Irene Chou

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Irene Chou (Chinese: 周綠雲; pinyin: Zhou Luyun) (January 31, 1924 – July 1, 2011) was a Chinese artist, one of the most influential exponents of the New Ink Painting movement in Hong Kong.

Life and work[edit]

Irene Chou was born in Shanghai, where she studied economics at St. John’s University.[1] Upon graduating in 1945, Chou worked as a journalist for Peace Daily Shanghai. Thereafter she left for Taipei in Taiwan and in 1949 for Hong Kong. She began to learn painting formally in 1954 when she became a student of Zhao Shao’ang, a master of the traditional Lingnan school of painting. In her traditional landscape and bird-and-flower paintings Chou demonstrated a solid grounding in traditional Chinese painting methods such as qiyun (spirit-resonance) and moqi (ink-play).

In the late 1960s Chou get touched with abstract expressionism. The progressive theories on art and ink painting of her colleague Lui Shou-Kwan of the Lingnan School inspired her to experiment with different techniques and various types of paint, including oil, acrylic and watercolor. Kathy Zhang mentioned that artists working in this vein followed Lui’s precepts and combined Western and Chinese art, while striving to retain the essence of Chinese traditional art.[2] In the 1970s Chou began to experiment with different ink wash painting techniques like splash ink, piled ink, and pointillism. The one stroke (Yi bi hua) technique, derived from Zen and Tao has led to her dynamic, abstract paintings—and became her signature style of the 1980s. Her works of the 1980s were representative of the New Ink style emerging in Hong Kong. After the death of her mentor Lui Shou-Kwan in 1975 and her husband in 1978, the style of Chou’s work changed fundamentally. But this depression gave her enormous energy and so her style became bolder and more spontaneous. In the 1980s she won several awards and became a key figure in the contemporary Hong Kong art scene.

In 1991 after suffering by a life-threatening stroke she moved from Hong Kong to Brisbane, Australia. In the following years she studied Buddhism and got interested in Aboriginal painting. In the early 21st century her work became lighter and clearer with contrasting colors. She died in Brisbane, aged 87.[3]





  • Chinese Painting by Irene Chou (綠雲畫藝), Catalogue, Fung Ping Shan Museum, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (香港): Fung Ping Shan Museum, University of Hong Kong, 1986.
  • Paintings by Irene Chou (周綠雲畫展), Catalogue, Hanart 2 Gallery, Hong Kong (香港): Hanart 2 Gallery (漢雅軒), 1989.
  • Irene Chou & Hon Chi-Fun Recent Paintings (周綠雲韓志勳近作), Hong Kong (香港): The Hong Kong Land Property Company Ltd. (香港置地物業有限公司), 1991.
  • Catherine Maudsley (Ed.): Collectors' Choice: The Cosmic Vision of Zhou Luyun (周綠雲:玄黃天地,繽紛世界), Catalogue Cat Street Galleries, Hong Kong (香港): Casey Company Limited (啟時有限公司), 1995.
  • The Universe Lies Within: Paintings by Irene Chou (宇宙是吾心 - 周綠雲的藝術), Catalogue The Rotunda, Hong Kong (香港): The Hong Kong Land Property Company Ltd. (香港置地物業有限公司), 1998.
  • The Universe is My Mind - Irene Chou (宇宙便是吾心 - 周綠雲), Hong Kong (香港): Hanart TZ Gallery (漢雅軒), 2000.
  • Grace Cheng, Margaret Kwokfan Yeung, Kwanlap Chan, Chunyi Lee (Eds.): The Universe is My Heart, My Heart is The Universe: The Art of Irene Chou (宇宙即吾心,吾心即宇宙:周綠雲作品集), Catalogue Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong (香港): Hong Kong Arts Centre (香港藝術中心), 2003.
  • Henry Auyeung (Ed.): From Representation to Revelation: The Transitional Works (1950-1990) of Irene Chou (周綠雲), Catalogue Grotto Fine Art, Hong Kong (香港): Grotto Fine Art (嘉圖藝術有限公司), 2004.
  • Tina Yeewan Pang (Ed.): Universe of the Mind: Zhou Luyun (Irene Chou) a retrospective exhibition (游彩人生:周綠雲繪畫回顧展), Catalogue University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (香港): University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong (香港大學美術博物館), 2006.