2D Project 2: Forrest Gump Research and Execution

Okay, so I decided to include another process post because I felt like I wanted to elaborate more on the in-depth research that went behind each of the compositions. Following my initial ideas of using different cultures to illustrate the four quotes from “Leon: The Professional”, I went ahead and researched about different assassination cultures from around the world. Some possibilities that came up were Italian mafias, Russian hitmen and Indian Visha Kanyas (poison girls), among others. However, I will only be including research behind the final four compositions.

For a start, here are the final four quotes.


  1. Leon: I work alone, understand? (Couldn’t find the right still for this)
  2. Mathilda: If I win, you keep me with you for life.
  3. Leon: This is from Mathilda.
  4. Mathilda: I think we’ll be okay here, Leon.


◊ FILM ◊



I chose the four quotes as they describe Leon and Mathilda’s relationship throughout the movie.

Leon saves Mathilda from the corrupt drug enforcement officers who killed her family, even when he had no reason to. She wants to hire Leon to kill them, but Leon declines. Instead, she asks for him to take her up as an apprentice and teach her to be a ‘cleaner’ too. Leon refuses, stating “I work alone, understand?“, and tries to send her off.

Mathilda tells him that it is just the same as letting her die in the hands of the corrupt officers. She takes a revolver from the table and initiates a game of Russian roulette, pointing the gun towards herself. She says, “If I win, you keep me with you for life.” She says that she hopes he really has no feelings and that he won’t regret this, while Leon tells Mathilda that the chamber is loaded and she will die. Mathilda is adamant and pulls the trigger just as Leon slapped the revolver away, the bullet very nearly killing Mathilda.

Mathilda undergoes training and develops a bond with Leon, influencing Leon in a way such that he became much more human, as once again he slowly let emotions into his life. Mathilda is trained into Leon’s way of living and routines. The story spins into a heightened conflict and both their lives are in serious danger. Leon and Mathilda profess their affection for each other as Leon forces Mathilda to safety. Leon barely makes his way out when Stansfield, the antagonist, shoots Leon from the back. In a slow and melancholic scene, Leon confirms Stansfield’s identity and hands him the pins of a grenade, saying “This is from Mathilda,” which were his last words. Stansfield discovers active grenades strapped to Leon’s vest, right after which the scene explodes, taking both of their lives.

Saddened by her loss, she finds out that Leon bequeathed his wealth of previous earnings to her. Mathilda finally finds protection under her previous school and goes out to plant Leon’s houseplant in the gardens. She previously told Leon about how he should plant it in a park so it could have roots. The plant here symbolises Leon. She says, “I think we’ll be okay here, Leon.

With this storyline as an anchor to the project, I took a closer look at each quote.



These would be quite similar to what I had in the final post, but I will be including some pictures too. Meanwhile for the compositions, since I planned them really carefully, there were not a lot of changes except for subtle manipulation of contrast, levels and threshold. Unfortunately I did not really save the compositions from one change to another as I was editing them continuously.

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I started with researching about assassins in the Indian context. I found the Visha Kanya to be interesting – they are poison girls who slowly poison themselves to the point of being immune to all sorts of poisons, and become poisonous themselves. (Phew so many poison in one sentence) Basically, small doses of poison are administered to girls since young, and the girls build resistance to it. Eventually their blood becomes poisonous and they become weapons. They are sent to kill off targets through seduction and then administering a kiss of death. 


Depiction of Visha Kanya holding a scorpion in her left hand

However, I had already reserved the Mathilda pieces for the Japanese and Balinese cultures, and could not include the Visha Kanya in this composition.

Another type of Indian assassin are the thuggee, a band of organised professional robbers and murderers who work in gangs, who mingle with their victims in their travels and strangle them with a noose or handkerchief to their deaths. This does not really fit Leon as he is a solo act, but I figured out that I could use this character of the thuggee to further emphasise Leon’s individuality.

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While researching on Indian mythology and folklore, I came across an image of a Hindu god with many hands. I immediately thought that I could use it to describe Leon’s ability to do many things by himself and him not needing anyone else. I researched further and found that most of the gods and goddesses have many different portrayals, with having multiple hands being one of them. I originally wanted to see if there was a god of destruction or death to represent Leon’s job as an assassin, but they are typically not shown with many arms. Indian deities 

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From left to right: Shiva, another depiction of Shiva, Kali with many arms

Durga, the mother goddess who emanates positive energy and wields many weapons in her many hands, is a god who is typically shown with many hands. I thought about it and decided that I could use this to symbolise Leon’s hidden kind nature and goodness, while at the same time wielding many weapons as an indication of his proficiency as a hitman.



