Nor West: Seven Contemporary New York Artists Taipei Gallery, New York, NY
1992-94 Visions In Between- New York/China Japan, Korea, Ise Art Foundation, New York, NY;
travelling to: Fukuyama Museum, Hiroshima, Japan; Park Ryu Sook Gallery, Seoul Korea; Walker Hill
Art Center, Seoul, Korea; New Trends Gallery, Taichung, Taiwan; Howard Salon, Taipei, Taiwan; G. Zen Art Gallery, Kao Hsiung Taiwan; Taipei Gallery, New York, NY
1992 The Reality of Illusion, Contemporary Crafts Gallery, Portland, OR
1992 The Articulated Thumbprint, Boca Raton Museum of Art, Boca Raton, FL
1991 New York/Taipei: An Encounter With Modernism, Taipei Gallery, McGraw Hill Building,
New York, NY
1991 Dual Cultures: China & U.S.A., Six Realist Painters, Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn, NY
1991 Taipei New York, Confrontation of Modernism, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
1991 Exhibition of Ten Chinese Artists in New York, Oriental Gallery, New York, NY
1990 Chinese Modern Realist Paintings, China House of Arts, New York, NY
1990 Contemporary Artists Drawing Exhibition, Cherng Piin Gallery, Taipai, Taiwan
1990 A Small Bite Of The Apple; The 79th Annual Exhibition, Maier Museum of Art, Randolph-Macon
Woman’s College, Lynchburg, VA
1989 The Selected Contemporary Artists Series Exhibition, Cherng Piin Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan
1988 Continuity and Change: Five Contemporary Chinese Artists, Yale University Art Gallery,
New Haven, CT
1988 La Passion Des Apparences, Galerie Gismondi, Paris, France
1987 Fall Invitational, Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, CT
1987 Mainstream America: The Collection of Phil Desind, Mutter Institute of American Art,
1987 Taipei Art Gallery, Chinese Cultural Center, New York, NY
1986 Eleven New York Artists Works Exhibition, Guang Dong Art Academy, Guang Dong, China
1985-86 More Than Meets the Eye: The Art of Trompe l’Oeil, Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH;
Norton Gallery, West Palm Beach, FL
1985 16 Works Of Contemporary Chinese Artists, Lincoln Center Cork Gallery, New York, NY
1985 The Real Thing: Trompe l’Oeil, Castle Gallery, College of New Rochelle, New Rochelle, NY
1984 Overseas Chinese Artists Exhibition, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
1984 Illusions Greenville County Museum of Art, Greenville, SC
1983-85 Contemporary Tromp l’OeiI Painting and Sculpture, Boise Gallery of Art, Boise, ID; travelling
to: Museum of Art, Washington State University, Pullman, WA; Bellevue Art Museum, Pullman, WA; Salt Lake Art Center, Salt Lake City, UT; Laguna Beach Museum of Art, Laguna Beach, CA; Queens Museum, Flushing NY
1983 Material Illusions/Unlikely Materials, Taft Museum, Cincinnati, OH
1983 The Great Illusionists, Ben Shahn Gallery, William Paterson College, Wayne, NJ
1982 Still Life/Interiors. Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, LA
1980 Illusionism, O.K. Harris West, Scottsdale, AZ
1975 Contemporary Chinese Ink-Painting of Hong Kong, National Gallery of Arts and Museum of History,
Numerous group exhibitions beginning in 1971 through 1974
Selected Bibliography: Books & Catalogues
Song of Clouds and Waters: New Realist Painting in Taiwan Since the 1970’s, Asia Art Center, Taipei, Taiwan; Essay: Shih Tung Shin, 2002.
Contemporary Art From The Overseas Chinese, Galerie Pierre, Taichung, Taiwan, 1998.
From Native and Foreign Lands, Cherny Piin Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan, Text: Keo Chien-Hui, 1996.
Superreal: Szeto Keung, Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong Kong; Text: Chu-Tsing Li, 1996
Between East and West: Transformations ofChinese Art in the Later Twentieth Century, Discovery Museum, Bridgeport, CT, 1994
Szeto Keung’s Work, Cherng Piin Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan; Introduction: Shou-Chien Shili, 1993
Neither East Nor West Seven Contemporary New York Artists, Taipei Gallery, New York, NY;
Introduction:Eleanor Heartney, 1993.
Visions In Between, Taipei Gallery, New York, NY; Essay: Eleanor Heartney, 1993
Discover A Brave New World, Cherng Piin Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan, 1992.
Dual Cultures: Taiwan/New York-Six Realist Artists, Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn, Introduction: Constance Schwartz, 1991
Taipei New York. Confrontation of Modernism, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan;
Foreword: Kuo Wei-fan, 1991.
Keung Szeto, Cherng Piin Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan; Text; Eleanor Heartney, 1991
Points of View Works by Nine Artists of Asian Backround Emerson Gallery, Rockland Center For The Arts, West Nyack, NY; Introduction: Hanford Yang, 1991
Chinese Modern Realist Paintings, China Houseof Arts, Introduction: Rebecca Wu, New York, NY, 1990.
Contemporary Artists Drawing Exhibition,Cherng Piin Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan, 1990.
The Selected Contemporary Artists Series Exhibition, Cherng Piin Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan 1989
Continuity and Change: Five Contemporary Chinese Artists, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT; Text; Elizabeth Miller, 1988
Szeto’s Paintings, Gallery Triform, Taipei, Taiwan, 1988
The Works of Keung Szeto, The Hong Kong Institute for Promotion of Chinese Culture, Hong Kong;
Preface: Van Lan; Introduction: Wucius Wong, Hong Kong, 1988
La Passion Des Apparences, Galerie Gismondi, Paris France; Introduction: Alain Blondel, 1988.
Mainstream America: The Collection of Phil Desind, Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH; Introduction: Louis Zona, 1987.
More Than Meets The Eye: The Art of Trompe l’Oeil, Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH;
Foreword: Budd Harris Bishop, 1985.
American Art Now, Edward Lucie-Smith, William Morrow & Company, New York 1985
Eleven New York Artists Work Exhibition, Guang Dong Branch of Chinese Artists Association, Guang Dong, China; Foreword: Tong Sil Ming, 1985
Contemporary Trompe l’Oeil Painting and Sculpture, Boise Gallery of Art, Boise, ID;
Introduction: Dennis O’Leary, 1983
Selected Public Collections:
Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong
Taipei. Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
Taiwan Museum of Art, Taichung, Taiwan
Kaosiung Museum of Fine Arts, Kaosiung, Taiwan
Forbes Magazine, New York, NY
Albany Museum, Albany, GA
Farhat Art Museum, Lebanon