Art is an unmapped territory. Some artists stay within their comfort zone, and others prefer to tread on new territories, there is no rule or boundary. Any limitation is only within oneself by one’s attitude.
As an artist, I keep questioning myself, what I really want? what is art to me? So as not to fall into the trap of ego satisfaction walking in the field of art.
The soul is the source of one’s passion while ego is the source of desires. Ego may control knowledge but the soul is the source of wisdom.
The Untroubled Mind
My work is anti-nature
You will not think form, space, line and contour
Just a suggestion of nature gives weight
We say this rose is beautiful
And when this rose is destroyed
Then we have lost something
So that beauty has been lost
When the rose is destroyed
But really beauty is unattached
And a clear mind sees it
The rose represents nature
But it isn’t the rose
Beauty is unattached, its inspiration – its inspiration
The development of sensibility, the response to beauty
In early childhood, when the mind is untroubled
Is when inspiration is most possible
Extracted from page 35 of Agnes Martin Writings
Edited by: Herausgegeben von Dieter Schwarz
Publisher: Hatje Cantz, Germany, 2005
Why we bring flowers to the grave site?
While reading a book on The Abuse of Beauty by Arthur Danto, a statement caught my eyes: Why we bring flowers to the grave site? Or to funeral?
It was mentioned in the web that putting flowers on grave sites in cemeteries is a tradition as far back as Stone Age. This practice remains popular till to date. The purpose for this flowers may be sentiment, aesthetics or symbolism. This explanation provide us the information to know the external value of the flowers but there is another layer which touch on the human sensibilities which is worth exploring.
It is similar to why sentimental music affect one’s mood. There is this beauty in the music and flowers which works as a catharsis, transforming raw grief to tranquil sadness, helping the tears to flow as soothing balm.
Below is a section extracted from the book: Creative Life – Spirit, Power and Relationship in the Practice of Art by Bandhu Dunham.
First one need a sense of humour, which is based on an understanding as to how things work. Humour in this sense does not mean laughing at someone or anything funny. It is some kind of delight.
What the dogmatic mind lack is humour; it must see things in black and white terms. This is because the dogmatic mind is obsessed with its comfortable definition of black and white. Humour, in contrast, is a little prickly – a gray area.
Humour, infact, is a joyful acceptance of discomfort in the mind.
The person who truly understand the principle of humour is Marcel Duchamp. His favourite weapon for undermining absolute and certainties. The usefulness and beneficial effect of at is best measure within the consciousness of the artist. But if followed honestly, this exploration of oneself brings forth fruit that can benefit and affect others.
The more deeply personal we make our explorations, the more universally they will resonate with others, because the deeper we look, the more all people all the same.
Letter to Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
Letter to fear by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic, extracted from page 35-36.
Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting – and, may I say, you are superb at your job. So by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There’s plenty of room on this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still – your suggestions will never be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps; you’re not allowed to suggest detours; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.”
Forget the past, it is gone. Do not project into the future, it is yet to come. Live Now with awaken and conscious mind. Be conscious of the beauty of the sky and the colour of flowers, of the freshness of the breeze and the generosity of the sun. The greatest wealth is to appreciate what we have.
Pink-Necked Green Pigeon
The Pink-necked Green Pigeon (Treron vernans) have built their nest in my garden around end of Mar 2017. The nest is flimsy because it is only an assembly of some twigs, perching
dangerously on one of the branches. Initially there was only one egg, but the next day, another egg appeared. The colourful male bird is the one incubating the eggs in the day time and the female with duller feather (suppose to be, cannot see clearly at night) take over through the night.
I try to check on the nest daily to make sure the eggs are intact because the nest look so unsafe with just a few twigs, but most of the time the male is incubating the eggs, very still and unmoving. Then one day, while trying to locate the nest, I was confronted with the big fat bottom of the male bird then I take the hint to stop being a busybody.
This plant has been growing in my garden for some time. It did not fruit until recently, maybe because of my regular trimming to keep it at reachable height. Recently I just let it grow (let it grow….let it grow…..) and it starts to flower and fruit in abundance. The birds love this plant, eating the fruits at the same time swinging on the long branches. It has beautiful fruits that taste like sour cherries with large seeds. And the colour gets redder after you plucked it. I personally prefer to eat the yellow-green ones as it is crunchy and surprisingly less sour. This fruit is rich in Vitamin C, it was mentioned that 100g of this is equivalent to 20 oranges.
Deep Fried Prawn Heads
Watched Jamie’s Oliver show on salvaging food waste, love this concept. When cooking prawns, most of the time I will discard the shells which include the heads, unless I am preparing for a prawn stock. This recipe is by a Chinese chef in the show; trim the prawn heads, sprinkle some pepper, salt and corn flour in that sequence. Deep fried till the oil has no more noise. Drained excess oil on kitchen towel then just pop the whole head in your mouth. It is very crispy and yummy. Prawn heads is high in cholesterol, so it is advisable to eat in moderation.
