1970s Conduit for transmission of Chinese culture and tradition
At the end of 1973, Huang Yao retired from being a headmaster and resumed full time paintings. In his paintings of children, he went beyond just just children at play, and using the artwork as conduit for propagating the Chinese culture and traditions. He began painting human figures with the de-tailed fine line gongbi technique as in the painting of a six-year old child Lu Ji (222 CE) putting away an orange with his right hand and dropped one orange on the floor. Instead of eating the fruits himself, he was saving these two oranges for his mother who loved to eat them. This is one of the famous 24 filial piety stories in the Chinese culture. Love for the parents is an important tradition among the Chinese. The Classic of Filial Piety, a text composed between 350 and 200 BC, teaches a simple but all-embracing lesson: beginning humbly at home, filial piety not only en-sures success in a man's life but also brings peace and harmony to the world at large. Huang Yao completed a set of 24 paintings of adults and children in 1979 based on these stories. This particu-lar painting was likely completed for his descendants to encourage them to show their love for their mothers?
Making Music together
Of course he did not neglect painting children at play which unfailingly transported him to the land of the innocence. The two paintings below were completed in the winter months of 1977. The below painting shows a group of boisterous children playing Chinese musical instruments. The boy carrying a drum on his back leads the group. The boy directly behind him is beating it with two drumsticks. Then comes a boy with the gong and another one blowing his horn. A bigger boy follows at the rear. He is catching the cymbals that he had just thrown up into the air. Can you hear the loud jolly ‘music’ they are making? They are obviously enjoying themselves, oblivious of their surrounding which in this case is left blank for the viewers to imagine. The title consists of three simple Chinese characters. The middle character can mean happy or music. So the title is of ‘being happy to-gether’ or ‘making music together’. The sketch of a simpler version of this painting is shown in (Adam : Pls link to entry 03 - mid 1970s Sketches of Children at Play)
In late 1974, Huang Yao’s grandchildren returned from the U.S. and lived in Penang with him for one and a half years. They were three and four years old. It was indeed a very happy time espe-cially since he always enjoyed the company of children in particular his own grandchildren. They went for morning walks together when he would show them the wonders of nature. Sometimes he would send them to and fro their nursery school near his house where he got to observe children at play. In the afternoons, they often enjoyed a snack of fresh local cakes and deserts sold by hawkers on bicycles passing by. There were plenty of opportunities for him to watch and study them and to capture the spirit of childhood and put it in his paintings. It was in this period that he finally extracted all the important facial and body distinctiveness of his innocent endearing lively child as shown in these paintings.
Looking at the two paintings, one can feel that Huang Yao was exuberantly happy. Finally, he was able to do what he enjoyed most; painting all the subjects he had in mind, espe-cially children after his two grandchildren were born in 1970 and 1971. The younger grandchild lived with his grandparents for his first two years of life.
Below is a painting of three delightfully energetic children in different positions of somersaulting under the shady tree. They are certainly having a great time. Their looks, facial features and dress-ings are similar to those of the children in earlier paintings. Their exposed soles of the shoes are too small to be real but these add extra charm to the painting. Unlike the previous painting, this one has a full background of outdoor scene of grass, tree, rocks, hills and blue sky with white clouds. The tree with its leaves was painted with the double hooked technique. The simple title of three charac-ters has the meaning ‘picture of jumping tigers’. This is a wish for the children to have the vitality of the tigers. Parents in China used to have cloth shoes with the faces of the tigers decorating them for babies and toddlers; they were hoping to add extra vitality to their precious children.