The theme of my project is communication. Here, the primary form of communication is between my artwork and me. My artwork is a reflection of both my current state of mind and my past experiences, and it enables me to communicate with the world through a private language: art.
For this, I drew inspiration from both the East and the West (An Atlas…). In the East, wabi-sabi is appreciated for its simplicity and tranquility. Meanwhile, in the West, the artistic language is known for its expressiveness, fluidity, and spontaneity.
In my work, shredded paper is the main medium. But what previously contained information and enabled communication between people from my school has lost its original meaning. Now, it adopts the form of pulp and serves as a secondary mode of communication. A new channel has been constructed in the way the audience creates new meanings based on their personal experiences
The artwork itself is also self-communicating, mapping out space and time through its very existence.
Genesis of Ideas
The common theme of Communication threads through the project that I am working on. I have been documenting my thought processes through a series of ‘egg drawings’, which serve as a metaphor as well as a visual representation of various stages of my life (or a life cycle). In the process of creating, I decided that for a piece of artwork commenting on life – both good and the adverse must be included. I chose to document the particular aspects of life, which I thought would serve both as a good reminder to self as well as provide an opportunity for healing to take place.
Communicating through Art
The imparting or exchanging of information can be carried out by speaking, writing, or using some other medium and hence, the exchange of information needs not strictly be verbal or literal. Different people also have different ways of expressing themselves. My preferred way of expressing my thoughts and feelings is through visual representation i.e. art making.
In the process of creation, a writer/ poet writes, a musician composes and a visual artist sketches or paints or uses space, texture, lines and shapes. This is how visual artists delving in various mediums choose to communicate with the self and with others. Egg has always been my choice of metaphor in my artwork especially in my illustrations and prints. These sketches served as illustrative journals to provide me with visual reminders/cues that detail my journey for the day/moment. Why egg some may ask? Egg has/had metaphorical implications and meanings since ancient times. It was a symbol of the universe and that of creation in ancient civilisation and also served cultural and religious significances. Egg to me symbolised both fragility and strength. In some instances, one’s emotions are so fragile and delicate that it needs to be handled or treated with extreme care and tenderness. At the same time, it also symbolises hope and new lease of life. Part of its “strength” to me is it has many uses. In culinary for instance, it can be cooked and served in many ways that brings back to mind about teacher’s multipurpose roles. These illustrative sketches helped me with the planning and final execution of the series of work for this exhibition. My aim was to create a non-figurative artwork as I wanted a simplistic representation and non-conformist work of art reflecting my state of mind.
The primary communication is between my artwork and me. My artwork is a reflection of my current state of mind and my past experiences. It also provides me an outlet to communicate with the world by speaking a personal language; drawing inspiration from both the East and the West (i.e. an Atlas): In the East, Wabi Sabi for its simple and tranquil qualities and also, when creating the artwork, the artist trusts fully his instinct and his subconscious mind to get him where he wants to go. It is a matter of going with the flow. Hence, there is a sense of freedom from any kind of attachment, which is central to Wabi. In the West, the art language emulates that of Abstract Expressionist painters such as Jackson Pollock’s drip painting which are: expressiveness, fluidity, spontaneity, and movement.
The main medium used is paper. which is evident in my past works. I have always been intrigued by the different tactile and textural qualities of paper. I started making my own paper during my varsity days where I did an installation using rice paper pulp and prints for the graduation show. I also used it for my printmaking works as well as my mixed-media works too for instance in 2014, I did a series of mixed media photography titled “Healing Touch” where I transferred my photographic images onto recycled handmade paper. Handmade recycle paper is my preferred medium because each paper has its own distinctive quality and character and I like to work on uneven surfaces because it not only creates spatial depth but has an added impetus which is creating “depth” in meaning. Working with these surfaces at the same time challenges me to think of alternative ways to approach the final product. It makes me less rigid and to be more spontaneous because I do not need to abide by specific principles besides my instincts and experiences.
For this series of work, I used shredded paper made into a pulp, which previously contained information for communication between people in my school but now, the original meanings of the words is lost. Instead, a new channel of communication (secondary communication) between the artwork and the audience has been constructed; the latter upon viewing the artwork create new meanings for themselves (the reflections in the audience’s mirrors are dependent on their personal histories and experiences).
The artwork itself is also self-communicating (tertiary communication), for it is mapping out space and time by its mere existence. In metaphysics 1, it can be said that the paper used in the artwork has undergone ‘substantial change’; in this case it has gone from paper that contain information for communication in offices to become a work of art. In the process, it has been shredded, pulped, and transformed – through the prime matter remains unchanged – so that now it has a new form that communicates very differently from its previous one.
The choice of materials that consist of shredded recycled paper, threads, white glue, egg shells is deliberate – so as to make the artwork as raw and as organic as possible. The sense of texture and layer that these materials lend to the artwork is important in conveying a certain mood and feeling as well as conveying with absolute subtlety the “hidden” messages underlining the façade of the work/s. Most importantly is the idea that something inexpensive, unwanted, and discarded can be given new meaning and a new lease of life. Prints are also sed to give it solid foundations liken to the base notes of perfumes. The tools employed are equally common and humble, i.e. cake piping nozzle and food blender.
