Wang Sui Pick



Wang Sui Pick (b. 1904, Anxi, Fujian, China–d. 18 May 1998, Singapore)1 was one of the most respected senior calligraphers in Singapore. He was renowned for his finger calligraphy in cao shu, or cursive script. Other than taking part in exhibitions, Wang taught, gave talks and demonstrations in schools and community centres, and served as a judge in calligraphy competitions.2 For his contributions to the field of calligraphy, Wang was awarded the Cultural Medallion for Visual Arts in 1992.3

Early life and career
Wang grew up in a scholarly family. His father, Wang Qian You, was known for his literary achievements. The senior Wang migrated to Singapore where he decided to try his hand at business instead.4


In 1921, upon graduating from high school in Amoy, China, Wang joined his parents in Singapore where he taught in local schools for three-and-a-half years. In 1925, Wang returned to Amoy to pursue his studies in the University of Amoy, now known as Xiamen University.5 Though he graduated with a law degree, Wang decided to pursue a career in education.6

In 1954, Wang returned to Singapore and took up a teaching position at Nanyang Girls’ High School. In 1961, he was appointed as principal of Chong Hwa High School in Kluang, Malaya, and in 1967 became the principal of Chong Hwa Independent High School in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Following his retirement from teaching in 1970, Wang decided to devote his time to calligraphy.7

Artistic career
Wang’s interest in calligraphy started when he was a high school student in China where it was an important part of the school curriculum. Calligraphy was learnt by copying from the works of masters found in copybooks.8 Wang started by copying the works of famous masters such as Yan Zhenqin and Liu Gongquan, who both wrote in formal style, as well as Wang Xizhi and Wang Xianzhi.9 He had the habit of writing the characters in the air with his finger while looking at the copybooks. Wang attributed his later venture into finger calligraphy to this practice.10

In those days, it was not easy to find copybooks in China. By chance, Wang came across the copybook of Huai Shu, a monk calligrapher from the Tang Dynasty (618–907 CE) famous for his cao shu, or cursive script. Wang was immediately attracted to the lively and uninhibited strokes of Huai. He felt that the artistry of the cursive style was a cut above the formal style.11

Wang’s foray into finger painting was also quite by chance. One day in school, his classmates wanted him to write some calligraphy characters for them. To appease them, he casually dipped his finger into some leftover ink and wrote his first piece of finger calligraphy.12

Wang was a self-taught artist in the area of finger calligraphy, which was considered a lost art form. Thus, there were no teachers or copybooks for Wang to refer to in his quest to learn finger calligraphy. However, this did not deter Wang. He experimented with finger calligraphy on his own and found the outcome refreshing. Through exploration and practice, he soon learnt the tricks of writing with his fingers.13

Calligraphy was a hobby for Wang. It was only after he retired from teaching in 1970 that Wang devoted all his time to calligraphy. He spent the next decade quietly and diligently practising and developing his finger calligraphy. In 1980, he joined the San Yi Finger Painting Society and the Chinese Calligraphy Society of Singapore. The president of the Chinese Calligraphy Society of Singapore, Tan Siah Kwee, became one of Wang’s biggest supporters.14

Wang held his first solo exhibition in 1981 at the age of 77 after some persuasion from his friends.15 Wang had been unsure of the standard of his works, but his fears proved unfounded: within three days, 80 percent of his works were purchased, the most popular being his finger calligraphy works.16

Following the success of his inaugural solo exhibition, Wang went on to take part in various calligraphy exhibitions held in Singapore, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea.17

In 1988, Wang held his second solo exhibition featuring 200 pieces of finger calligraphy works and 50 pieces featuring brushwork.18

Three books on his calligraphy were also published: one volume in 1981, in conjunction with his first solo exhibition, and another two volumes in 1983 and 1985 respectively.19

Besides participating in exhibitions, Wang also lectured part-time at the Running Style Course conducted by the National University of Singapore’s Extramural Studies Department as well as conducting Chinese calligraphy demonstrations in various schools and community centres. He was also often invited to be the judge for many local calligraphy competitions organised by the Chinese Calligraphy Society, community groups, the former Ministry of Culture and others.20

Wang had hoped to hold a centenary exhibition in 2003 but, unfortunately, he passed away in 1998 at the age of 95, leaving behind five sons and two daughters. A sizeable portion of Wang’s works had been donated to various institutions prior to his demise. Following his exhibition at the former National Museum Art Gallery in 1993, Wang donated 30 pieces of his work to the museum. In 1997, he donated all 40 works from his first solo exhibition to the Chinese Calligraphy Society of Singapore and another five pieces to the Singapore Art Museum.21
Stylistic conventions
Wang was excellent in both brush work and finger calligraphy. However, he was particularly fond of finger calligraphy and the cao shu, or cursive style of writing.22 He preferred to write with his index finger in cao shu as he felt that it allowed him to express his feelings freely.23

When writing da zi, or the large font, Wang would use an ink-soaked cotton wool held between his thumb and middle finger to write. For writing ci da, or the medium font, Wang used his index or middle finger. The ring and small fingers were used to write the small fonts.24 It was Wang’s practice to stand while writing with his hand hovering over the paper.25