The prawn head is full of a gooey stuff like ‘roe’, which is very tasty. Ferran Adria (El Bulli) once compares sucking the juices from the prawn heads (steamed version) to tasting the “essence of the sea”.
Sense of Appreciation
While watching a NHK documentary, I was touched by a phrase – under the plank lies a watery grave which is translated from Japanese: Itako ichimai jigoku. It is beautiful yet sad and true at the same time. A lady introduced this phrase in appreciation to the fishermen who risked their lives to bring in the seafood.
I am glad to be reminded to bring back that sense of appreciation and not take things for granted. I love seafood and am happy that it will be savoured with an additional depth of gratitude.
I came across this object via Pinterest. I was impressed by the beauty and would love to share it with you. According to Wikipedia, Netsuke (根付), are miniature sculptures that were invented in 17th-century Japan to serve a practical function (the two Japanese characters ne+tsuke mean “root” and “to attach”). Traditional Japanese garments—robes called kosode and kimono—had no pockets; however, men who wore them needed a place to store their personal belongings, such as pipes, tobacco, money, seals, or medicines.
Their solution was to place such objects in containers (called sagemono) hung by cords from the robes’ sashes (obi). The containers may have been pouches or small woven baskets, but the most popular were beautifully crafted boxes (inrō), which were held shut by ojime, which were sliding beads on cords. Whatever the form of the container, the fastener that secured the cord at the top of the sash was a carved, button-like toggle called a netsuke.
An ancient bronze owl brooch was found and now on display at the National Museum in Denmark. The fastener or brooch is flat and decorated with enamel and glass in brilliant colours. The focal point is perhaps on the bird’s big eyes inlaid with orange glass pupils that seem to stare back at you. The owl’s body is decorated with colourful glass shaped in circles with a green enamel background.
It is believed that the owl is a symbol of wisdom and this rare piece was made between the 1st and 4th century AD by the Roman.
Beauty of Nature
There are many definitions on “nature” from science to geology. My context here is about the intrinsic characteristics of plants and animals.
It is interesting to note that the distinctive patterns on the flora and fauna serve some purposes; they may have arisen from evolutionary pressures which favor the bearers of certain types of markings. Example camouflage pattern to be invisible to predators another conspicuous pattern for the purpose of mating and reproducing.
Natures portrayed in art, capturing their beauty in the painting play a small part in raising awareness of valuing nature and prevent it from further exploitation.
It was common to offer a pinch of snuff as a way to greet friends and relatives in ancient China. The content may be tobacco which is considered to be a remedy for common illnesses such as colds and headaches. The bottles were made to be held inside the palm with a very small spoon for extracting the snuff, attached to the stopper.
The snuff bottles were commonly produced using wood, glass, precious and semi-precious stones. Most collectors are interested in the ‘inside painted’ – bottles painted on the inside surface of the glass. The earliest painted glass bottles maybe between 1820 and 1830. Due to intricacy of the painting, a highly skilled artisan was required, the brushes were manipulated via the narrowness of the neck bottle which measured just around 5-6mm and the images has to be painted in reverse.
Today, the snuff bottles were collected for its aesthetic rather than utilitarian purposes.
While we were having lunch, my daughter was excited sighting a pair of rooster and hen roaming the compound. Her excitement was understandable as it is uncommon to see a fully‘dressed’ chicken in Singapore. While our topic is on chicken, it is my turn to feel amaze when she introduced me to a breed in Japan known as Onogadori.
Onogadori evolved from the common domestic chicken. The tail lengths measured from 12 to 27 feet. Japanese breeders provide special hutches with perches well above the ground to keep the tail clean and in good condition. This breed has been designated by the Japanese government as a Special Natural Monument.
Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it – Confucius
The more often we see things around us – even the beautiful and wonderful things, the more they become invisible to us. That is why we often take for granted the beauty of this world; the flowers, the trees, the birds, the clouds – even those we love. Because we see things so often that we see them less and less. – Joseph B Wirthlin
Decide to post some photos taken around Singapore after reading the book by Victoria Moran on Creating a Charmed Life – “Don’t keep your appreciation of details to yourself. Point out the wild strawberries barely visible in the grass, the gargolyes atop an otherwise nondescript apartment building, the way the air smells like London after the rain. And surround yourself with people who understand the importance of a nearly unnoticeable item or interlude. Because society at large applauds the big, the noisy, and the obvious, it’s helpful to have in your personal world others who value the small, the quiet and the subtle.”