After settling this, I went on to find out more about Indian art. I stumbled across Mughal art, a type of painting which originates from South Asia, and is typically in the form of book illustrations or as a single work. They are usually colourful and two-dimensional, with the people portrayed in the side profile, most of the time. They are flat and try to create a sense of perspective and depth through the size of elements. In the portraits, different kinds of frames are used. After looking through this list of Mughal paintings, I felt inspired by one of the paintings I saw. 


This Akbar Mughal painting gave me the idea of subjects interacting or having a connection whilst being separated by the framing. I immediately thought of how I could put Leon (as Durga/thuggee) in one frame, and other thuggees in the other frame to show Leon’s separation from the world and other individuals, and refusal to work with others. I thought of deliberately cutting off one of the frames to suggest continuity and the presence of other frames with other thuggees. The faces of other thuggees in other frames are crossed out to show how Leon doesn’t need them.

This left an empty space above and below, so I researched on Indian motifs and was led to henna, a practice of temporary tattooing, which I’m familiar with as there is also a culture of henna in Singapore. There were many motifs and designs that each bear a meaning.

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Left to right: Crescent design meaning a baby is on the way, lotus design symbolising the awakening of one’s soul, sun design representing immortality, knowledge and eternal love.

I decided to use the mandala, a typical but powerful motif that represents the universe. I repeated the design around the border, indicating how this is the universe that he lives in, the world Leon had created for himself, in which he is alone. This is the final result.


At first, the frame wasn’t black in colour, but since the Mexican (third) composition is really dark and stands out among the four, I decided to darken the frame to balance out the darkness of the third composition, and distribute the focus evenly over the four compositions when placed next to each other.  


I assigned Japan to this quote because I knew about the Japanese act of suicide called harakiri/seppuku. Naturally, this is the first that I read up on. From my readings, I found out that this act is actually a ritual conducted in front of an audience, if planned.  It was elaborate, slow, and as melancholic as it is intense. Usually, a tanto (short knife), wakizashi (short sword), or a tachi (long sword) is plunged into the abdomen and drawn from left to right. Immediately after that, a “kaishakunin”, or the “second”, decapitates the samurai. I chose the katana (a tachi) to be used by Mathilda in the composition as I felt it was most dramatic. Seppuku is usually done to die in honour rather than in the hands of the enemy, or as a capital punishment for samurais who committed serious offences. When in war or other unplanned circumstances, one can also carry out seppuku to save oneself from further torture.


Usually, a death poem is written as part of the ritual, as preparation for the act itself. I find that is is such a beautiful way to leave a part of yourself to the world after our death. I wanted Mathilda to have her own death poem. Hence I researched on death poems and found the hototogisu poems to be enchanting. The cuckoo is a bird recognised for its beautiful voice, but at the same time, it is also considered a messenger of death. “Hototogisu”, or “The cuckoo cries” is such a poetic way of indicating one’s moment of death. Thus, I simply used Google translate (what else) to translate a short English phrase into Japanese. 


I wrote this phrase, with the “hototogisu” at the end, in the old Japanese style, and in Japanese calligraphy, on a yellowed piece of paper from my notebook.


From right to left: Nani mo no tame ni, ikiru tame ni, nokotte imasen, hototogisu.
Translation: Nothing left to live for, the cuckoo cries.

Next, I did a short research on ukiyo-e, a Japanese characteristic style of woodblock printing and painting. Ukiyo-e itself means “pictures of the floating world”, and often depict scenes from everyday life, beauties, sumo wrestlers, and other scenes. They also include harakiri and Japanese mythology, or can also be in the form of shunga, which is Japanese erotic art.

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They are very in-the-moment and captures a vitality in movement of the subjects, making it almost voyeuristic. From the characteristics of ukiyo-e, I decided to employ asymmetry, perspective, and the use of key motifs and patterns in my second composition. For more explanation and examples of ukiyo-e, check out these websites. 1) What is ukiyo-e? 2) Ukiyo-e website 3) Ukiyo-e gallery

Other than that, I also researched on the patterns and motifs characteristic of Japan, searching for ones that would fit my intentions. This website gives a nice summary of some Japanese patterns. I chose to use the “nami” and the “yagasuri” motifs in my composition.


Nami is a pattern of waves. It represents strength, and in the “Leon: The Professional” context, it represents Mathilda’s courage and strength in her decision.


Yagasuri is a pattern of arrowheads. It represents determination, and in this film’s context, it represents Mathilda’s resolve to kill herself if Leon does not take her as his protégé.