Though the technique of finger calligraphy was different from brush calligraphy, Wang felt that it was important that the calligrapher have good foundations in brush calligraphy first.26 His calligraphy had been likened to “flying clouds, flowing streams and wave-spouting dragons”.27

Wang had a preference for using colour paper for his works, thus he was described by some as having brought calligraphy into a colour era.28

Ancient poems, maxims and Confucian sayings were favourite themes in Wang’s works.29 He also liked to create his own lines by adding a twist to famous lines. For example, he changed the saying “don’t build your happiness on others’ agony” to “build your happiness on others’ happiness”.30

Wang’s favourite Chinese character was ai, or love, something he felt was the most lacking element in the world.31

Wang, together with fellow Singapore pioneering artist and Chinese calligrapher Pan Shou, were regarded as ‘National Treasures’ of the Singapore art scene.32

Awards33
1992: Cultural Medallion for Visual Arts.

Exhibitions34
Solo

1981: Wang Sui Pick Calligraphy Exhibition organised by The Chinese Calligraphy Society of Singapore.
1987: Solo Exhibition in Xiamen and Anxi, China.
1988: Wang Sui Pick Calligraphy Exhibition organised by The Chinese Calligraphy Society of Singapore.

Group
1981: Singapore Calligraphy Exhibition.

1982: Japan-Singapore Calligraphy Exchange Exhibition.
1985: Malaysia-Singapore Calligraphy Exchange Exhibition; Korea-Singapore Calligraphy Exchange Exhibition.
1986: Invitation Calligraphy Exhibition in Commemoration of 120th Anniversary of the Birth of the late Sun Yat Sen.
1986: Sixth International Chinese Calligraphy Exhibition held in Taiwan.
1986: 2nd China-Singapore Calligraphy Exchange Exhibition.
1986: Canton-Singapore Calligraphy Exchange Exhibition.
1986: Hong Kong-Singapore Calligraphy Exchange Exhibition.
1986: International Chinese Calligraphy Exhibition in Commemoration of the Asia Olympic Games held in South Korea.
1987: Chinese Calligraphy and Seal Engraving Exhibition in Commemoration of the 120th Anniversary of Monk Hong Yi’s Earth ASPACAE ’87 International Art Exhibition held in Japan.
1989: Free Hand Style of Calligraphy Exhibition held in Ningxia, China.
1989: Singapore Calligraphy Exhibition.
1990: First International Calligraphy Exchange Exhibition.
1990: Singapore Calligraphy Exhibition organised by The Chinese Calligraphy Society of Singapore.
1991: China Hubei Huangshi International Invitation Calligraphy Exhibition.
1991: Singapore-Jilin Calligraphy Exchange Exhibition.
1992: Overseas Calligraphers Invitation Exhibition held in Henan, China.
1992: Singapore-Hei Long Jiang Calligraphy Exchange Exhibition.
1993: 1993 Singapore Calligraphy Exhibition.
1993: Singapore-Zhejiang Calligraphy Exchange Exhibition.


