Beyond Borders of Mahjong

Immediate Release

Explore visual beauty of hand-carved mahjong through 3 Hong Kong artists

The Art of Mahjong Craft x Photography Exhibition presented by Karen Aruba Art

Experience a never-seen-before insight into the visual beauty of mahjong tiles with this ‘The Art of Mahjong Craft x Photography Exhibition’which takes an intimate look at what is involved in the traditional art of hand-carved mahjong tiles through photography, imaginative illustrations and painting to reveal the hidden story of such ‘intangible cultural heritage’.

Opening on 23 July and running to 13 August at HKI Gallery in Wanchai, the ‘Beyond Borders of Mahjong’ exhibition is a collaboration between three Hong Kong artists: photographer AndyPoll, mahjong hand-carving master Ricky Cheung Sing Chung and artist Karen Aruba presented by Karen Aruba Art.

Beyond Borders

The work of three different artists to present the visual beauty of mahjong tiles from different angles, is a unique insight that explores the very small details behind the scenes of hand carving mahjong tiles by Craftsman Ricky Cheung. While hand-carving mahjong is recognized as an intangible cultural heritage in Hong Kong and people are starting to treasure this dying art, it still lacks an artistic approach to observe and truly appreciate the art value of mahjong along its culture and unique identity in Hong Kong.

The exhibition will present a close-up look through photos of hand-carved mahjong tiles by macro camera, the posture of the master carver, and the traditional tools used to show the entire process as visual art. The macro photography reveals the hidden world that’s just beyond the limits of our naked eyes on hand-carved mahjong tiles. And the illustration by Karen explains the whole hand-carved mahjong making processes. While each tile was carved and illustrated, a great deal of thought was put into calligraphy, design, the arm force, and the working effort of craftsman, but today much of the subtle symbolism goes unnoticed.

The intricacies of the carving and painting process have been captured in stunning detail in this exhibition to give a unique perspective of this traditional method of carving mahjong tiles. Mahjong master craftsman Ricky Cheung has 50 years’ experience in the mahjong manufacturing industry. The photos have been captured by AndyPoll to appreciate the skill required to perfect the strokes, calligraphy and coloring all done by hand.

New ‘Mahjong Wanderlust’ Captures Hong Kong Artistry and Culture

Hand-painted and designed by artist Karen Aruba, the extraordinary creature of ‘Mahjong Wanderlust | Hong Kong’ theme depicts Hong Kong culture. Experience a totally new insight into mahjong Hong Kong theme with this intimate look at the dying art of hand-carving tiles with traditional mahjong patterns by Master Cheung integrated with imaginative illustrations done by laser-engraving. Karen’s illustration and vibrant colors applied on mahjong tiles were inspired from the uncommon design and mythology of the ancient Chinese mahjong tiles. When the mahjong craftsman Ricky Cheung & artist Karen Aruba from two generations merge minds, mahjong goes beyond a mahjong game to become one-of-a-kind art piece to capture Hong Kong artistry and culture, by giving a modern twist to preserve the mahjong craftsmanship.

Cross-Generation Family Connection

Ricky Cheung began hand-carving mahjong tiles at the age of 13. His family operated one of the largest mahjong tile factories to supply mahjong tiles in the business sectors of industry in Hong Kong since 1963, until 2009 when it was no longer economical to keep it open due to the competition from mass production. Cheung has retired in 2018 and now fully engaged as one of the few remaining traditional hand carvers left in the city.

Preserving this traditional craftsmanship in Hong Kong is a family collaboration for Ricky and daughter Karen. Karen, spends much of her time keeping the story alive through the art brand Karen Aruba Art, encouraging younger generations to learn its value alongside the Hong Kong story and culture.

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Exhibition Details

Date:23.07.2022 – 13.08.2022
Time:Tue – Sat 12:00 – 19:00 (Closed on Mon & Sun)
Location:HKI Gallery, 7/F Chinachem Johnston Plaza, 178-186 Johnston Rd, Wanchai
Admission:Free Entry

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About the Artists

Photographer – AndyPoll

Andypoll Chan Sau Shek, a photographic freelance artist, graduated from Birmingham City University BA(Hons) in Visual Communication (Photography) and studied in Paris, France. His work is mostly presented in high contrast black and white and is lingering at the edge between abstraction and realism. In the last two years, Andy has been involved in learning the mahjong making processes from Master Cheung in order to discover the hidden story working behind the scene of hand-carved mahjong tiles.

Artist – Karen Aruba

Specializing in sketching and illustration related to cultural theme, Karen Cheung derives inspiration from everything she comes across by incorporating themes of energy, peace and happiness. Inspired by her family’s ties with the mahjong manufacturing industry, Karen started to introduce her unique family ‘Mahjong Story’ in 2018 via illustration, featuring a creative mahjong design theme that combines family legacy with Hong Kong culture to revive the dying art of hand-carved mahjong tiles. The joint-effort between the father and daughter has gradually bridged the gap between craftsmanship and art, and eventually led to a number of design & printing awards and participation in overseas and local art exhibitions.

Craftsman Master – Ricky Cheung

Having over 50 years hand-carved mahjong tile experience, master Ricky Cheung started learning hand-carved tiles from his parent when he aged 13. He was not only a professional mahjong craftsman but also an innovator to develop machinery to support his father’s ‘Fuk Hing Lung Mahjong Factory’ in 1970-2000s. Although the business was still not be able to sustain until 2009, the spirit of the mahjong craftsmanship stays alive. Cheung retired in 2018 and is now being a volunteer fully engaged with artistic and mahjong craftmanship inspired by her daughter, Karen with a strong commitment as sustainability of hand-carving mahjong tiles with higher value in global platform

About Karen Aruba Art

Karen Aruba Art comes from a longstanding line of mahjong craftsmanship in Hong Kong with 50-year family legacy. The artist’s grandfather built up the well known ‘Fuk Hing Lung’ mahjong factory’ in 1963 and the father is one of the last few craftsmen in Hong Kong.

The collaboration between Mahjong Craftsman Master Cheung and artist Karen Aruba has revived the old tradition of hand-carving mahjong tiles with a modern twist. ‘The Art of Mahjong Craft’ studio setup at Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre in 2020 is the latest effort of a father-daughter duo together with photographer AndyPoll to keep Hong Kong culture alive through creative art with mahjong features and preserve its authenticity and value in intangible cultural heritage.