I chose to portray Mathilda as a maiko, an apprentice geisha. Ignoring what a geisha does, I solely took the apprentice quality of a maiko that is similar to Mathilda’s status of Leon’s apprentice in the movie. Also, the traditional garb worn by maikos would give the composition a strong Japanese visual.

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Other than that, I included shinigamis at the background. A shinigami, or the “Izanami-no-mikoto”, meaning “she who invites”, is a god or goddess who can cause death by luring the person to kill himself or herself, basically coaxing the person to committing suicide. I thought that this was apt to accompany Mathilda’s suicide attempt and also to symbolise the other world.


As for composition, I made sure that all the elements were slightly off-centre to highlight the asymmetry, like used in ukiyo-e, and also gave the illusion of perspective and depth by dividing the composition into foreground (maiko), middle ground (screen-dividers) and background (shinigami). I made use of the screen-dividers, as a typical imagery used in ukiyo-e, to metaphorically separate the living world from the other world.


Meanwhile, the yagasuri pattern on the floor, replacing the usual tatami mats, is warped to enhance perspective and this is done deliberately such that the arrowheads are pointing towards the shinigami, showing further Mathilda’s determination in stepping towards the other realm. Mathilda is also placed in front of the opening towards the other world, indicating the shinigamis welcome and lure to bring her over to the other side.


I originally only thought of Mexico in terms of their drug lords and hitmen culture, more commonly known as sicarios. I knew about it from the 2015 mystery/crime movie “Sicario”, which was about an escalating drug war in the borders between the U.S. and Mexico.

Emily Blunt in “Sicario”

However, the sicarios’ main weapons are usually firearms and the such, which is similar to those used in “Leon: The Professional”. This made me hesitant to follow through my plans of portraying Leon as a sicario.

To my delight, while researching about Mexican art, I was reminded of sugar skulls! As someone who loves colour, sugar skulls and Dia de los Muertos have always had a special place in my heart.


Love it!!!

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Sugar skulls, or known also as calavera, is an iconic element of Dia de los Muertos, which is the Mexican Day of the Dead festival. In this festival, Mexicans celebrate and honour the lives of the deceased, and spend a day with them, as they believe that during a particular day, the spirits make their way back to enjoy a day with their loved ones who are still alive. Happy with this, I continued to develop ideas on how to make the composition and what icons or symbols to use from Mexican culture and art.

Mexican art is usually vibrant and colourful, thriving and decorative. They proudly showcase the culture of Mexico. There was a strong presence of murals and also folk art and crafts. I chose to look closer at the folk art and crafts, which are decorative and used in their festivals, particularly Dia de los Muertos. 

Another characteristic icon of Dia de los Muertos are marigolds, particularly the cempasúchil. In Mexico, they are called flor de muerto, which means “flower of the dead”. The cempasúchil can be seen covering the streets, as they are believed to attract the souls. I personally find the marigold to be a beautiful flower.


Look at this beautiful altar covered in marigolds!

I decided to use the marigold in the background, as the petals create an interesting pattern. They can also be seen as a sort of explosion, like fireworks, which alludes to Leon’s death by explosion, which is sad yet beautiful at the same time, because he sacrificed himself for someone whom, for the first time in his life since many years, has made him love again.

Also in my research, I found out about Santa Muerte, the personification of death. She is a female folk saint, depicted as a skeletal figure clad in a long robe and is typically holding a scythe and a globe. When I read the word scythe, I immediately thought of how I could use that to replace the bones in the typical skull and bones arrangement.


The typical skull and bones arrangement that I thought of was like of the left image. However, I got an idea and decided to arrange it more like the right image, with the blades of the two scythes against the neck of the calavera (which represents Leon). This signifies the taking away of his life by decapitation carried out by Santa Muerte, and also very subtly alludes to mutilation, which is also a common sicario way of brutal execution. 

The tilted position of the calavera in the final composition is inspired by the scene from the original movie. 

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After looking at it again, I found that the tilted and off-centre position is much better than having it just frontal and straight, because it made the composition more dynamic and somehow more dramatic. Since the composition has to be in black and white, to showcase colour, I made sure that values were well represented through dark and light. I also finally chose to invert the colours because it made it look much more vibrant, almost as if the lines are glowing like neon lights.



We have finally come to the last composition, one that is closest to home for me. When I was young, my mom put me in a traditional Balinese dance class, which I was in a couple of years, and ever since then, I have always had a special connection with Balinese dance and culture. I love the costume, the colours, the music. The dance, of course, but the aesthetics was what really intrigued me.


