Artists to watch – Interview with Packy Lai

In celebration of Hong Kong Art Month, we chat to four of the city’s most exciting young artists about how they launched their careers and their plans for the future

Packy Lai AKA Inkless is making calligraphy cool again. Adding a modern twist to the medium – she once did an exhibition on the theme of beer – Lai is revolutionising calligraphy and inspiring a new generation to pick up their brushes. The artist tells us her story. You’ve practiced calligraphy since the age of 6, did you always aspire to be an artist? Not at all! When I started calligraphy, it was more an activity to kill time. Growing up, I remember we had a calendar with the traditional character “blessing” on it and I started copying the character. When my grandmother saw this. she began  teaching me calligraphy.

So what made you decide to leave your career and pursue art full-time?
I used to work in marketing. Around June 2015 I had the chance to meet social media stars. Listening to their stories I started to ask myself about my aspirations and  questioned whether I do something I love. That’s when I decided to quit.

Why is it important for you to inspire and encourage people through calligraphy?
Most people believe calligraphy is an activity for elderly people. I want to remove that boundary and encourage people to not only admire the works, but to also admire the techniques. More importantly, if our generation doesn’t learn about calligraphy, the artform will definitely be lost. With this in mind I use social media as a platform and post a single character daily.

Tell us a bit about your style. You’re known for giving traditional calligraphy a modern twist.
Writing is something almost everyone knows how to do, but people tend to forget the significance of the skill. When we see a character, our first response is to read the word. But what’s interesting about Chinese characters is the imaginative and creative possibilities of the shape of the character. I want viewers to experience the story I’m telling through the characters.

You’re also known as the Inkless. What made you decide to use a pseudonym and what’s the meaning behind it?
It’s a rough translation of my Chinese pseudonym, a phrase taken from a Chinese poem. The poem explains that however good a painting is, it’s no match for nature. For me calligraphy is a tool for expression. What’s beautiful and meaningful is the word itself. The Inkless pseudonym expresses my view on words and calligraphy and is a reflection of the ability to convey ideas without using too much ink.

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