Sundial Garden

Sundial Garden

The Dilapidated House

The Dilapidated House

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Two years ago

I wrote:

Drawing is a very intense process. You put your whole being into it.

I am working on my drawing as an Abstract Expressionist or a Chinese painter.

Sometimes, I feel that the same drawing is done by different hands. Sometimes, I feel that the different drawings could not have been done by the same hand.

I also wrote:

There are so many drawings I want to do. It is important that I leave behind some good drawings.

I return to zero and nothing. One would expect that having done so many drawings, I would be able to draw with confidence and ease each time, but no, this is not true when you try out something more ambitous or something different. One imagines that when you call yourself an artist or when you are an art teacher, your drawings or art in general would naturally turn out right. No – that is not true either. We are as human as anyone else, if not more human.

When I am faced with a blank piece of white paper, I am nothing. I am no one. I just tell myself to pick up my drawing instrument (a fine pen, a thick marker, a quill feather, a twig or leaf dipped in Chinese ink – whatever) to do the best drawing that I can, regardless of the size of the paper or the drawing instrument. It is a very intense process. I think of all that I have learnt from the Chinese painters. I listen to very emotional music. I start to make marks on the paper. Sometimes I am cautious and uncertain. Sometimes I move my hand to the speed of the drums or the rhythm of the guitars playing in my ears. I think about art of the sixties. I think about Tapies, Beuys, and Duchamp. I think about Zen literature and Ozu films, and the great novels by Soseki. I think about my journey in life, my long walks, and the beauty of Nature. I have to crystallise or distill all these knowledge, feelings, and experiences into a singular drawing, to arrive at my own expression. Of course this process does not apply to every drawing that I do, but generally I think of these things when I draw.

I always tell people that I wanted to paint, but I only draw because I have no time to paint. The truth is, the more I draw, the more I realise how difficult and powerful drawing is as a form of expression, even though it appears to be seemingly easy and humble. When I spoke to a friend about installation art and Conceptual art, he reminded me that drawing is not inferior to any of them. I am thankful for that reminder.

We can theorise about Post-Conceptual or Neo-Romantic drawings, but ultimately all drawings begin with, end with, and return to the point, line, and plane. Any theorist or critic may label me as being more Romantic than Conceptual, but that is my belief. The Chinese painters had shown us over the thousands of years that a single line or stroke takes decades to perfect. The Buddhists (even though they may not be artists) hint or suggest that Enlightenment is perhaps ultimately our perception of form and emptiness. A friend of mine once mentioned something about the abstract or conceptual in the representational – I thought that was an interesting observation.

Where am I in life and art now? I want to do a handful of drawings. Perhaps less than ten. But I want to work on them diligently and religiously. There is no promise or guarantee or success, but one must work. In the spirit of Huang Binhong and Li Keran, I believe that there are a lot of things our predecessors have not discovered. I believe that we should learn from our art heroes and not worship them -- be it Egon Shiele or Giacometti or anyone else -- but instead we should strive to equal or surpass them. Only then is our search for beauty and truth worthwhile. Only then, the efforts of those before us, the great thinkers, philosophers, artists, writers, musicians, teachers and so on, are not in vain.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Some notes on being more open-minded about drawing:

1. It is okay to draw from photographs, even if they are not taken by me.
2. It is okay to use a penciling and inking technique.
3. It is okay to draw using a ruler.
4. It is okay to use the grid method.

I would not have done any of the above some four to five years back.

The Teban Railway

I wish I could turn the abandoned railway tunnel at Teban into a boutique, a bookshop, a gallery, or even a combination of all of the above. It would sell products such as Comme Black shirts, Adidas X Diesel jeans, rare Levis jeans(Red, Black, and White), and Dr Martens boots. It would sell books by authors like Paul Auster and Mario Vargas Llosa. As a gallery space, it can showcase graffiti art, short films, conceptual pieces, small installations etc. "Low" space, "high" art, high-end fashion, and high-brow literature.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Glimpse of Things to Come

I must get these two drawings completed by 31 June.

Something New

I have been busy. I want to do something new, something different.