There were some things that I knew I wanted to include. I knew I wanted to portray Mathilda as a young Balinese dancer. Since costumes differ from dance to dance, I decided that the tari pendet, or pendet dance, is a suitable one. This was the first dance I learned, like any other Balinese dance newcomer. It was the first I had to conquer, a dance that marks the start of our journey in traditional Balinese dance.

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The dance itself is a welcome dance, a greeting. It is a dance to welcome the audience, invite the spirits to a performance, welcome the gods to the temple. In Mathilda’s case, I saw it more of a welcome of a new life. Like how the pendet was how I was welcomed to the world of Balinese dance, I wanted to use the pendet dance to symbolise Mathilda’s transitioning into a new life after the death of her loved ones. I think that the headpiece characterises the dance well enough, so I looked for a bust of a girl in the pendet costume.

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Then I adjusted the levels and threshold to not make it look so realistic.

In the film, Leon’s plant was also an icon. It eventually serves to represent Leon himself. In the film, the plant was a Chinese evergreen. I knew that for a replacement, I wanted to use the kamboja, also known as the frangipani.

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It is a beautiful, fragrant flower that is characteristic of Bali. An interesting thing is that while it is considered holy in Bali, it is actually a symbol of bad luck in Java because it is a funeral flower. This, I thought, was interesting as I was using the plant to symbolise Leon, and the act of burying the plant is like giving Leon a funeral.

Other than that, I knew I wanted to use the poleng, which is a checkered fabric widely used in Bali as a symbol of protection. I read up more on it and found out there are three kinds of poleng, which are the rwabhineda (only black and white), the sudhamala (black, white and grey), and the tridatu (black, white, grey and red). The poleng basically represents the positive and the negative in life, yin and yang, good and bad. It reminds us of the balance of the two and thus serves as a symbol of protection and reminder to the people of Bali. I decided to put the poleng as the background so that Mathilda is enveloped by protection, in addition to the looming Barong figure, which I will explain in a bit.


Sudhamala, which I used for my composition.

Other than the few elements that I already knew I wanted to include, I researched more on Hindu folktales and mythology of the Bali region. They do not really have any significant assassins of the region, so I looked into two popular icons: the Barong and the Rangda. Barong and Rangda are enemies. Barong is the lion-like king of spirits, leader of the hosts of good, while Rangda is the evil demon queen. In the Barong dance, they fight in an eternal battle between good and evil, even though Barong always comes out victorious in the end, restoring celestial order. 


Barong on the right and Rangda on the left.

The Barong is also a symbol of protection, and I wanted to illustrate the film’s message to the audience that Mathilda is finally safe and settled, so it felt apt to include the Barong, which is significant to the Balinese, as Balinese Mathilda’s protector, in a sense.

With regards to Balinese art, I found many interesting paintings, and wayang kulits (hand puppets) or wooden sculptures, but I felt that what was most interesting to me was the patterns, like those seen in Balinese wooden furniture, which are always meticulously hand-carved. These patterns are also often seen in the architecture of Bali, decorating the interiors.



Similar to this, another type of fabric, the perada, also makes use of similar patterns. The perada is a fabric used by rich Balinese. The patterns are usually painted in real gold over a bright-coloured or expensive, luxurious fabric.


I decided to include this pattern as a border to mimic the use of a patterned border in many traditional Balinese furnitures. Thus, this completes my fourth and final composition!

This is also the design I chose to print on my tote bag. I adjusted the levels and threshold, such that the colours all became block colours with no gradient, so that it would come out nicely in the screenprinting. I kept in mind that this design would be on a tote bag, and imagined how I would want the tote bag to be. Due to this, I decided to remove the perada border as I wanted the top and bottom parts of the Barong and the girl to sort of protrude out of the poleng background. After many tries, this is the final result, which I am satisfied with because I managed to make all the designs come out nicely!


That’s all! Thanks for making it through my long long explanation 🙂

(At this point I’m super tired because I had to type half of this twice because it was lost sigh but I made it anyways yay)

2D Project 2: Forrest Gump – Initial thoughts

When I first came about this project, I was pretty excited because I love watching films. I really didn’t know which movie to get my quotes from, there were so many to choose from! I also hadn’t decided whether I wanted to get quotes from different movies, make four compositions out of one quote, or any other combination.

