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Huang Yongyu (b. 1924)
Art master Huang Yongyu is known for his woodblock prints, ink paintings and literary works. A multi-talented man, Huang has published poems, essays, novels, screenplays and photo albums. A prolific carver of wooden engravings, he has held exhibitions in China, Hong Kong, Australia, Germany and Italy. He has lived and worked in Shanghai, Taiwan, Beijing and Hong Kong.
Born in 1924 in Fenghuang County, Hunan Province, Huang never went to a regular art school but he had talent and worked hard. He studied art and literature by himself and learned from friends, society and life. Perhaps this is why he shows such initiative and vitality in his works without any set pattern.
When he was young, Huang became known for his prints, which used bold lines and an unconstrained style. Until the 1960s he devoted himself mainly to woodcuts. The period from the late 1950s to the middle 1960s marked the golden age of his woodcuts. His color woodcut prints, such as Ahshima and Spring Tide, had a strong folk flavor, ethnic characteristics and a refreshing style.
Since the seventies, Huang has produced an abundance of colored ink paintings depicting landscapes, flowers and birds using freehand techniques. There are also human figures and scenes with humorous messages or historical allusions. His fresh themes, bold strokes and dripping colors combine to make an original style in contemporary Chinese painting; while his unique style of using traditional Chinese painting techniques helped contribute to his fame. His caricatures and canvas paintings are also recognized as excellent.
Plum blossoms and water lilies are two major subjects of Huang's work and he has made up to 8,000 images depicting water lilies. Besides paintbrushes, Huang also uses branches, his fingers and dry pulp as painting tools.
From 1948 to 1953, Huang lived in Hong Kong and he left his mark in the local art, culture and film scene. He was once arts editor of newspapers such as “Tai Kung Po” and the journal “The Great Wall Pictorial”, where he published his sketches of places that he lived and worked in, like Kennedy Road and Wanchai. He also edited scripts at Great Wall Movie Enterprise Limited, where the actors and actresses there became subjects of his portrait sketches.
Between 1953 and 1988 Huang left Hong Kong but returned several times to exhibit his works. He has exhibited many places including Hong Kong City Hall, Museum of Hong Kong University, Hong Kong Art Museum, and recently in 2007, in Times Square, Causeway Bay.
In the 1950s Huang became the youngest teacher at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. By the time of the Cultural Revolution, Huang was one of the leading print and ink artists in the country. He created little in the way of art during those tumultuous ten years, but his ink and wash painting Maotouying or Owl which portrays an owl with one eye closed, was criticized as an attack on socialism, as it can be seen to portray public officials turning a blind eye to wrong doings. People were surprised and worried about the painting but Huang didn't feel uneasy at all even joking that the half-opened eye of an owl was a natural phenomenon.
Since the 1970s, Huang has been a highly prolific artist, specialising in rural subjects and inspired particularly by the environment around his hometown of Fenghuang. Much of his subject matter is drawn from this region.
In 2008 Huang became the first Chinese to be awarded the “Olympic Art Prize” by the International Olympic Committee to acknowledge his contribution to arts and cultural development. In 2006, he was awarded an “Honorable Achievements in the Arts” award from China. The same year he donated a large 2m x 3m painting titled “World Peace” to United Nations in China, which is another large scale painting that promotes peace after Picasso’s “Guernica”. The following year Huang was given a special award for his charity. In 2005 he was the winner of “Lifetime Achievement in Arts and Culture Award” in China. His outstanding artistic achievement is recognized in Italy where he was awarded the highest honor award “Commander of the Order”.
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