A Travelling Family
I saw this sculpture inside the Flower Dome at Garden by the Bay. It is a gift from Singapore Changi Airport to Garden By The Bay at Marina Bay, Singapore.
‘La Famille de voyageurs’ (A Travelling Family) depicts a travelling family as the title informed us. Bruno Catalano cites his experience as a sailor as central to his inspiration. His eye-catching works, with their hollowed bodies, give a sense of transiency. Moving and changing as one shift one’s perspective on the sculpture. When the emptiness of the body merged with the surroundings, one no longer see it as an art form or sculpture but an image or mirage?
Bruno Catalano is a French Sculptor who was originally from Morocco and the third and last child of a Sicilian family. In 1970, the Catalano family left Morocco for France. Bruno Catalano first works were compact and conventional but the later series become increasingly expressive. In 2004 a flaw in one of his characters – a depiction of Cyrano – prompted him to dig and hollow out the chest. A new path of work ensues.
What I know for sure
Read a book by Oprah Winfrey “What I know For Sure”. Love to share her statements that ring a bell. “You have the choice for this very moment – the only moment you have for certain. I hope you aren’t so wrapped up in nonessential stuff that you forget to really enjoy yourself – because this moment is about to be over. I hope you’ll look back and remember today as the day you decided to make very one count, to relish each hour as if there would never be another.” I know you knew already, treat it as a reminder.
A Visit to Marina Bay Sand
Rain Oculus 2010 by Ned Kahn. I was amazed by the giant acrylic dish installed at Marina Bay Sand. The awesomeness was not only on the size but the effect. If you stand apart from each other as far as possible and speak into the dish in normal tone, you can hear each other clearly as though that person is standing next to you, amazing!
What is even more amazing when the dish works with the element of water. This writing is from Ned Kahn website: A large whirlpool forms inside a 70-foot diameter acrylic bowl and falls 2 stories to a pool below. The artwork, a collaboration with architect Moshe Safdie, functions as both a skylight and a rain collector. The rain water is recycled back to the whirlpool and also fills a canal that runs through the atrium. The pumps that direct water into the bowl are turned on and off a few times an hour so the whirlpool is always changing in shape and intensity. At peak flow rates there are 8000 gallons per minute falling through the atrium and 200 tons of water swirling around in the bowl. Extensive prototyping and engineering went into integrating the artwork into the structural and mechanical systems of the building. Completed in 2011.
A Lady In the Van
A compelling movie based on a true story on the strained yet endearing friendship between Mr Alan Bennett and Miss Mary Shepherd. Miss Shepherd was an eccentric homeless woman living in a van parked at Mr Bennett’s front porch for 15 years. As the story develops, Miss Shepherd true identity is really a gifted pianist but an accident which caused the death of a cyclist changed her life. Ms Maggie Smith bring to life the character of Mary Shepherd. I am impressed by her portrayal on Ms Shepherd un-apologetic and dignify disposition in the movie. An unforgettable scene was when she was lifted in a wheel chair into the ambulance. That expression on her face!
Studies have shown that it is human nature to imitate. When we see someone smile, our facial muscles relax and when we see someone cry on screen it will cause a lump to form in the throat or even tears to well up. Scientists believe that human beings have six basic emotions; they are fear, joy, anger, distress, surprise and disgust, the difference between us and animals is that we have complex emotions. We can feel guilty and disgust or disgust with fear at the same time. The problem with these emotions is that they are short lived; it is the mood they provoke that has a longer lasting effect. The aim of any artist is be able to draw an emotional response from the viewer but emotion can changed within minutes or second, the challenge is creating the ambience to set the mood, long enough for the viewer to contemplate and see one self through the work of arts.
I Wish I Could Cry
The urge to write about this topic was fueled by my late mother’s intense dislike on the color – black, but this dislike was only on my clothing. I was never allowed to have any clothes in black. Any act of defiance on this, the clothes would meet the same fate in the mystery of ‘Bermuda triangle’.
My mother never explained why, and I did not understand till her funeral. Though she never tells me personally, somehow I get her point of view. Black to her is associated with death and mourning. When a person has gone through the pain of separation through death, there is this fear of reminder of this pain. But this reasoning created more questions for me. So, we do not want to associate with things which bring us memories of pain? If that’s the case then why Rothko Chapel though depressive yet visitors are streaming in to be affected, to drive them to tears? Why the tickets for movies like Titanic sold in millions? Readers and writers revered on Shakespeare’s tragic stories?
There are many recorded entries of testimonials written by the visitors on their experiences in Rothko Chapel. Most of the records were on how they were affected and driven to tears by the atmosphere of the artwork. But the saddest entry I found was this statement “I wish I could cry”.