One day, while listing out movies that I liked and movies that I wanted to see, I randomly decided to go and watch “Leon: The Professional”. I fell in love with it. Especially the scene where Leon was dying. Not that I liked that he died, but it was partly because I could recognise what Leon was going to say from a song by Alt-j!!!!!!!!!!! I might be rambling incoherently and I apologise if you don’t understand but I was so excited asddfghjkl. When he started to say “This… is from…” I was like OMG MATHILDA! MATHILDA! THIS IS FROM MATHILDA! IT’S WHERE ALT-J GOT THE INSPIRATION FOR THE SONG FROM I NEVER KNEW IT HAD OTHER MEANINGS I NEVER UNDERSTOOD IT BUT NOW I KNOW NOW I LOVE THIS MOVIE EVEN MORE!!!

Okay, for both our sakes I’ve decided to calm down.


So, Alt-j is this band I like that makes weird music. Most of their songs are very metaphorical and experimental, and “Matilda” is one of their songs. In the song, “this is from Mathilda” is repeated multiple times and makes up almost the entirety of the song.

That’s why I lost it when I saw the scene in the film and could make an instant connection. I decided that at least I would use “This is from Mathilda” as one of my four quotes.

While watching the film, I could easily point out the many items that are icons of the film. I collated images of them to be used for my compositions. At this point of time, I was planning on using these icons in a different way, but did not know how yet.


After a consultation with Joy expressing my worries and lack of understanding of the project brief, I finally had a clearer direction for the project. It depended on how I wanted to present my ideas and views about the quotes, it isn’t that I had to completely take the quote out of context, it is about how I choose to interpret the quote, how I can give the quote a different meaning and how I can express the quote from my point of view. Joy suggested for me to look at the little details usually missed by the audience or alternative endings, which I kept in mind.

Suddenly, I thought of how I could look at the film from different cultures. I first had Indonesia in mind, and thought of how I could look at assassins from other cultures around the world, like the Mexican sicario (from the movie Sicario) and Japanese ninjas.



From here, I developed my idea into two forms of execution. The first one is to describe the relationship between Leon and Mathilda through a series of quotes from key parts of the movie, interjecting quotes from Leon and Mathilda. I didn’t know how the “look” would be yet, because I didn’t know whether this was still too literal or not. The second one is to take one quote and interpret it in four different cultural styles. I explained the ideas to Joy, who told me that I could actually merge the two ideas! I could keep the storyline and instead, interpret each of the four compositions in different cultural styles!


I finalised the four quotes and moved on to researching and constructing the compositions. This I will elaborate more on my research and process post!

2D Project 2: Forrest Gump – I Think I’m Kind of Falling in Love with You

I find it a little hard to believe that the project we just finished was only the second one. It felt as if we have been doing this forever. Albeit it being a challenging project, I had lots of fun, and am happy that I finally got to try my hands on silkscreening.

On this post, I will be giving a summary of my four compositions and an explanation of the overall concept. Enjoy!



The main concept for this project is the relationship between Leon and Mathilda from the 1994 Luc Besson film “Leon: The Professional”, one that I really enjoyed watching. I’m about to spoil the whole film here so if you don’t want it ruined for you, go and watch it first HAHA.


Okay so you’re here either after watching it or you don’t mind spoilers.


Here’s your last chance to watch the movie first if you haven’t.


In the film, Mathilda’s family is killed by a crazy corrupt DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) officer and she seeks refuge from her neighbour, Leon, who is a hitman. Mathilda, who is only 12 years old at the time, asks Leon to take her as his protégé so that she could take revenge on, in her own words, “the dirtbags who killed her brother”. Long story short, Leon refuses at first, eventually accepts her and the two develops an unlikely bond throughout the rest of the film, each taking a place in the other’s heart that never existed before. I finally selected four quotes from the movie that are key points in the film and describes what happened to Leon and Mathilda, and their relationship in the film.

While initially I wanted to use the many iconic objects from the film to make my compositions, I realised that doing so would make my renditions too literal, which is exactly what the project is NOT about. It was really confusing because after watching the movie, one would definitely have preconceived images directly related to the film.  After enlightening consultations with Joy, I finally understood that there are many ways in which to tackle the project brief. I decided to take a look at the relationship between Leon and Mathilda from the point of views of different assassination cultures from around the world. I used icons and symbols from the different cultures, and also, by Joy’s suggestion, explored the compositions based on the art practices of the area, which I really want to thank her for. (Thanks Joy!!)

Without further ado, here are the final four compositions!




The quote here describes Leon’s inherent cold-heartedness towards Mathilda, after spending a lifetime of putting aside emotions as part of his job. This was him rejecting Mathilda’s request of taking her as an apprentice.

