July 21 2013: Huang Yao The Remarkable Guest of Malaya

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Malaysia’s National Visual Arts Gallery (NVAG), in collaboration with Huang Yao Foundation, will present “The Remarkable Guest of Malaya” exhibition from 21st July to 5th October 2013, showcasing 220+ works of the Modern Chinese painter and scholar, Huang Yao (1917 – 1987) in it’s gallery in Kuala Lumpur.

“The Remarkable Guest of Malaya” honours Huang Yao for his contribution to Malaysia, especially in the area of arts, cultural heritage and education. The exhibition highlights his distinctive work as a painter, cartoonist and scholar. It begins with an insight into his exhibition in 1956 that was officiated by Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, then Malaysia’s Education Minister who had invited Huang Yao to work on the nation’s “Adult Education Programme”.

Critical homage is paid to the legendary Niubizi, the premier cartoon character in China created by Huang Yao in 1934 that skyrocketed to fame as an icon from the Golden Period of China Cartoons and the Resistance War (1938 to 1945). Niubizi was present as a participant in many of Huang Yao’s paintings in various countries. In Malaysia and Singapore, he even appears clad in a sarong in cartoons created especially for the exhibition entitled “Niubizi Educational Cartoon Exhibition” held in 1956.

The show flows into the paintings section where Huang Yao’s mastery of ink and brush, calligraphy and fine line technique are displayed through vigorously and boldly executed, yet soft and supple rhythmic works of coloured, as well as monochrome paintings. Also on show is Huang Yao’s “unique calligraphic skill” of chuyun shu (inverted writing) and the depth of his 10 years of research into Chinese philology, latter of which materialised as wenzi hua (calligraphic paintings) with varying structures of the pictograms, oracle and seal scripts, as well as the (wild) cursive scripts which he had opined to be “wondrous” and “flamboyant”. The exhibition reflects the diversity of Huang Yao’s works created at various junctures of his life as a painter, in Malaysia as well as his journey there from China in search of paradise, and sojourns through Vietnam and Thailand. Shown across various sections, the works encompass the “Nanyang” and “Bullock Cart” series with landscapes, human figures and lifestyle of South East Asia, the “Folk” and the “Inner Journey” series, latter of which showcases his yibi hua (one stroke paintings) which he considered the “diamond of paintings” that emerged from being at one with nature. The paintings exhibit also showcases his lively and spontaneous vibrant ziyou hua (western looking abstract works) and his works of children that he associated with emotions of deep happiness, including the unique set of 100 Malay children playing traditional 'games'.

The exhibition of Huang Yao’s scholastic pursuits focuses on his extensive research on the early history of Nanyang Chinese community that culminated in a 100-chaptered book entitled “The History of the Chinese in Malaya and Singapore”.

The ‘completeness; of Huang Yao’s lifework is exhibited in a circular structure in the centre of the show space that holds cases containing personal items which he brought from China as well as those he used or created in Malaysia.

“What strikes me the most in studying this great artist is his deep perseverance, utmost diligence, quiet sophistication and delightful inventiveness. His Niubizi cartoons must have been the next best thing to having met him in person. Malaya brought out the best in him as he lived up to Tun Razak's anticipation of his ability to sow the seeds of a common happiness through art . This country is blessed to have such a remarkable guest”, enthused Zanita Anuar, Curator, NVAG.

 

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