Wallace Chan: Art in the Face of Adversity
Through monumental sculptures and intricate art jewels, Wallace Chan speaks eloquently of pain, hope, and resilience.
For close to half a century, Wallace Chan has captivated and inspired art and jewellery connoisseurs with his monumental sculptures and delicate art jewels that are as fascinating as they’re thought-provoking.
His work has graced the halls of distinguished and highly discerning international exhibitions such as TEFAF Maastricht and Biennale des Antiquaires, and has been included in permanent collections of the British Museum, the Beijing Capital Museum, and Ningbo Museum.
The Hong Kong artist is widely admired for his refined technique, meticulous process, and superior artistry, as well as for the spirituality and wisdom of his masterpieces.
Yet the difficult journey that led to Chan’s emergence as a foremost jewellery artisan is even more compelling, giving his audience a deeper understanding and appreciation of his work.
In some respects, this is unsurprising. There is, after all, a common thread among artists who create deeply poignant work—Michelangelo comes to mind—and it’s that they’ve all gone through great adversity. Hardship is a known catalyst for heightened empathy, which in turn allows one to connect with others in a more profound and meaningful way.
A courageous start
Chan is no stranger to adversity. At the age of 13, he left school to work odd jobs. Three years later, his uncle urged him to become a gemstone-carving apprentice, knowing that working at a gemstone factory would equip him with a valuable career skill. Chan took his advice but soon realized he wanted a different kind of apprenticeship.
“I wasn’t learning what I wanted to at the factory—instead I was learning what other factory workers were doing,” he says.
While the decision to leave the apprenticeship was concerning for his family, the young man was convinced he had a unique path to pursue. “I consider myself a brave person, in the sense that I’m willing to work hard—I’m not afraid of hardship. I wanted to explore the world out there,” Chan says.
Thus began his journey of teaching himself how to carve. With two pieces of malachite and a few small tools, at 17 he launched his career. This unconventional course to learning, however, was not driven solely by a strong determination to carve his own path. It was also guided by his Buddhist philosophy.
“Buddhist thinking talks about the road or the path leading to the universe,” Chan says. “When you want to really understand the universe, you need to first forget who you are, forget your own existence so that you can become part of the universe.”