There is a big-name sculptor in Hong Kong. His name is Van Lau. Dr Van’s works are a fusion of East and West, a melding of the new and the traditional, anchored by the fact that his entire life is entwined with the culture of China.

Born in Xinhui, Guangdong in 1933, he moved to Vietnam with his parents at the age of two. In his youth he enrolled himself in the school of architecture at Taiwan’s Cheng Kung University, and subsequently in the Faculty of Art at Taiwan Provincial Normal University. Transplanted to Hong Kong in the 1960’s, he began to focus exclusively on sculpture, carving a new path towards “humanistic sculpture”. The kaleidoscopic twists and turns of life are grist to his artistic mill. In the process, he learned to speak different languages and understand various cultures, broadened horizons inevitably informing his art.

To Dr Van art has its roots in the national character. It precedes its international dimensions. To drink deeper from the Chinese well, he gave up the opportunity of becoming a professional artist in the United States. In the early 1970’s, Dr Van spearheaded the “Cultural Homecoming” campaign, certain in his belief that by sinking his roots into Chinese soil, the artist would absorb the essence of its tradition, and his talent will blossom into a new vitality with a unique appeal. In each and every piece of his creations, the richness of China’s culture is very much in evidence.

While promoting his own culture, Dr Van is anxious for the tributary of Chinese art to flow into the bigger international river. He is among the first sculptors to advocate a fusion of East and West. In his view, the modern art form in the West is a global language. To join the universal artistic dialogue, Chinese art must learn to express itself in forms accessible to the rest of the world. That is why even though his works have a clear Chinese lineage and content, they present themselves in Western forms, as shown in exhibitions in various parts of the world, including the US, China and elsewhere in Asia.

True to the fine tradition of the educated in China, Dr Van does not repudiate the non-artistic world but embraces it—from his community, his country to the wider world. In fact he has been in the thick of advancing humanity’s common good. Busy artist that he is, he once served on the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference as a member, sat on the Standing Committee of China’s Sculpture Institute, chaired the Hong Kong Sculpture Society, as well as on the executive committee of the Guangdong chapter of the China International Cultural Exchange Centre. At one time, he headed the Hong Kong Institute for Promotion of Chinese Culture and the Hong Kong Artists Association. For his social and cultural contributions he has become a much-decorated artist, winning the Bronze Bauhinia Star from the Hong Kong SAR government and honorary doctorates from Hong Kong Baptist University and Hong Kong Shue Yan University. Driven by a life-long sense of mission to preserve culture, he has shared his artistic vision at China’s Central Academy of Fine Arts, Tsinghua University and Fudan University as a visiting professor, tirelessly coaxing students into the pursuit of culture past and present.

It is this same noble desire that brought Dr Van to UIC where in 2012, he took on the role as a consultant to the Arts and Culture Development Centre under its Whole Person Education Office. In a more permanent form, the Zhonghe Sculpture towering over the College square is his handiwork, a testament to his ability to merge East and West into an innovative concept, an artwork that crystallizes the spirit of this College. With Dr Van joining our voice, we will continue to tell the China story to the world.

Mr Chairman, in recognition of Dr Van Lau’s outstanding achievements in art, contributions to the cultural exchange between East and West and support of UIC’s mission, it is my privilege to present him to you for the award of an Honorary Fellowship.