Principle behind the Work
I adopted the principle of “Enabling Constraints” in which I gave myself the problem (to create a series of 15 works); the constraints (a deadline of 2 months to complete using only recycled materials as well as as working within a specific dimension and space) and the choice (to present it as an installation). To quote Henri Matisse who said that, “an artist is an explorer”, these constraints allowed me to explore new ways of making art that I have never have thought of previously. The enabling constraints also challenged me to think more creatively and critically, to be able to make sound decisions before embarking on the processes. As such I always reminded my teachers and students that constraints aren’t necessarily bad.It makes us more courageous and creative and most importantly to value what we already have.
As a teacher, I have always emphasized to my students the need to be innovative and to push boundaries. They are expected to explore different methods to solving a problem. They are made to explore with different mediums and through these explorations they will experience the “AHA!” moments and eventually find their own strengths and specific areas of interest. In Si Ling Secondary School, we have our regular Art Jamming sessions where each teacher was given a platform to share a certain craft type. We as a team will work together to create a prototype for our lessons. We believe in the “gotong-royong” spirit of collaborative learning that not only benefit ourselves as teacher practitioners but most importantly is the impact on our students having an array of resources as well as experiencing different ideologies by different teachers.There is NO ONE DEFINITE ANSWER in a process particularly in art making BUT a MULTITUDE of ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES that are open for experimentation and discussion.
The only question is “Are you ready to embark in this journey?”
During this “journey”, I also emphasize to both my teachers and students to record or draw out their processes in manner that they are most comfortable with because journalling not only helps to better their learning and understanding but also to keep track of their progress.
Rationale: Why create?
The desire to create should be evident in every art teacher. As Art teachers, there is a need for us to be practitioners so as to keep ourselves abreast with the ever changing trends. To create and being more “hands-on” is one of the key factors to inspire and gain respect from both our students and colleagues and at the same time building up our own skills and resources. I find “pockets of time” in between breaks and during school holidays to do my journals and illustrative reflections. I do little sketches or editing my digital works on a weekly basis and/or re
ad art journals to keep myself updated and to be “in touch” with my subject. My journals could be a series of photographs that I took using either my camera or mobile phone.All these informations at most times ended becoming useful teaching resources or references for my future lessons or personal art works.I always tell my students NEVER to underestimate the little ideas or sketches that you make because it may evolve to something big one day.
Making art is therapeutic for me as it allows me to express myself and also a form of “escape” from the hectic daily routines. I also find solace in my art room where I can do my inquiry without any disturbances. I also share my ideas with both teachers and students because I believe that sharing is caring and through sharing, we learn much more from feedbacks given by others.We learn to be more receptive to the opinions by others and to learn to take criticism more positively. Inputs and ideas from others enables me to make sense of and to view things not from just one focal point but from a multitudes of perspectives. Most importantly, we also learn how to“let go”and embrace changes for the betterment of ourselves.
To some extent, I also learn new art skills from my students for instance photo editing using lightroom as well as camera apps in mobile phones because teenagers are more knowlegable and ICT savvy. To put it simply, NEVER underestimate your students’ potential regardless of whichever school you are from.
Education is a lifelong journey. I am still learning and I am one who is never afraid to enquire and to inquire. Being conscious of better approaches to art making is a good excuse for me to improve myself.
The 15 pieces/ pillars represent the 15 years that I spent teaching in Si Ling Secondary School. The art making process serves as a closure for me before moving on to a new school.I began my inquiry within the month of October to late November as I would like to complete my artwork in the current school that I am teaching in. But once school term ended, I stopped working as this artwork is meant to provide a closure to my work as a teacher at this school thus, I will not continue with it in the new school.
The process of creating this farewell piece has thus far been an emotional journey – filled with ups and downs; the uncertainty and anxiety. The anxiety of not knowing the outcome of my proposal coupled with meeting expectations, running errands and meeting deadlines for both schools ( current school and merger school), external work commitments as well making time for my loved ones can be a very difficult task.However despite all odds, I was able to manage my time well enough whilst maintaining composure, knowing that something positive will come out eventually from this journey because this is an opportunity not to be missed and personally I find that it will be a good final inquiry before I bid farewell to my school.
The whole process reminds me of the effort that we, as teachers, have put into the school to make it what it is today. It is literally building something from scratch but just as we have had established a somewhat solid foundation, we were told that the journey had come to an end…While we know very well that change is inevitable, it will still take time to adapt to the changes. In the new school, the environment will be different, working styles and colleagues will also be different and thus, in embracing the new culture and space, there is inevitably the feeling of anxiety and apprehension. Personally, creating these works of art is for me recreating the journey that I had with Si Ling Secondary School. It allows me to reminisce the past, embrace the past memories I had both as a student and as an educator; begin a healing process, to create a memento of time passed as well as to HONOUR a school that really cared.
To a new journey and many more good years as an ART Teacher…