As reported in The Independent - 16th June 1998



THE WORLD'S longest painting goes on show in London this week - 99 metres short of 200-metre length, on a roll of specially commissioned and sponsored Waterford water-colour paper.
At first, it sounds like an attention-grabbing stunt. In a way, it is. Although the artist, Hai Shuet Yeung, has contributed more to the development of watercolour technique than any other contemporary artist, East or West, he has been cold- shouldered by the London art establishment. The scale of his project matches his indignation.
If Yeung were a twenty something British conceptual artist living in Spitalfields, things might be different. Instead he is a 62-year-old Chinese-born refugee living in Grimsby who paints realistic Koi carp. Those who view his masterwork at the London Contemporary Art and Design Show will marvel at his swirling underwater shoal; at his handling of light reflected in moving water - the way the colours of the fish respond to the dappling of brightness and shade and the alternate sharpness and blur of their movement.
The painting, titled Culture 5,000 because it will show 5,000 carp, one for each year of the past five millennia of civilisation, will be photographed, then cut into 100 pieces: 20 to be sold to private collectors and the rest to be offered to national museums from Beijing to London.
Meanwhile, Yeung works on the painting for up to 16 hours a day in the garage of his house. He is only 5ft 6in tall and cannot reach beyond the middle of the 1.5 metre wide roll. "My back hurts," he says, "and at the end of the day I have to have a hot bath and massage." He expects to finish it early next year.
Yeung taught chemistry in his native province of Guangdong until he circulated two caricatures of fellow high school teachers, accusing one of embezzlement, the other of making false denunciations, and was forced to flee to Hong Kong.
His knowledge of chemistry has come in handy. Whereas Western water-colourists still use wax to mask patches of paper they want to remain blank, Yeung has developed a host of chemical techniques, including the treatment of paper with wallpaper paste, which slows the spread of watercolour, and the use of neutral-pH soap, which resists some colours but absorbs others.
It is his very versatility that has so far denied him fame. During his 11 years in Hong Kong, he developed his own style, in which the detail and overall view complement one another rather like a hologram. He experimented using crumpled paper instead of a paintbrush. Some of his landscapes blend into abstraction.
In Grimsby, he painted Chinese-style oils of junks, which supplemented his wages as a waiter. In 1975, he opened his own art gallery above his Chinese restaurant in Grimsby, but it was not until 1982 that he found time to develop his watercolour techniques. But by then, the stigma of Chinese restaurant art was upon him. Local galleries denied him solo exhibitions, describing his landscapes as "competent", at the same time dismissing them for being "commercial" and "popular".
Last the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours rejected Yeung's application for membership. His name was not even placed on the candidates' list. He argued this decision by letter and telephone and in so doing blotted his copybook.
But in the past two years, two central London galleries, the Bankside and the Mall, have between them sold three of the swimming Koi water-colours for £1,000 each. And he has been championed by Anne Farrer, curator of Chinese paintings and prints at the British Museum. The Museum has bought a dozen of his abstract landscapes. In a book about his work, Hai Shuet Yeung: Innovation in Abstraction, recently published by Saffron, Ms Färrer credits him with "the maturity and individuality of a master".

Fish paintings by Yeung are on sale from £500 to £2,000, at the London Contemporary Art and Design Show, Kensington Town Hall, Hornton Street, London W8. Preview Thurs, entry £8, then Fri, Sat and Sun, entry £5. Inquiries: Penman Art Fairs, 01444 482514

As reported in The Guardian - Friday June 19th 1998

5,000 years of life flow by in garage.

Dan Glaister previews the longest-ever painting.

It is the sort of thing that Lord Irvine might want to hang on his apartment wall. Entitled Culture 5,000, the watercolour by the Chinese artist Hai Shuet Yeung is the world's longest painting, measuring 200 metres long and 1.5 metres wide.
The watercolour, which the artist has started to paint in his garage in Grimsby is still a work in progress. Executed on a length of specially commissioned paper, it depicts one fluid image representing 5,000 Koi carp, combining water - a symbol of life - with the East Asian icon of good fortune.
The project commemorates the last five millennia of human existence, with each fish representing a single year. Like the years, no two fish are identical.
On completion the painting will be divided into 100 sections which will be offered to national collections, with 20 available for private collectors.
The Grimsby-based artist, aged 62, came to Britain after living in Hong Kong for 11 years. After teaching chemistry in his native Guangdong province, he was forced to flee mainland China when he circulated caricatures of two fellow teachers, accusing them of embezzlement and of making false accusations.
In Grimsby, Mr Yeung worked as a waiter and in 1975 opened an art gallery above his Chinese restaurant. With 99 metres of his painting left to paint, he works for 16 hours each day. He expects to finish the work early next year.
His watercolour technique has won the praise of many experts, including Anne Farrer, the British Museum's curator of Chinese paintings and prints, who has purchased 12 of his works and says he has "the maturity and individuality of a master". But Mr Yeung has yet to win the recognition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours. Last year the institute rejected his application for membership His name did not even appear on the candidates list.
Some of his techniques may not have met with the institute's approval. Instead of the traditional method of using wax to mask paper, Mr Yeung has developed several chemical techniques, including the use of wallpaper paste, which slows the spread of the colour. He has also experimented with crumpled paper instead of a brush.
The painting will he on exhibition at the London Contemporary Art and Design Show, at Kensington Town Hall, until Sunday.