Human are susceptible to being mold and conditioned to vary level of self-consciousness due to different cultural upbringing. Learning not to cry is one way in which one attempt to control the amount one reveal to others, one’s vulnerability. Crying itself is instinctual; the baby comes out of the womb with the ability to cry, this ability is unlearned. What is learned is the ability to suppress crying. From young, we are molded to suppress our crying, we are trained to be analytical, skeptical rather than emotional.
Though some studies suggested that animals cry as well, but crying as an emotional reaction is considered by many a unique human phenomenon. When a person is in extreme pain either emotionally or physically, tears came as a form of soothing balm. However crying does not restricted to negative emotion, many people had been known to cry when they are extremely happy or when they are laughing. There are also instances when crying is used as a manipulative tool to receive attention and wants.
Most therapists agreed that crying are beneficial, crying can have profound therapeutic effect. People need to be in touch with their feelings. Repression or holding in feelings is harmful, one needs to let it out, it is a human biological necessities. In this world, tears will always be with us, if learning to stop crying is necessary to maturation, to stop altogether is to be less than human.
What a revelation to be able to cry, to be touched and to be able to luxuriate in one’s emotion. One would be openly envious of people who can react openly without a hint of self-consciousness. To be able to cry might be one of the best things a person can do. Tears is similar to rain, one need it to cleanse one’s soul from the earthly mire. Without restraining oneself, but let one’s mind and soul be freer to roam. The ability to engage in one’s emotion put a person in a more receptive mood. One, who can cry, responded and lived for that moment.
One should learn to luxuriate in one’s emotion once in a while and let the feeling flow and do not let the mood be dampen by what is proper or right. Whatever which bring on the tears or an overemotional frame of mind is no longer an issue. What is important is to be able to indulge in the senses, which is there for you to feel to know that “I exist and I am alive!”
Why people are willing to queue for hours to enter the museum?
That was my encounter during a trip to Paris. Due to time constraint (travelling in group), I missed my chance to say hello to the post-impressionists painters which I was looking forward to meet in Musee de Orsay.
Why people goes to see an exhibition when they cannot see the paintings on view properly, because there are continuously people walking around them. It is rather like listening to music and in between the play, you hear noises here and there, it is distracting but nobody worries. This is especially so, in the case of an art show opening night. Everybody is rubbing shoulder against each other and one could not view the paintings without being in the way of another person.
During a visit to Lourve Museum in Paris, I was enthralled while looking at the massive scale and execution of paints on the Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine in the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris by Jacques Louis David, the scale in which it was painted was to let the viewer travel in time to attend the grandeur procession, and became the witness of the consecration. But the angle which I raised my head towards the painting and the passer-by keep reminding me I am just looking at an ‘object’. And the next disappointment was viewing Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. I was surrounded with viewers who are occupied with photo taking of the small painting sealed by a layer of bullet-proof glass.
Lastly, a visit to The National Palace Museum in Taiwan. Queue were snaking in the museum, most of the visitors are queuing to view the Jadeite Cabbage (翠玉白菜). Undeniable that it is a master piece, I was torn between waiting in line for hours to view this masterpiece or spend this hour viewing other pieces of artworks which also earned their place in the museum, I choose the later.
The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida
Get to know this book The Reason I Jump: One Boy’s Voice from the Silence of Autism via NHK World documentary.
This book was written by a Japanese author Naoki Higashida, who wrote this book in 2005 at the age of 13. The book was initially published in Japanese in 2007 but was translated and published in English in 2013 by Keiko Yoshida and her husband, author David Mitchell, who also has an autistic child. This book became a bestseller and it has been translated into over 30 other languages.
Author Higashida was diagnosed with severe autism spectrum disorder (ASD) when he was 5 years old and has verbal limitations. With the help from his mother, using “facilitated finger writing” quite similar to typing out his thoughts via a special kind of keyboard. The majority of the memoir is told through 58 questions Higashida and many other people dealing with autism are commonly asked, they are either memories of the author or parabolic stories that relate to the themes discussed throughout the memoir.
The collection ends with Higashida’s short story, “I’m Right Here,” which the author prefaces by saying: I wrote this story in the hope that it will help you to understand how painful it is when you can’t express yourself to the people you love. If this story connects with your heart in some way, then I believe you’ll be able to connect back to the hearts of people with autism too.” (Information extracted from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Reason)
“Even though god has forgotten to draw the curtain from the window of my eyes, I will live everyday without fear; because the world is just next to me!” This is the lyrics of a song, sung by a visually impaired Taiwanese singer, and has touched many hearts.
In Kwangxi, China, a haunch back old lady has been guiding his husband with a bamboo stick for 30 years. This loving old couple has been married for 55 years. They are childless and lived on farming. In 1985, the man succumbed to eye disease and was blind. From that day onwards, his wife has been holding his hand via a bamboo stick, telling him in details what she saw along the way, the sceneries and happenings.