I chose India for this piece. I took the Indian Hindu goddess Durga, a multi-dimensional goddess of power and strength, mother of the universe, to represent Leon. The many hands wielding different weapons symbolise Leon’s individualistic and independent nature, as he does everything by himself. Instead of choosing Kali or Shiva who are deities of destruction and death, I chose Durga to symbolise Leon’s hidden kind and caring nature, that he is actually good.

I replaced the head with the head of a thuggee/thug, an Indian professional robber/murderer who typically travels in gangs, gains trust of his victims and strangles them to death during the journey. To describe Leon’s defiant nature, and also his personal code of working alone, I included a group of thugs on the left frame with their heads marked out, showing their irrelevance to Leon. Moreover, the placement of the frames, which is cut off-centre, is done to suggest the presence of other frames containing other pictures of thugs outside of the composition. The framing is inspired by Mughal art, paintings that originate from South Asia, and I used one particular painting to create this piece.

I also used the traditional Indian henna design of the mandala, which symbolises the universe, as a border, to indicate how this is the universe that Leon lives in.




This quote is what Mathilda says when she is about to shoot herself in the head in a self-initiated game of Russian roulette. At this point of time, she has nothing to live for anymore if Leon does not take her in.

I chose Japan with the ninjas in mind, but then I remembered about the old Japanese act of voluntary suicide, harakiri/seppuku, and thought that it would be perfect for this scene. The ceremonial disembowelment is usually done with a tanto (short knife), but can also be done with a tachi (long sword). I chose to use a katana (which is a tachi), to heighten the feeling of risk and intensity, making it look more dramatic.

Shinigamis, death gods who lure people to take their own lives, can be seen in the background, giving the piece a slightly eerie feeling of looming death.

I also included two characteristic patterns from Japan, “Nami“, meaning waves, on the screen-dividers, and “Yagasuri“, meaning arrows, on the floor to replace the usual tatami. Nami means strength and represents Mathilda’s courage in her decision. Yagasuri means determination and represents Mathilda’s resolve to kill herself.

Mathilda is represented by the maiko, or apprentice geisha, in an illustration style that is typical of Japanese paintings and ukiyo-e, which I referred to when making this composition. Ukiyo-e, a genre of art that features woodblock prints and paintings, makes use of asymmetry and slight perspective, which I applied in this composition. I divided the piece to foreground (maiko), middle ground (screen-dividers) and background (shinigami), with all of the elements placed slightly off-centre. 

I carefully planned the arrangement such that it is hinted to the viewers how Mathilda is on the verge of death. I made use of the screen-dividers (common image in ukiyo-e) to create a clear division between the living world (where the maiko is) and the underworld (shinigamis). Directly behind her is the opening towards this underworld, and together with the yagasuri pattern deliberately pointing towards the underworld, this illustrates Mathilda’s resolve to head towards death. The yagasuri pattern pointing towards the background also helps to create an illusion of depth and perspective, which is an element of the art of ukiyo-e.




These were Leon’s last words (cries) as he sacrificed himself to save Mathilda. He has gone from an aloof, cold-blooded murderer to a man who is again, capable of feeling love and care for another person.

I chose Mexico for this scene, originally just because I wanted to portray Leon as a Mexican sicario, a hired professional assassin that works for the organised drug cartels in Mexico. However, sicarios also used guns primarily, and I thought that this was too similar to the movie’s Western usage of firearms. When I researched about Mexican art, I am reminded of the famous and beautiful sugar skulls symbolic of the Day of the Dead and realised that I could also use this to recreate Leon’s death scene. Branching from Mexican folk art, this colourful, decorative style is used in the Day of the Dead celebrations, or Dia de los Muertos.

I chose a few symbols from the art style and celebration to use as elements of this piece. The calavera, or sugar skull, represents both Leon and death. The scythes are representative of Santa Muerte, the Mexican female folk saint who is a personification of death. She is believed to deliver people safely to the afterworld, and typically holds a scythe, along with a  globe, or other things. The skull and scythes are arranged in a typical skull and bones arrangement, and further emphasises death, with the blades placed at the nape of Leon’s neck. This also alludes to the act of decapitation, characteristic of the sicarios’ way of finishing off their targets by mutilation. Behind is a blooming pattern of marigolds, specifically the cempasúchil, or the flor de muertos (flower of the dead), which is the main flower used for the Day of the Dead celebrations. They are arranged to create a haunting yet beautiful aura that looks like fireworks, and also to represent the explosion of grenades in the movie.

I also did not put the skull in an upright position to mimic Leon’s position of death in the film, where he lied on the floor. I feel that this also made the composition more dynamic and less boring.




