4D (II) Project 3: Site-specific Storytelling – (Dis)connect Process

I can’t believe year 1 has come to an end! The past semester has been a great learning experience for me. I learnt so much in 4D and I have to say, it really is a journey of self-discovery.

This last project is a culmination of everything I’ve learnt in the past year. In the form of an installation, we were challenged to make use of a specific site in order to construct a narrative (hence the title of the project). We got together and discussed what topic we would like to expand on. 

IDEATION ◊ RESEARCH ◊ PLANNING

We did a lot of sharing on drive, and the bulk of our planning was done there.

This resulted in our project proposal.

The week leading up to the installation date, we did not really do much real preparation. We weren’t confident that out proposal would be accepted, and we were already anticipating on changing our ideas. To be honest, I knew that our installation idea had potential and that maybe Ruyi would want us to change just a few aspects to have more of a storytelling aspect. This anticipation made us discuss more about the storyline and fortunately, our idea was accepted.

With less than a week to prepare, we planned on how we were going to go about doing things. This is where my love for planning comes up and I am just in love with the spreadsheet Hwee Ann came up with. I mean, without it I will just waste my time and go about doing things blindly, so I’m very appreciative of the spreadsheets.


Logistics

Timeline

◊ STORYBUILDING ◊

The narrative is an important aspect to this installation. What can/would happen on the dining table? As I have learnt from the first project, character building is extremely important in creating believable characters, and ultimately, a believable story. We wanted ours to almost become a stereotypical story, but we properly made sure that the family is real.

Hence, we started off with character profiling. (Due to some miscommunication, I forgot to share the updated file with my friends, but here is the combined version:)

Since we aren’t telling the story in the traditional sense of a narrative, we knew that planning was crucial to ensure flow. The way the narrative would unfold is through the phone/iPad screens of the family members (personal narratives) and through a background audio (combined narratives). This way, we are not only showing the story by itself, but also showing it through the eyes of each character. This we hope could shine light on the characters’ personalities and give a closer look into their lives.

Again, we did it in excel to properly sync everything.

Originally, I felt that the installation should play for longer, at least 5 mins. However, after discussion, I realised that my teammates had a point about having the audience’s attention kept in check. A shorter video would mean the audience wouldn’t get bored easily.

Along the way, Debbie came up with an excellent idea of having a projection on the table that would show viewers the activities each character is going through on their respective devices. This was what I had in mind initially, but dismissed because I’d have no idea how to do it. However, once Debbie said that she has done projection mapping before, I was so elated because it would be a really cool and interactive effect! This was also to facilitate easier viewing for audiences who are in the room but are not using the goggles.

Afterwards, we realised that we didn’t have enough time to properly sync all the apps appearing on the projection table. Moreover, the table’s size didn’t allow for our ideas, otherwise they would appear too small so we scrapped the idea and decided to just show the conversation unfolding in chat bubbles. This was also to identify the characters sitting in which position on the table.

 

◊ EXECUTION ◊

 

With all said, we split the work. I focused on creating the goggles, Debbie did the projection mapping on the table and Hwee Ann focused on recording the phones/iPads usage, and editing the videos together. Check their process posts out to find out more from their side!!

Hwee Ann
Debbie

They did a really really good job on their parts and although I was hoping to help them out more on the editing side, I faced more challenges on making the goggles than I anticipated. However, I really loved how each of us brought our own strengths and experiences to the table and this I feel is the main reason why we work well with each other and could accomplish this much work in just over a weekend! I am so proud of what we have gone through.

For the goggles, I started making them during one of our meetings. I planned and started making the stands for the devices while Debbie worked on the animation and Hwee researched on how to record phone screens.

For the goggles, I had a specific idea in mind how it would accommodate the audience’s viewing pleasure and comfort. We wanted the viewers to be completely blocked off from their surroundings when looking at each screen, so I thought that simple trapeziums weren’t enough. Hence I designed a googles-attached scope… thing.

