Although Huang Sha-rong may not have much in the way of formal education, he did get quite an advanced education in woodcarving thanks to his first job. By working in a niche for crafting special boxes to house deity statues, he got started on learning the Japanese craft of making ranma, or windows used for decorating and illuminating temples, and from there, to more three-dimensional carving.
He began learning with the basic act of honing his knife, choosing to make his main creative material Cinnamomum kanehirae, the stout camphor, known for its hardness, fragrance, and ease of preservation. With two hands as his main tool and armed with a triangular carving chisel, Huang set about creating his one-of-a-kind artworks, carving all manner of pieces from single pieces of wood.
1994 saw many Taiwanese carvers leave the industry because of low-cost competition from China, and Huang too faced a grave choice. Ultimately, on the advice of a former colleague and wood engraver, he first switched to engraving and then learned how to paint the pieces. When he had time, he began to work on artistic engravings, and soon destiny came knocking again.
A master carver of Buddha statues recommended Huang to enter a competition, and Huang entered his piece "Wild Goose" but did not win. He did, however, see the techniques used in the piece that did win, and it was a column-carving technique he himself excelled at. He then chose to work on a new sculpture called "Orchid" using that same technique, taking third place in the next competition and setting off his new woodcarving career.
When designing a piece, Huang will work with the qualities and grain of the wood, slowly sculpting a lifelike piece of work one chip at a time. The process is quite difficult, but the finished product is sure to be something that both ordinary viewers and keen-eyed collectors alike can appreciate.
Over the past five decades, his works aim to capture interactive moments between animals in nature while reflecting depictions of traditional Chinese architecture, Buddha statues, and dragons from myths and legends. Huang also draws from Confucianism, Taoism, and the I Ching in the hopes of providing new intellectual approaches to contemporary wood carving.
As for carving orchids, Huang uses dead wood as the background to showcase their vitality and ability to thrive in the harshest of conditions. These hardy flowers that have inspired all kinds of pieces and perspectives can also be seen as a symbol of Huang's art and soul.