At the side of Left Bank in Wellington’s Cuba Mall sits a little art studio owned by one very skilled and very humble Stan Chan. Specialising in both Chinese calligraphy/brush painting and Western style art, Stan can do just about anything – be it ink or oils or watercolours, every sheet of paper or stretch of canvas that he takes his brush to becomes a beautiful piece of artwork.
Some relationships go way back – and in the case of the Kan family and Stan Chan of inkLink Studio, the friendship goes as far back as forty years! As a young man recently emigrated from Hong Kong, Uncle Stan met and eventually became good friends with my grandfather, himself a skilled and avid Chinese calligrapher – and that, as they say, was that. Since then, from visits to his studio in Left Bank to his painting demonstrations at Chinese New Years events and calligraphy workshops in my high school Chinese classes, Uncle Stan has been a figure in my life for as long as I can remember. He’s always been the enthusiastic and earnest artist, the gracious master calligrapher, the creative visionary who could illustrate the most beautiful things with only a few brush strokes in just a matter of minutes.
It was because of his skill that I was confident approaching Uncle Stan at the beginning of the year to help me with a major component of my then-not-yet-completed feature MOVE (Flow Like Water) – A Parkour Documentary. As a core part of the film’s graphic design I included footage of a series of calligraphy pieces and Chinese-style brush paintings that Uncle Stan very kindly agreed to do for me – and insisted on doing so for no charge. As my thanks in return for Uncle Stan’s contribution of time and labour, I agreed to produce for him a short video promoting inkLink Studio Ltd., his artistic place of residence and labour of love for many years.
This was definitely a video that I was looking forward to producing from the moment that Uncle Stan suggested it. I had a pretty good idea right off of how I thought it was going to look, and I’m really pleased that the final product was pretty close to that mental image! The experience of making this was simultaneously a familiar yet new experience. In some ways it probably would have been better to do a small project like this as a first-time documentary, rather than jumping straight into a feature (although MOVE being a feature was more a development rather than an intention from the outset), but conversely having had the experience of working on MOVE meant that I was pretty comfortable with the format and knew what I was going to do and how to do it.
Filming took place over a three day period from the 15th-17th of October, with the first day for a short interview and segments around the studio, the second day for filming the weekly Friday Night Market in Left Bank, and the third day for filming some of Uncle Stan’s art classes.
Uncle Stan has been interviewed many times in his life about his story and what he does (see this article from last year from Kiwese post-inkLink’s return to Cuba Mall) and so his answers came very easily – “I’ve been rehearsing for fifty years” he joked, following our interview. inkLink is such a neat little studio with a good atmosphere that it was hard to stop filming. From the Chinese and Western-style art hung on the walls, to the stand filled with handpainted greeting cards ($10 each) and the small collection of trinkets he has arranged on various shelves and tables, there’s always something to admire, and trying to incorporate and communicate as much of the feel of the studio as possible was an interesting task for sure.
I hadn’t been to the Friday Night Market before I went to film Uncle Stan’s demonstration, but the atmosphere of the night was great. People were wandering in and out and crowding around to watch Uncle Stan as he painted various Chinese brush-style portraits of his friend Gordon. It took him no more than twenty minutes for him to complete each one, each being received with warm applause and impressed responses from all the patrons who had come to watch. Afterwards Uncle Stan even took the time to show a few younger patrons the basics of Chinese brush painting and pencil sketching.
Uncle Stan’s Saturday art classes are a regular occurrence. He holds three sessions running at 90min every week, including a children’s class at 10:30am and two mixed children and adults sessions at 1pm and 3pm. If you’ve ever wanted to learn art from a master of both Chinese and Western art styles and calligraphy, then here’s your chance! Visit the inkLink Studio website and send an email to inquire today. (For anyone who can’t make the Saturday classes, Uncle Stan is also available to book for private sessions.)
It wasn’t something that I included in the video, but part of the studio space in inkLink is also used by his son Keane Chan, a freelance photographer, who runs Capturing Heartbeats, a studio that focuses on event and portrait photography. Keane took the photos featured in this post and kindly allowed me to use them for this blog post (thanks heaps, Keane!) – make sure you check him out over on his Facebook page and give him a thumbs up!
Of course, there’s so much more to Uncle Stan’s story than what I could possibly portray in just one short film. For instance, I haven’t included the part where he worked as an graphic designer and freelance artist for many years after settling down in New Zealand, or his involvement and love of Cantonese Opera, or the part where inkLink Studio all but vanished from Left Bank for eight years before making a long-awaited return back in April of last year. But there’s plenty of time to tell those stories – make sure to stay tuned for another project soon involving Uncle Stan and another one of his great loves.
To see more of Stan Chan’s work, visit www.inklinkstudio.com or pay him a visit at his studio at 104 Left Bank, Cuba Mall!
Soundtrack: ‘Erddigan Chengdu’ – The Gentle Good (Y Bardd Anfarwol, 2013)