And I’m quite happy with the results! 

At first I think that Hwee Ann and Debbie expected for me to finish the goggles way faster (which I think so too), but thankfully, they understood when I faced some challenges and trusted me with the creation of the goggles. Thanks guys!


Another thing we did was sourcing the props for the installation. The ultimate musts were the table, chairs, dinnerware and goggles/stands. With the goggles done by me, and dinnerware provided by Debbie, we decided to source for tables and chairs in ADM so that it would be easier to set up.

Wonderful tables all around ADM, but this baby hidden underneath stacks of paper in the drawing room was the winner:

We found 3 chairs that were perfect with the table. And for the baby chair, thanks can 2. 

Other chairs that didn’t make it through elimination. Better luck next time, folks!

Immediately, we tested projection by covering the table with white mahjong paper and tilting it to gauge the distance needed between the projector and the table.

Since we had a normal sized projector, we started thinking of ways to mount the projector on the ceiling. We were quite innovative and thought of using a mirror to reflect the projection downwards while the projector is horizontal. However, after some testing with Hwee Ann, we realised that the size would be a problem. After Facebook calling Debbie who was at home working on the After Effects for the projection, we decided to try and hang it up anyways.

For sounds, Debbie went to visit her friend Celeste, who has a family and is currently pregnant! She recorded their voices as the mother and father, and Debbie herself acted as the teenager. We also recorded all the ambience and background sounds in school. From chewing sounds, to footsteps, chair dragging, and cutleries clinking. Overall, I think that Hwee Ann really did a good job in combining the sounds recorded to create a realistic dining room sound.

With the sound recording done and the mixing of the main background audio, it was easier to edit the individual videos and projection based on it so that everything would be synced.

Needless to say, it was hard work to put up the projector. We tried to be ingenious by hanging the projector in a bag with raffia strings, but right when we managed to get the projector in, it DIED on us. And the bulk of our set up was just to get the projector up. 

We changed strategies and with a newly loaned projector from Nevin, Mark, Brian and Nasya’s group (thanks guys omg), we tried using the mirror method, which worked because this projector’s projection was larger! Truly a blessing in disguise. Afterwards, the bulk of the work was reediting the table projection to fit the table and to edit the videos and sounds.

The projection had to be edited to fit the table set up. (And yay here are how the finished goggles look like)

After a long night during which I died for maybe an hour or so, we managed to pull through and while Hwee Ann and Debbie finished up the videos, I sourced for more things from the drawing room to set up our space. I felt that there was too much empty space since the table had to be under the projector, so I made use of existing furniture to create a living space. 

      

Us transporting props from the drawing room to 2-19

Here’s a behind the scenes of the set up:

Check out our final product in my final post!

Here are the screen recordings for the devices:

Baby

Dad

Emily 

Mom

Table Projection Mapping


◊ REFLECTION ◊

I feel very accomplished and am really happy that we pulled through this project.

On hindsight, we could have started earlier and went on with some parts of the project while waiting for the consultation with Ruyi, so that there were concrete things to comment on. We could have also improved more if we did this.

However, I also feel that we did a really good job despite the stress and pressure. We acted calmly, planned well, and overcame each hurdle step by step together. I also feel that we’ve conquered the installation and managed to address each aspect of an installation, from changing the audience’s perception of the space to taking note of how the audience interacts with our installation. I also feel that we have really put what we learnt this semester to good use. From crafting a believable story through character profiling, pursuing topics that relate to us so that we can tell authentic stories, to sound design and placing importance on the relationship between audience, artwork and artist.

I’m really thankful for this semester. I’ve learnt a lot about my weaknesses and what I have potentials to improve on. I’m also very inspired by my classmates’ works and I’m motivated to do better and better. Thanks to Ruyi and my classmates for a very fulfilling semester in 4D! I hope to use whatever I’ve learnt this sem for the future!

4D (II) Project 1: Alter Egos – Miss You Process and Execution

How do I see the world? What am I looking for? How do I define myself?