As reported in Evening Telegraph (Grimsby) - Saturday November 21st 1998

Long look at a painting

HISTORY was made at Grimsby Fish Market with the unveiling of the longest watercolour painting in the world.
Chinese artist Hai Shuet Yeung's massive 201- metre long painting of between 5,000 and 6,000 Koi carp was shown off last night at a special preview. And this weekend the public will be allowed in to see the masterpiece at a charity weekend organised by Cleethorpes Rotary Club.
Mr Yeung has lived in Grimsby for 30 years and was determined that the painting sho;uld be IIrst on show in the town. He said it was nice that all the pressure had gone.
"By this I am challenging myself, the past and the future," he said. "I hope someone does beat it so the culture can develop, not go backwards."
Grimsby MP Austin Mitchell said: "The Fish Market is the only place in Grimsby which could accommodate the painting.
"We are very proud of Mr Yeung in Grimsby and of the work he has done. It will be a world first and will take the name of Mr Yeung and of Grimsby around the world."
Mr Mitchell's Cleethorpes counterpart Shona McIsaac said the painting ,vas amazing. She was trying to calculate the number of fish in the piece for a competition being run by the Rotary Club.
"It's fantastic andI remember watching him paint it at the start and being amazed by how fast he was," she said. "It was like the fish were moving."
The work, entitled Culture 5000, was also show- ered with praise by Ding Wei from the Chinese Embassy in London.
"I think Mr Y eung is making art history by pre- senting this wonderful painting," said Mr Wei.
"This is my IIrst visit to Grimsby and I know now why he has chosen this place to show this painting because so many people from different walks of life have gathered here."
Members of the public can view the painting between 10am and 4pm today and tomorrow. Admission is £1 for adults, 50p children, with proceeds going to charity.

Picture by courtesy of Evening Telegraph.

As reported in The Times - Friday November 20th 1998

Don't carp, this could be a world record


You don't have to be mad to be an artist, but a little endearing quirkiness never did any harm. Tonight, in the fair port of Grimsby, what is claimed to be the world's longest painting will be unveiled in its full glory for the first time. It is an eye-stretching 200 metres long by 1.5 metres it has been painted in watercolour by a 62-year-old Chinese refugee called Hai Shuet Yeung; and it is called Culture 5000 - this being a reference to the 5,000 years of Chinese civilisation that it celebrates.
And if you think this sounds a bit fishy, you would be right. Yeung's painting depicts shoals of brilliantly coloured carp - the Chinese symbol of good fortune. There are 5,000 carp, of course, and Yeung says that they will be in "a variety of moods". (Just how many moods does a carp have?)
What's more, this vast example of Chinese "scroll" art will be unveiled in Grimsby Fish Market. But this may have less to do with the fish connection, and more to do with the fact that there aren't many buildings in Britain long enough to mount a 200-metre painting.
Naturally, Yeung has been snubbed by the metropolitan art clique. He was refused membership of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours, and has been disdainfully ignored by the London critics. But the local community has got behind him. North East Lincolnshire Council is backing the unveiling of his (in every sense) magnum opus; and the event is being organised by none other than the Rotary Club of Cleethorpes. 200-metre roll of paper has been specially manufactured by a generous mill, and a local sheet-metal company has undertaken the challenge of holding the thing upright.
None of which is surprising, for Yeung is a local hero. In his native China he was a chemistry teacher, but he fell foul of the authorities and fled to Hong Kong. He came to Grimsby 30 years ago, worked as a waiter, then opened an art gallery over his Chinese restaurant.
His 5,000 carp don't come out of the blue, so to speak. To mark the handover of Hong Kong in 1997 he painted a ten-metre Hong Kong Fish Scroll -of 1,997 carp, naturally. Culture 5000 has taken months to complete; a bit of it (a mere football-pitch length) was shown at the London Contemporary Art and Design Show in June.
After Grimsby, Yeung hopes to take it on an international tour, after which he intends to cut it into 100 pieces and sell it to museums and collectors. The first piece he wants to give to the National Museum in Beijing; the last he has earmarked for a leading British Museum That, he says, will symbolise the "cultural bridge between China, my motherland, and Britain, my fatherland".
Good luck to him. His sparkling shoals of carp may not have the trendy shock-impact of Damien Hirst's dead shark, but you will never see another watercolour remotely like this one.
And what do the eagle-eyed scrutineers at the Guinness Book of Records say about its claim to be the world's longest painting? "We don't usually monitor the length of paintings," sniffs a spokeswoman. Shame on you, madam. "But we would certainly consider it," she adds, more generously. Then catch the Grimsby train this very afternoon! History is being made.

As reported in The Times - Friday April 2nd 1999.

Short life of world's longest painting.


A CHINESE artist in the fishing port of Grimsby has landed the record for the world's longest painting with a scroll depicting 5,339 carp.
The 201.5-metre (661ft) water colour Culture 5000 has been validated by The Guinness Book of Records. It took Hai Shuet Yeung, 62, eight months to complete in his garage and first went on show at the fish market, the only building big enough in the North East Lincolnshire town.
But the painting, in which each carp represents a year of Chinese civilisation, will not be the world's longest for much longer. Mr Yeung intends to cut the 1.5-metre wide, £6,000 roll of art paper into 100 sections for display in museums around the world.
"Before it is cut up I will have it put on CD-Rom," he said. "I hope the first piece will go to a museum in Beijing and the last to the Millennium Dome in London, symbolising the cultural bridge between the two countries. The scroll combines water, the universal symbol of life, with the east Asian icon of good fortune."
Mr Yeung taught chemistry in Canton but moved to Hong Kong in 1958 because he feared arrest for caricaturing corrupt officials. He came to Britain in 1969 and runs a gallery above his Wife's restaurant.

The world's largest painting, 6,730 sq metres (72,437 sq ft), was made by Australian students in 1990.