The last quote is the scene where Mathilda buries Leon’s plant (also an icon of the movie) in the garden of the school where Mathilda found refuge in, after Leon’s death.

I chose Bali for this scene. I have always had an attachment to Balinese culture, and this was the first culture I researched further on, based on my then knowledge of it. I already knew some of the patterns that I was going to use, such as the poleng (which I will explain soon). Mathilda is represented by the girl in traditional Balinese costume used in the pendet dance, a dance that I am familiar of. The dance is characterised by the headpiece. The pendet dance is a welcome dance, a dance of greeting. Here, I used it to represent Mathilda’s welcoming of her new life, and the transition between her previous life and her life after the death of her family and Leon.

The original Chinese Evergreen plant from the movie is replaced by the kamboja (frangipani), a flower that is considered holy in Bali. I made use of its interesting duality as it also represents death and bad luck in the Javanese context.

Behind her is the Barong, a lion-like king of spirits, leader of hosts of good, of the Balinese Hindu mythology. The Barong is a symbol of protection, looming over Mathilda, that hints at Mathilda being safe from then on, after Leon’s sacrifice. Moreover, I used a sheet of poleng fabric at the background to emphasise protection, as the black, white and grey plaid is a pattern used for protection typically seen in Bali.

To complete the composition, I added a border of perada, a fabric used by the rich, inspired by its similar pattern seen in the carvings of typical Balinese furniture.



Silkscreen was fun to do. Although I faced some difficulties in the second silk-screening session, when I had to get it printed on the tote bag, I am quite happy with the final result.


(I will upload a better picture when I get to iron it out)



This is how I presented my final work.


I decided to include a supplementary element in the presentation. Under the Japanese composition, I pasted a death poem, in Japanese, that I imagined Mathilda to have written before proceeding to kill herself. Writing a death poem is part of the ritual of harakiri/seppuku, and I felt that it was such a melancholic and beautiful way to leave with your last words in a string of poetry.


From right to left: Nani mo no tame ni, ikiru tame ni, nokotte imasen, hototogisu.
Translation: Nothing left to live for, the cuckoo cries.
The poem describes how at the point of time, Mathilda has lost everything and is ready to die. “Hototogisu”, or the cuckoo bird, is a bird recognised for its beautiful voice, but is also considered a messenger of death. It is a phrase usually used to poetically signify death.

These are a few things that I tried to make sure were consistent in the four compositions.

  • Overall balance in the composition, even when I arrange the elements in an asymmetrical way. 
  • Presence of central character.
  • Simplicity and subtlety of hidden messages through the symbols.
  • Very subtle dark, light, dark, light look. This is purely for aesthetics (It felt weird with only the third composition one being very dark), to balance the look of the four compositions together, and to create rhythm as the eye gazes from the left to the right.

Presentation generally went well, and I managed to say most of what I wanted to say in the time limit, but I did forget to mention a few things due to a slight panic when the alarm rang. Hopefully next time my nerves don’t get the better of me.

Overall, I really enjoyed the process, getting to know so many different cultures and really putting a lot of meaning into my work, which I noticed is what I like to do. I also got to keep the essence of the movie and managed to bring forth the feelings I have for the movie, and made this project a meaningful one.

On to the last project of this semester!

4D Project 2: Impossibilities of Being – Descent

Task two is down! It was an extremely daunting task but I am glad to have finished it nonetheless. I have always loved thinking about stories visually and in terms of shots for a film. It is something that I realise I unconsciously do, mentally framing some crucial (and most of the rest of the time trivial) seconds of my life. 90 pictures might sound massive at first, but in actuality, I think that contrary to initial thoughts, it is actually very limiting. To be able to narrate an idea that undergoes three key transformations in just 90 images is pretty difficult. Without further ado, here is the final product, Descent! 

Now I will shortly take you through the main concept and the three transformations, along with my artist references and a short reflection.


Descent is a compilation of dreams that are significant to me. Chosen dreams are not only used for the events in the sequence, but also as settings of the events. The final result is a fictional narrative whose parts are constructed from the various significant, whimsical dreams that I had.

The overarching theme that ties the whole sequence together is the dream of falling, not the kind that gives you that jerky feeling, but the unending falling kind that gives you a rather unsettling feel. This is based on a dream of falling I once had, that I believe was the result of me falling out of my bed. I felt that this dream about falling was apt to illustrate the plunge into our subconscious minds as we sleep, and also to represent the lack of control we have when free falling in an endless pit. The three transformations, then, would be three different dreams characterised by the transition between three main settings: the hole in the ground, the stairs and the sea-sky.


