Singaporean artist Chua Ek Kay learnt Chinese calligraphy from his father at seven years old. He later became a student under Chinese ink painter Fan Chang Tien. Fan was a renowned artist in the Shanghai school of Xieyi (写意) painting, which advocated for artists to pay attention to brushwork and self-expression over mimicking reality. Chua’s interest in art eventually led him to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Tasmania, followed by a Master of Arts at the University of Western Sydney in the 1990s.
Completed in 1981, Dunhuang is one of Chua’s works that was produced before his studies in Australia. The colophon on the left side of the paper states that the work was created in the style of Guo Weiqu, a modern Chinese calligrapher. Guo completed a series of paintings on the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes in Gansu, China. Dunhuang was historically a military station along the Silk Road that connected the trade routes, border frontiers and economic centre. It also catalysed the spread of art, religions and cultures from different civilisations, like Greece and India, into China. Today, it remains a Buddhist cultural site.