Jameson Yap’s calligraphy artworks have gained popularity among a global audience

JAMESON YAP has a distinctive style in calligraphy art. He invented a unique stroke style when writing Chinese calligraphy characters and turns them into works of art.

In his one-of-a-kind, contemporary artworks, Yap brings together traditional calligraphy and modern abstract art.

Yap learned his masterstrokes from his late grandfather, who taught him basic traditional calligraphy when he was five years old.

“He made me practise calligraphy by writing on newspapers every day, to perfect my stroke and senses in calligraphy,” said Yap.

“After many years of practicing calligraphy, I invented my own unique style of the stroke to express my senses in art perfectly, which was inspired by the flow of river water. I called it River-stroke (Liu Su),” said the 39-year-old artist.

“Liu means river flow in Chinese and river-stroke writing creates a form of smoothness and sense of connectivity. It is unique as these characters can be completed in a single continuous brush stroke or a single breath (in Chinese).”

$!Honesty from the River-stroke series. - Pictures courtesy of Jameson Yap

Yap was inspired after watching aerial video footage of the Amazon River. The flow of the river touched him profoundly.

“The beauty of the River-stroke kept me feeling amazed and encourage me to explore further on its depth,” he said.

$!An artwork titled Complete; Perfect from the River-stroke series.

Pushing boundaries

“In my large pieces, I often overlap the characters in a unique sequence, which made my calligraphy an abstract art form instead of ordinary calligraphy. You will find different characters every time you revisit or look at the artwork and it also depends on your mood.

“It is also a breakthrough in traditional Chinese calligraphy, which does not practice overlapping characters. This style is very much influenced by the multicultural environment where I grew up and this motivated me to go beyond boundaries.”

Almost 40% of Yap’s art collectors are non-Chinese educated art lovers who appreciate oriental art, especially Chinese calligraphy art from Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and China.

$!Heart Sutra from the River-stroke series is Yap’s largest artwork, at 240cm x 120cm.

A purpose in life

Apart from creating art, Yap’s mission is to introduce the beauty and variety of meaning each Chinese character holds, and spread Chinese culture to the world.

“Chinese characters are not popular among international art collectors but I would like to alter that. I believe art collectors do not need to know the Chinese language or characters to appreciate art. I believe a magnificent piece of art is viewed for its expression of emotion instead of reading the meaning of each word.”

$!A poem by Du-Fu, Spring Rain, from the River-stroke series created in 2020.

Yap said modern Chinese calligraphy art is similar to abstract art, except that it is in the form of characters and stimulates a different impact and meditative effect, and has a deeper meaning. Art lovers can choose to incorporate characters that hold a special meaning as a part of the art.

“I want to show that calligraphy art can be creative, communicative and express emotions instead of the traditional way of focusing on the style of writing. Through my artworks, I also hope to express the distinctive style, influences and characteristics of a Malaysian growing up in Nanyang, China.”

$!Heart; Mind, from the River-stroke series.

Remembering with love

His largest artwork is a 240cm X 120cm piece from the River-stroke series titled Heart Sutra.

“During the process, I could feel and connect with my late grandfather like he was there with me, giving me the energy to create and to complete the artwork. It gave me so much confidence and affirmation to continue creating more artworks with the River-stroke style after that.”

The most challenging art piece he ever made is also part of the same River-stroke series, titled Hulu Gourd.

$!Hulu Gourd, from the River-stroke series .

According to Yap, Hulu Gourd has auspicious associations to harmony and good fortune.

“At the time, I was in a particular mood. I felt blessed, which I needed in the year 2020 (during the Covid-19 pandemic)”.

$!Love from the River-stroke series.

“It was made on blank Xuan paper without any sketch guidelines. The plan was to go with the flow and create the shape of the Hulu (gourd) with 300 Chinese characters. I let the hand-writing flow naturally. However, it looked nothing like the Hulu I had imagined. After 150 words, it began to take shape.”

Most of Yap’s artworks can be viewed on Instagram at @calligraphy.jy. He is also planning to showcase some of his artworks in an exhibition next year.