The sequence starts off with my sleeping self, and of myself seemingly rolling out of bed. I fall into a bed of cotton candy clouds with cherubs watching my fall, and sink into them, only to find out that I am hundreds of feet away from the ground, falling to my imminent death. I am heading straight for a hole in the ground. 

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In the ground, the pit seems to be endless depending on which direction I am looking. I exaggerated this with the visual of space as the background.  I fall and fall, trying to stop myself to no avail. At the same time, a knife-wielding astronaut lady character appears and starts throwing knives at me. I dodge the knives, stepping on passing by planets.

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She finally hits me, but I finally see a potential escape: a door at the side of the hole. I grab hold, open the door and crawl in.

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The next section is the infinite stairs. I find myself in an exit staircase where the only option was to go down. I go down and finally find myself at a junction with the sea on the left side and more stairs on the right side.


I go with stairs and continue to go down, but find myself in the same junction then again and again. Frustrated and tired, I make the difficult choice of jumping in to the sea, as it is the only other way out. 

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This section was inspired by my dreams of unending staircases. The only difference is that in my dream I was making my way up instead of down. I changed this, of course, to fit in my overall theme of falling, and thus, going down. I faced difficulty depicting the frustration and the panic faced when being stuck in the same place no matter how hard you try to get out, due to the limit of the number of pictures. I originally had more frames planned, but exceeded and had to cut them down to fit the 90 pictures requirement. This compromised the flow of my story and the mood, but I tried my best to at least still convey the feeling of helplessness in this section.

I also received some feedback regarding the last picture above. A classmate pointed out that it would be better if the sea on the left side was just bounded by a straight line, instead of the awkward zigzag that makes it look unnatural. On hindsight, I should have done that. I only tried to follow the contours of the staircase that was already there originally, and did not think of how it would disrupt the visual flow in the picture itself, creating an unnecessary focal point.


Here I find myself sinking into the “sea”, except that I can breathe and it is more like I am floating on air. I discover that somehow I am in a paper boat, and marvel at the sights around me, including giant jellyfishes and a huge manta ray, whose tail I choose to grab hold of.

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I get pulled around by the manta ray, until I finally let go when it pulls me over a boundary made of clouds, and the sequence ends with a shot of me free falling through the sky and into the city of flowers, which is the introductory setting.

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This implies that the settings are in a cycle, in a dimension in which there is an eternal loop, and my descent will go on forever.

The sequence closes with a shot of me lying on the floor next to my bed, to show that in reality, I simply fell out of bed.




The style I chose to maintain throughout the pictures is that of a really dreamy, surreal quality. I take inspiration from Coldplay’s magical “Up & Up” music video, and collage artists such as Fajar P. Domingo and Eugenia Loli.

Coldplay’s “Up & Up” music video.

Fajar P. Domingo


Eugenia Loli

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The two collage artists make surreal images of landscapes and people in an unbelievable, dreamy space. Following in the footsteps of my references, I manipulated scale and put settings in new contexts, unusual places, and merged them with my dreams to create an even more surreal landscape that becomes the settings for my sequence. A particular setting, the flower city, was directly inspired from the city with giant flowers in the “Up & Up” video. To mimic the visual coherence of the subjects in the picture, like Domingo, I used colour correction to ensure that the individual images look cohesive in a picture after editing them in a collage together.



In the final presentation, I showed the video and played an audio along with it. I chose A Fine Frenzy’s “Sleepwalking” due to its very fitting feel and the dreamy melodies. There is also a theme of falling in the song, which I thought fits my theme very well. I managed to talk about my work well during the presentation, but missed out an important part: about how or why the falling was significant a theme. I forgot to explain that the overall theme of falling alludes to the falling deeper and deeper into our subconscious while sleeping. I made mental notes to mention this but completely forgot about it.

I also enjoyed my friends’ presentations and their comical, outlandish and fresh ideas. I thought that it was motivating how their projects came about and how they carried them out.

Overall, I am satisfied with this project and I have improved in terms of Photoshop skills, as I have minimal prior experience of Photoshop. I also learnt how to narrate a story through sequential imaging, and learnt how to make cuts in order to deliver a story even through minimal shots. Looking back, I am still struggling in terms of time management. I did get a head start on conceptualising, but was stuck in the idea generation and concept development stage for too long such that I did not have enough time for the actual execution of taking the photos necessary and editing them. Moving forward, I would like to try my best to work faster and force myself to carry out my plans ahead of time, so that I have plenty of time to make any amendments. I would also like to be able to apply design principles better in the carrying out of my projects, as I feel that while I think of these things, I do not actually apply them to whatever my final work is.