Peak typhoon season in Hong Kong has begun, bringing with it memories of 2018’s tropical cyclone Typhoon Mangkhut, which caused a record storm surge and uprooted over 1,500 trees across Hong Kong. With that in mind, Asia Society Hong Kong Center (ASHK) presents a new timely summer exhibition, Hidden Forests, opening on July 6 and running through September 8, 2019. Inspired as a response to Hong Kong’s devastating loss of trees from Typhoon Mangkhut, Hidden Forests includes an art exhibition, a music series, community workshops and nature tours that explore the significance of trees to Hong Kong’s environment, culture and history. The goal of the cross-disciplinary program is to strengthen public awareness about forestry and biodiversity in Hong Kong by bringing together expert ecologists and local artistic talent.
One of the exhibition’s featured artists is long-time Mui Wo resident Sally Grace Bunker. As one of the Hidden Forests artists, Sally contributed a series of ‘Illustrations of Nature’ that were inspired by her observations of over a hundred local plant specimens and drawn illustrations from the wild. The series includes an illustration of the Bauhinia purpurea × variegata ‘Blakeana’, or the Hong Kong orchid tree. The Hong Kong orchid tree is an artificially propagated hybrid that is sterile and reliant on artificial propagation, generally by grafting onto the root-stocks of other Bauhinia species. It was adopted as the floral emblem of Hong Kong in 1965, and now appears on local banknotes and coins. The Hidden Forests exhibition notes that, “As a sterile hybrid, this is arguably an inauspicious symbol for a city built on mixed Chinese and British heritage.”
Among the many other programs available through the Hidden Forests exhibition, on July 13 and August 3, Sally will lead a workshop of flora rubbing for exhibition visitors using natural materials found onsite in ASHK. The workshops are free and suitable for adults and children aged five years and older, and online registration is required.
Sally is a fellow of the UK’s Society of Botanical Artists, and in addition to participating in the Hidden Forests exhibition, she has also collaborated with two botanists from The University of Hong Kong, Professor Richard Saunders and Dr Pang Chun-chiu, on A Portrait of the Trees of Hong Kong and Southern China. This impressive tome, which features over 100 of Sally’s gorgeous botanical illustrations, hit bookshelves in Hong Kong in May 2019.
“I would describe it as a sort of ‘crossover’ book, in that it is both an art book and a scientific textbook. It’s also packed with folklore, fun facts and medicinal usages,” Sally says. “Our aim has been to celebrate Hong Kong’s most historic trees, and an interesting local touch is that all but one of the trees also are found on Lantau – we are blessed with the most amazing biodiversity here on our island.”
Sally has put a lot into Lantau life since she and her husband Bob bought a weekend cottage in Shui Hau in the mid-80s, and then moved full-time to Mui Wo in 1996. In 2009, Sally decided to retire and take up botanical painting full time. In addition to her current painting projects, Sally is the founder of SLUGS – the South Lantau United Gardeners, and she is helping WWF-HK restore the gardens at Island House Conservation Studies Centre in Tai Po.
For more information, visit the Hidden Forests webpage here.