Lau Chun
Chinese-American

 Educated in China, influenced by the French Impressionists, and having traveled the globe for inspiration, Lau developed a unique and beautifully articulated style that has been said to “redefine the tenets of classical Impressionism.”
   
“Nature has a lingering impact on me,” says Lau Chun. “When I look at a scene, I see such beauty in the landscape, the color and light, I am filled with emotion. So I try very hard to paint what I feel, not just what I see. This way,” Lau smiles, “I can’t make a mistake!”
   
Lau Chun has had a distinctive career spanning more than 25 years in the Islands. I was introduced to his work in the mid-1970s, during his abstract era. His canvases fascinated me then, filled as they were with both weight and whimsy, bold forms defined by soothing and ethereal color. “In the 1970s, Lau recalls, “abstracts were such a joy. By the 1980s I had changed to Impressionism, and then to figure work.  To be a true artist is not easy,” Lau admits “I try to be a true artist, so I try to evolve. I pick one subject and repeat that subject many times until I feel I am doing a good job, then I move on to something new.”
   
Today Lau Chun’s paintings have come full circle, to both reflect the foundation taught to him in his youth and revisit the subjects that first inspired him to make Hawaii his home. “Twenty-five years ago I was not so able to make the scenery speak; now I go back to what inspired, to the beauty of the islands. I go back to interpret in color the feeling it gives me to see and absorb this beautiful landscape.”
   
In his earlier days, Lau nearly always worked on location; now, he says, he works “a lot from remembering, from my many years’ experience. I don’t want the work to look like a photograph.” His canvas is more like a memory than a photograph, and  as in memory, emotion is more important than detail, the color more vivid and alive because the viewer is invited into a private world that is perhaps a memory, perhaps the promise of a dream.
   
Lau works almost exclusively in oil, achieving richness in his painting by layering one color over another. “It is very hard to do a painting one time and finish. I must go back to the painting many times to get the transparency of color. Up close you just see a lot of color, but when [you] stand back, the painting pops!”
   
Lau developed this style while studying with a muralist who had been commissioned by churches in Hong Kong to create huge religious mosaics. “The materials we used were colored glass tiles from Italy, cut very small. It was highly detailed work and I was forced to train my eye to mix tiny pieces of color intended to be viewed from far away.  The colors would look very busy up close, but from 100 feet away, all you saw was the lovely wash of hues.”
   
The eldest of seven children, Lau was born in Kiangsi, PRC  north of Canton. He attended the Canton School of Fine Arts, where he studied classical drawing, using models and still lifes. “In China at that time, art students were required first to study drawing for three years. You had to build your foundation first. I never worked with color until I went to Hong Kong.”

After eight years of study in Hong Kong, Lau received a grant to study in Japan.  Then came an invitation to exhibit his work in the U.S.   The brilliant light and shimmering colors of Hawaii transformed my palette.”