Author
Chor Poh Chin


References
1. 王瑞璧 [Wang, R. B.]. (1983). 王瑞璧指墨 [Wang Ruibi zhi mo] (Vol. 2). 新加坡: 新加坡中华书学研究会, p. 4. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 745.619951 WRB); 书法家王瑞壁逝世 [Shu fa jia Wang Rui Bi shi shi]. (1998, May 21). 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 196. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
3. National Arts Council Singapore. (2012). Cultural Medallion & Young Artist Award Recipients for Visual Arts. Retrieved from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/art-forms/visual-arts/local-directory/cultural-medallion-young-artist-award-recipients-for-visual-arts
4. 王瑞璧 [Wang, R. B.]. (1983). 王瑞璧指墨 [Wang Ruibi zhi mo] (Vol. 2). 新加坡: 新加坡中华书学研究会, p. 4. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 745.619951 WRB)
5. 王瑞璧 [Wang, R. B.]. (1983). 王瑞璧指墨 [Wang Ruibi zhi mo] (Vol. 2). 新加坡: 新加坡中华书学研究会, p. 4. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 745.619951 WRB)
6. Leong, W. K. (1998, May 20). Singapore's oldest calligrapher dies. The Straits Times, p. 35. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. 王瑞璧 [Wang, R. B.]. (1983). 王瑞璧指墨 [Wang Ruibi zhi mo] (Vol. 2). 新加坡: 新加坡中华书学研究会, p. 4. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 745.619951 WRB)
8. 丘耳 [Qiu, E.]. (1981, May 27). 王瑞璧 [Wang Rui Bi]. 南洋商报 [Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Chong, W. H. (1988, October 7). Words like flying clouds and flowing streams. The Straits Times, p. 7; 丘耳 [Qiu, E.]. (1981, May 27). 王瑞璧 [Wang Rui Bi]. 南洋商报 [Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. 吴启基 & 陈川成 [Wu, Q. J. & Chen, C. C.]. (1993, April 3). 人生朝露艺事千秋 [Ren sheng zhao lu yi shi qian qiu]. 联合早报.[Lianhe Zaobao], p. 42. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. 吴启基 & 陈川成 [Wu, Q. J. & Chen, C. C.]. (1993, April 3). 人生朝露艺事千秋 [Ren sheng zhao lu yi shi qian qiu]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 42; Chong, W. H. (1988, October 7). Words like flying clouds and flowing streams. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. 吴启基 & 陈川成 [Wu, Q. J. & Chen, C. C.]. (1993, April 3). 人生朝露艺事千秋 [Ren sheng zhao lu yi shi qian qiu]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 42. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. 吴启基 & 陈川成 [Wu, Q. J. & Chen, C. C.]. (1993, April 3). 人生朝露艺事千秋 [Ren sheng zhao lu yi shi qian qiu]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 42; 蔡哲民 [Cai, Z. M.]. (1983, December 17). 王瑞璧指墨赏后感[Wang Rui Bi zhi mo shang hou gan]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 51. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Tribute.sg. (2012). Wang Sui Pick. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Wang+Sui+Pick
15. Chong, W. H. (1988, October 7). Words like flying clouds and flowing streams. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. 蔡哲民 [Cai, Z. M.]. (1983, December 17). 王瑞璧指墨赏后感 [Wang Rui Bi zhi mo shang hou gan]. 联合早报.[Lianhe Zaobao], p. 51. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. 王瑞璧 [Wang, R. B.]. (1983). 王瑞璧指墨 [Wang Ruibi zhi mo] (Vol. 2). 新加坡: 新加坡中华书学研究会, p. 4. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 745.619951 WRB)
18. Chong, W. H. (1988, October 7). Words like flying clouds and flowing streams. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. 王瑞璧 [Wang, R. B.]. (1983). 王瑞璧指墨 [Wang Ruibi zhi mo] (Vol. 2). 新加坡: 新加坡中华书学研究会, p. 4. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 745.619951 WRB)
20. 王瑞璧 [Wang, R. B.]. (1983). 王瑞璧指墨 [Wang Ruibi zhi mo] (Vol. 2). 新加坡: 新加坡中华书学研究会, p. 4. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 745.619951 WRB); Tribute.sg. (2012). Wang Sui Pick. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Wang+Sui+Pick
21. Leong, W. K. (1998, May 20). Singapore's oldest calligrapher dies. The Straits Times, p. 35. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. 王瑞璧 [Wang, R. B.]. (1983). 王瑞璧指墨 [Wang Ruibi zhi mo] (Vol. 2).  新加坡: 新加坡中华书学研究会, p. 4. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 745.619951 WRB)
23. Leong, W. K. (1998, May 20). Singapore's oldest calligrapher dies. The Straits Times, p. 35. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. 丘耳 [Qiu, E.]. (1981, May 27). 王瑞璧 [Wang Rui Bi]. 南洋商报 [Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. 吴启基 [Wu, Q. J.]. (1997, April 9). 松节傲眉峰 [Song jie ao mei feng]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 33. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. 丘耳 [Qiu, E.]. (1981, May 27). 王瑞璧 [Wang Rui Bi]. 南洋商报 [Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Chong, W. H. (1988, October 7). Words like flying clouds and flowing streams. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. 书法家王瑞壁逝世 [Shu fa jia Wang Rui Bi shi shi]. (1998, May 21). 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. 蔡哲民 [Cai, Z. M.]. (1983, December 17). 王瑞璧指墨赏后感 [Wang Rui Bi zhi mo shang hou gan]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 51. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Chong, W. H. (1988, October 7). Words like flying clouds and flowing streams. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. 吴新慧 [Wu, X. H.]. (1988, February 16). 王瑞璧 写字为怡情养性 [Wang Rui Bi xie zi wei yi qing yang xing]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 50. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Tribute.sg. (2012). Wang Sui Pick. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Wang+Sui+Pick
33. National Arts Council Singapore. (2012). Cultural Medallion & Young Artist Award Recipients for Visual Arts. Retrieved from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/art-forms/visual-arts/local-directory/cultural-medallion-young-artist-award-recipients-for-visual-arts
34.
王瑞璧 [Wang, R. B.]. (1993). 王瑞璧九十书艺 [Wang Ruibi jiu shi shu yi]. 新加坡: 新加坡国家博物院. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 745.619951 WSP)




Further resources
王瑞璧 [Wang, R. B.]. (1981). 王瑞璧翰墨集 [Wang Ruibi han mo ji]. 新加坡: 中华书学研究会.

(Call no.: Chinese RSING 745.619951 WRB)

王瑞璧 [Wang, R. B.]. (1983). 王瑞璧指墨 [Wang Ruibi zhi mo] (Vol. 1). 新加坡: 新加坡中华书学研究会.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING 745.619951 WRB)

王瑞璧 [Wang, R. B.]. (1996). 王瑞壁九十书艺 [Wang Ruibi jiu shi shu yi]. 新加坡: 新加坡书法家协会.
(Call no.: Chinese RART 745.619951 WRB)

书法家王瑞璧 [Shu fa jia Wang Ruibi]. (2004).[北京]: 中国文联出版社.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING 745.619951 SFJ)



The information in this article is valid as at 18 February 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Personalities
Arts