Worlds longest painting - Culture 5000 unrolling In a tribute to the world's cultural wealth, diversity, co-existence and resilience, dating from the dawn of civilisation in China, my native land, 5,000 years ago, I have created a commemorative scroll, 1.5 metres high and 201.5 metres long.

The scroll, whether hung, held in hand or stretched horizontally, is the quintessential art form of China which lends itself most appropriately to artistic expression on such an ambitious scale.

Section of Culture 5000 On this gigantic scroll, executed on specially made English art paper, I have painted a fluid and continuing vast image, representing 5,339 carp, combining the universal symbol of life - water - with the East Asian icon of good fortune.

Culture 5000 follows on from my Hong Kong Fish Scroll, which was exhibited in London in the days prior to the return of Hong Kong to China, televised internationally*1 and written about in the media*2 and in a book on my work published in 1997*3. That scroll featured 1,997 carp, marking the year of Hong Kong's reunion with China.

Section of Culture 5000 I have chosen the title Culture 5000 because the last five millennia of human existence have been the most remarkable in cultural and social development, fusion of peoples, races and languages. Europe, for example, has never before in its history experienced the richness of cultural interaction as it is experiencing today. Culture 5000, therefore, is a tribute to this human experience, a part and parcel of mutually rewarding peaceful co-existence, irrespective of geographical boundaries.

The scroll was designed to embody this concept and demonstrate my skills in water colour painting, which represent a synthesis of artistic practices developed by me over four decades. Now completed, the scroll is an extraordinary work of art, indeed the first of its kind ever executed in the history of art practice.

Section of Culture 5000 As those familiar with my work will know I have enjoyed painting both in realistic and abstract styles. The giant painting represents 5,339 carp in vivid colours and in a multitude of movements and "moods" - in a wide range of underwater settings, with the "concrete" imagery of the fish interwoven with "abstract" background.

The painting has been executed with a diffused focus, and from a vertical perspective allows the viewer the opportunity to enjoy the giant image in many different ways. This is essential to the ultimate purpose of the project - to divide up the painting amongst the most eminent collections of art worldwide.

Section of Culture 5000 Now complete the painting will be photographed and published in an album setting out 100 self-contained segments, 1.5 metres high and 2 metres wide, for distribution amongst individual and institutional collectors. The album will contain an introduction by myself, the artist, commentary articles by eminent curators and directors of museums in Britain, China and other countries and a full acknowledgment of all sponsors.

The Culture 5000 scroll has the following features:

  • The size - 1.5m x 201.5m - is the largest painting of its kind executed anywhere in the world.
  • The vast number - 5,339 colourful carp in a single painting - is the first ever in the world's history of art.
  • The enormous variety of colours and patterns which do not repeat themselves in one painting of this scale has never before been seen in the history of fine arts, embodying a new development of water colour techniques.
  • The gigantic painting will link the world's major museums in one chain, a pioneering undertaking in the world of fine arts.
  • The whole painting maintains its integrity with no traces whatsoever of being painted in sections.
  • Each part destined for segmentation is self-contained in both image and form.
  • The completion time of 8 months for a painting of this size is the shortest ever - dignitaries were present to witness the commencing and concluding ceremonies.

The painting then will be exhibited in major cities around the world, along with the album, to maximise publicity for the scroll.

Section of Culture 5000 The first of the 100 sections has been tentatively planned to be kept at China's National Museum in Beijing and the last (100th) section in a preeminent museum in Britain. This symbolises the cultural bridge between China, my motherland, where I was born, brought up, and educated, (and for which I have profound love, and to which I have made my various contributions) and Great Britain, where I have spent more than 30 years of my life absorbing the best of the British fine arts as well as making my contributions as an artist. In this sense this cultural and artistic bridge has every reason to start from Beijing, the capital of China and extend to London, the capital of Great Britain.

Of the remaining 98 sections, 78 are tentatively planned to be offered for acquisition by principal museums around the world and 20 by private collectors, through art galleries and auctions.

Section of Culture 5000 When the painting has finally been distributed amongst collectors, another album will be published to include the details of the location of each section.

*1- Numerous British and Chinese television broadcasts.
*2 - Eastern Art Report, South, Grimsby Evening Telegraph and other media.
*3 - Hai Shuet Yeung: Innovation In Abstraction, by Sajid Rizvi with contributions by Dr. Anne Farrer, British Museum, and Professor Li Gongmin, Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, Guanghou, China, published by Saffron Books, P.O. Box 13666, London, SW14 8WF, UK.

All images copyright ©2000 by Hai Shuet Yeung

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