1951 to 1956 Children Paintings in Thailand 2

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Transition from realistic paintings to stressing on the essence:

The next painting has four children playing horse riding. The boy on the ‘horse’ is slightly larger then the others indicating he is the main character in the picture as is often presented in Chinese paintings. This is another proficient traditional fine line painting of children. It has color on the uncovered skin of the children and also the folds of their clothing. There is no title or in-scription, bamboo is painted on the right, and the signature on the seal at left lower corner. This paintings is not dated, again as it has the same style and technique as the previous one, it should have been completed in about the same time in Thailand.

 

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Huang Yao was apparently not satisfied with the familiar classical style of the above paintings of children. The reason is probably that the youngsters in the paintings bear too much resem-blance to real children in facial appearances and in proportions of the body. To Huang Yao, paintings should capture the spirit of the subject matter, not merely the resemblance in look, as the latter can never be better than colored photographs. His attempts to capture the spirit of children resulted in three different sets of paintings of children playing various games, each with a distinct style. Huang Yao’s boldness and resourcefulness to try different presentations were likely influenced by his experiences in the 1930s Shanghai. According to Chen, the 1930s car-toonists in Shanghai were endlessly inquisitive; they ‘change their styles as often and with as much facility as the chameleon changes the color of its skin.’ They made  ‘daring experiments with both European and Chinese art forms and techniques’ (Chen, 1938). The paintings of chil-dren playing ‘horse riding’ were found in all the three experimental sets and they are shown below : 

 

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In comparing the children in these three colored paintings to the one earlier, the children here are all wearing loose tops but without the belt at the waist. It could be the artist’s experiment to have more flowing lines in the figure, or to have them look more current? Their pants are white or black, tighter and shorter than those in the first painting, exposing their shoes and white socks. This outfit is more appropriate for active children and definitely more suitable for running around and play. There is no change in their hairstyle, except that one of the children with a fringe is a girl. At this stage, they are no longer ‘photocopies’ of realistic looking children.

They all have heads too big for their bodies. Children in Horse Riding 4 bear close similarity to those in Horse Riding 3; just the heads are slightly bigger, making their bodies look shorter than those in the classical paintings. The children in Horse Riding 3 have such big round heads, with no eyebrow and dots only for their eyes, wearing tight black pants that they are almost like cartoons of children. That is, the lines for the features on face were reduced to a bare minimum and exaggerated to capture the core of what it is to be a child. Huang Yao’s wife, Madam Cheng had often com-mented that her husband’s skill in bringing out the essence of children was from his vast experi-ence in drawing cartoons.

Instead of the usual continuous lines, broken lines are used for the drawing in Horse Riding 4. It was probable that the artist was influenced by children as popular subjects for embroidery in Chi-nese art and craft. This was certainly an attempt by Huang Yao to make the paintings look as if drawn by the inexperienced hand of a child. This effort is similar to the artist’s experimentation in the 1930s in writing Chinese characters upside down to resemble writings of children. Both were challenges to capture the innocence of a child. This set of ‘broken line’ paintings has an undeni-able naïve charm.

All the children in these four sets of paintings are active and lively. There is big variation in the styles and looks of the children. Huang Yao had made the leap from standard traditional por-trayal of children to the beginnings of his Erxi Tu, the paintings of children at play. All the paint-ings of children in this period were signed and sealed. They could be painted for the 1956 exhi-bitions in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. 

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