HuangYao Web-site
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...I love the study of etymology, although I can't say I have done much research in this field, nor do I want to do any revolutionary work. As an artist [what I really want to do is] read the Oracle-Bone Scripts, history of the everyday life in archaic society, and speculate about their lifestyle according to the existing inscriptions. For example, [looking at] the inscriptions (carriage) and (ox), and visiting the museum to view actual Shang Dynasty oxen carriage, [1 see that] the inscriptions are both tuhua wenzi, and when they come together, they become what Cang Ji termed zi "character". This 'coming-together' can form a beautiful picture, [a beauty that is] comparable to the pictographs of the Shang and Zhou Dynasty Bell-and-Gong Script. There was a time when many [tuhua wenzl] were formed, and they combined with single radical wen to form whole, complete pictographs.These pictographs are connected with the past but has a new taste. Some people mistook them for modern art, but they are of ancient structures. Others mistook them for western abstract art, but they are actually ancient Chinese characters. It is then clear to me that art need not be divided into ancient or modern, east or west. They are all related, from the same source. This is the greatness of art as well as its sacredness.
Huang Yao, Moyuan Suibi, 1982
Introduction
Huang Yao's unique contribution to Chinese calligraphy and painting is his Wenzi Hua, i.e. paintings made from Chinese wenzi or characters. These paintings were the result of the combination of his mastery of calligraphy, paintings, etymology and a deep understanding of Chinese art and culture. He also infused into them his sense of humor and his philosophy of life.

Huang Yao had always been an earnest artist who took pride in his work. For him to create Wenzi Hua, his conviction was that a sound understanding of the origin of the Chinese wenzi or character, how its origins, shapes, sounds and meanings evolved through the ages was essential. This required research, but fortunately it was not a difficult task for him as he was already practicing the different Chinese scripts and he had a strong foundation in Chinese classics, not just the language but also literature and history. It was as the headmaster of a secondary school in a small town in Malaysia in the 1960s that he finally found the peace of mind and time to pursue what he really enjoyed and wanted to do. The research task turned out to be as expected, a pleasure to him. It was because for him all the ancient Chinese scripts, pictographs, oracle bone inscriptions and seal scripts were beautiful art forms, some of the gems of Chinese culture. At the end of 1973, he retired and moved to Penang and spent full time turning his research into paintings.

Altogether, it took him more than ten years to acquire a deep understanding of the origin of the Chinese characters, to develop them into sketches, and finally to paint the Wenzi Hua. All Huang Yao's research works and paintings were packed, stacked or rolled up; stored away and probably forgotten when he moved to Kuala Lumpur in 1978. It was only in 1999 when they were rediscovered that the process of making sense of his Wenzi Hua began. The research Huang Yao did resulted in two volumes of analysis of the Chinese characters, how their shapes, meanings and sounds evolved over the ages. There were almost two thousand pieces of sketches of Chinese characters, in single form, in phrases, idioms and poems. Then there were also stacks and rolls of Wenzi Hua. Almost all these paintings were not signed, dated or sealed, except for some calligraphic wenzi hua of poems and quotes from respected classics that were exhibited in 1975 in Singapore and a few others painted in later years.

After going through all of Huang Yao's notes, sketches and paintings, it was felt that in order to appreciate and understand Huang Yao's Wenzi Hua, the viewer should have some background of how they were created. This entails seeing the process of his research in estimated time sequence and some examples of how his notes, sketches and paintings are likely related. These will be presented in three parts under this Wenzi Hua section. They are a brief summary of the process of research and its development into Wenzi Hua; some examples of the creation of Wenzi Hua with their related notes and sketches; and Wenzi Hua Gallery where the paintings are sorted into six different categories.


Summary of Research and Development
This summary was gathered from the notes and sketches that Huang Yao did on Wenzi Hua. There are two stages, first the collection and understanding of the ancient Chinese characters and how he used them in writing phrases and even poems. This stage was more calligraphic in nature as Huang Yao ended up with selecting a combination of different scripts and pictographs to write the phrases or poems. The second stage was the preparation and the use of wenzi to make paintings. Huang Yao specifically collected a large number of pictographs for things in the Chinese grouping of "sky, on earth and human parts". He then used these and also the abstracted human figures to express the feelings or meanings of the quotes chosen from the Chinese classics in the next set of sketches. These quotes were mostly either sentimental or Buddhist in nature but transformed into sketches with a strong sense of humor. Although Huang Yao seldom put dates on his work, it can be estimated that he did these in the early 1970s as some of the sketches show women in bell-bottom pants, fashion of that time. Finally Huang Yao redid some of the earlier quotes from Chinese classics, he used contemporary images in place of some of the pictographs, thus giving them a more up to date look.
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Collection of single characters
(1960s)
Dictionary
(1960s)
Collection of phrases
(1960s)
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Zen poem by Huineng

Zen poem by Huineng
Sketches of Chinese characters
(1960s to early 1970s)
Sketches of poems
(early 1970s)
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Diary
(1972-1973)
Sketches for paintings
(early 1970s)
Drawings
(1970s to early 1980s)
Copyright