M+ no longer supports this web browser.

M+ 不再支持此網頁瀏覽器。

M+ 不再支持此网页浏览器。

A Brush with the City: Wilson Shieh Brings Hong Kong’s Central District to Life
A Brush with the City: Wilson Shieh Brings Hong Kong’s Central District to Life
Video Transcript

(Original language: Cantonese)

HUMAN WU: Today, I’ll take you on a stroll through Central, following the subjects depicted in the paintings of local artist Wilson Shieh. Shieh grew up on Hong Kong Island and witnessed Central District’s transformation.

The landmarks here, such as Jardine House, the HSBC Main Building Bank of China Tower and IFC, naturally became the subjects of his paintings. Shieh studied architecture at HKU for one year, but he discovered his artistic inclinations. He then switched tracks to pursue fine art at CUHK. His artistic practice focuses on traditional Chinese painting while also incorporating modern elements.

He painted a series of ‘skyscraper ladies’ blending classical gongbi techniques and contemporary style.

How did he combine crisp architectural contours with the graceful delicacy of traditional feminine figures? Shieh transformed the features of each building into evening gowns of different styles.

For example, in Cheung Kong Center against Bank of China, the two skyscrapers wear gowns with different patterns. Who is this small figure beside them? It’s the former French Mission Building. It housed the Court of Final Appeal between 1997 and 2015. Back then, it was hidden behind the Hilton Hotel, which is now the site of Cheung Kong Centre. When constructing Cheung Kong Centre, an urban square was designed. This architecture can be seen completely by the public.

In Hong Kong City Hall sits at Connaught Road, the four ladies are positioned just like the arrangement of the four structures behind us. Between the AIA Central and the Hong Kong Club Building lies the now-demolished Ritz-Carlton Hotel. It closed down just one year after this work was created.

The City Hall in the painting appears as a fashionable woman. She wears a simple chequered mini skirt showcasing a modernist style. Back then, the colonial government wanted to bring this trendy, simple, yet functional style to Hong Kong to establish a new image for a new era. City Hall was the first world-class multi-purpose cultural centre in Hong Kong. It was declared a monument in 2022, becoming the city’s youngest monument. However, Queen’s Pier and the fourth generation of the General Post Office nearby faced a different fate.

In HSBC and Friends, everyone wears an evening gown except the HSBC Main Building. If you have been to the HSBC headquarters, you might recall its unique open atrium. It creates a public space in the urban landscape offering, the precious ground-level space to citizens. Buildings in the city are situated among neighbouring structures and serve the public. A good architectural design considers both the city and its people as top priorities.

It was Wilson Shieh’s appreciation for Hong Kong’s architectural heritage that led the artist to explore the city’s iconic landmarks in his signature gongbi (fine brush) painting technique. Between 2006 and 2011, Shieh delicately personified the iconic landmarks of the Central District as women.

Guiding us through the heart of this Hong Kong district, architectural designer and educator Human Wu explores the subjects portrayed in Shieh’s series and unpacks how the changes in Central’s built environment were captured within Shieh’s paintings.

Video Credits

Produced by


Presented by

Human Wu


Jiu Jik Park Limited


Hui Chi Sang


Mak Chi Ho, Yung Tsz Hong

Camera Assistant

Kermit Tang

Production Assistant

Lui Ka Suen Veronica, Ho Man Hin Alan


Hui Chi Sang

Animation Designer

Lo Yuet Yui Joyce

M+ Producer

Mimi Cheung, Rachel Chan

M+ Text and Subtitle Editing

Amy Leung, LW Lam

Special Thanks

Wilson Shieh, Tina Pang, Chris Sullivan, Fei Hung

Stay in the know!

  • Be up to date on what’s happening at M+ and the wider West Kowloon Cultural District
  • Discover new videos and articles from the M+ Magazine
  • Choose what content you’d like to receive
  • Opt out at any time