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Now showing at IFT Café: The abstract art of Denis Murrell and students

中文摘要 / Summary in Chinese

More than 20 abstract paintings created by Macao artist Mr. Denis Murrell and IFT students are now showing at the IFT Café at Anim’Arte Nam Van. The exhibition, “Twenty Hours”, ends on 2 March.

The IFT Tourism and Hotel School started the Macao Contemporary Artists Series in 2015, inviting leading Macao artists – including Mr. Murrell, an award-winning painter – to deliver art classes. The series is part of the effort by the Institute to promote the development of Macao’s cultural and creative industries.

The IFT Tourism and Hotel School runs study programmes for creative disciplines of various duration and intensity. The fields covered range from reportage photography to computer animation and crafting leather. Some courses lead to certificates or diplomas.

Mr. Murrell is a 70-year-old Australian who moved to Macao in 1989. In the 1990s he developed a unique method of painting that combines tissue paper with paint, resulting in brightly coloured, highly textured pieces. The technique has made him one of the most successful artists in Macao and his paintings have been exhibited around the world, including the United States, Portugal and India.

The artist says most of his students at IFT had never painted before taking his courses. He says abstract painting, in particular, is alien to most of them. But they soon realise abstract art can be worthwhile.

Mr. Murrell holds his classes in the evening. Many of his students attend after being at work all day but still they tend to arrive early and leave late to keep working on their paintings. The IFT Café exhibition includes work by level 2 students taking a 20-hour course.

This is not the first time that Mr. Murrell’s students exhibit their works. A similar exhibition in 2015 saw some of the works sold quickly, much to the surprise of the students. “They think nobody wants to buy students’ paintings, but, the truth is, they all have potential,” Mr. Murrell says.

One of the students who showed her work in 2015 was Ms. Elaine Koon, an administrative office worker. Her contribution was bought days after the exhibition opened and she donated the proceeds to charity. She has now taken other commissions and continues to donate the money. “It’s very meaningful for me,” she says.

Ms. Stella Lam was another of the artist’s students. She enrolled in the hope of finding relief from the stress of day-to-day life and to learn a skill she could use in her job as an expressive arts therapist. Ms. Lam says she intends to apply what she has learned from Mr. Murrell in helping psychiatric patients better express their emotions.

Another of Mr. Murrell’s students, Ms. Joewinc Kam, enrolled in the abstract art classes by chance. A civil engineering student, Ms. Kam says she applied for places in several IFT Tourism and Hotel School programmes but was offered only a place in Mr. Murrell’s classes. She quickly fell in love with turning what she calls “random brushstrokes” into abstract paintings.

A third level of Mr. Murrell’s Abstract Painting with Tissue course is due to start in May.

The IFT Café is part of an effort by the Macao SAR Government to revitalise the Nam Van Lake area and turn it into a new draw for leisure-seekers and tourists, called Anim’Arte Nam Van. Other arms of the Government involved in the revitalisation project include the Cultural Affairs Bureau, the Sports Bureau and the Macao Government Tourism Office.

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