Three very difficult questions.

◊ INITIAL THOUGHTS & PROFILING ◊

Many stories were written based on the author’s experiences. These stories feel more authentic and believable because they are based on actual thoughts and feelings on issues that matter to the author. Through this project, we are expected to develop characters that resonate to us and to use central issues in our lives in our story telling.

Easy at first glance, but extremely difficult when attempted. I have always perceived myself as an open book. But am I? There are things that I thought I would be comfortable to share with anyone, yet I still hesitate. Then again, I can talk about my problems to strangers and be fine with it (and half-regretting it later). 

The point is. Am I ready to delve into issues that actually matter to me? Truth is, I’m scared. I’ve always been an escapist. Instead of tackling my problems head on, I conveniently run away. Even up till this point, I’m still hesitating. 

Irregardless, here is me listing down characters that intrigue me or that I like.

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◊ LITERATURE/FICTION ◊ 

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The Little Prince – The Little Prince
I loved this book (now also an animated film) ever since I first read it for my literature class back in Secondary 1 in Indonesia. The book exposes the many facets of “adult” behaviour through the lens of a child-like narrator.
The Little Prince is naive, imaginative and pure in a world where adults strive for adult things. In his own little world he manages a routine that is important to him, and in his journey he meets adults who have their own superficial priorities.

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Sakura Mikan
 – Alice Academy

Alice Academy is a manga written and illustrated by Higuchi Tachibana. I grew up reading and loving these types of stories where the characters are young and have a special power in school settings.

Mikan is the main protagonist. She is bubbly, optimistic, good-natured and determined, but clumsy and foolish at times. Despite her background growing up with her grandfather and no parents, she has a positive outlook and treasures her friends like family. She is courageous and would always stand up for her friends. 

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Mathilda Lando – Léon The Professional
I really like this film for its heartfelt showcase of humanity and love in unlikely characters, and of how unfair the world is. Also the band Alt-j made songs based on this film which I listened to before watching this. I was completely dumbfounded when I saw the scenes where the lyrics were taken from as I could instantly make the connection (OMG THIS IS WHERE THEY GOT IT FROM).
Mathilda is young, but she is forced to mature beyond her age as she attempts to avenge the death of her brother (and perhaps her family, although it was dysfunctional). She puts up a brave front and finds a father figure in Léon.

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Hugo Cabret – Hugo
Hugo is a movie based on an American historical fiction novel written by Brian Selznick. Martin Scorcese’s take on Hugo is visually stunning and the world of Hugo Cabret is a mystical one for me.
Hugo Cabret is an orphan living in the walls of a Paris train station (love the idea of secret spaces). He is secretive and anonymous, and has a great goal to achieve: bringing his late dad’s automaton to life. While he is not exactly a role model, his actions are driven by circumstance and in searching for answers and a connection with his father, he is bold and unstoppable.

sadie_kane
Sadie Kane – The Kane Chronicles

Like I said, I like stories with gifted children in fantasy settings that intertwine with the normal world. Peppered with Egyptian mythology and teen angst, this Rick Riordan series is one such story.
Sadie grew up apart from her father and twin brother after their mother’s death. I liked her being of mixed-ethnicity, that she has a twin, and that she has magical powers. I also related to her want of being closer to her father and brother but not very outwardly showing this.

 

◊ PUBLIC FIGURES ◊

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Vincent Van Gogh
Vincent Van Gogh was a post-impressionist painter who remained unknown and poor until after his death. He struggled with mental illness and died at the young age of 37 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. I like how he could express himself through his art and how the circumstances he was in and the state of his fragile mind was reflected in his paintings. Similarly, I would like to be able to express myself through my art.

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Nyle DiMarco
Nyle was the first deaf winner of both America’s Next Top Model and Dancing With the Stars, two popular American TV shows. Despite being born with a disability, he could still accomplish his goals and to top it all off, he is also very sweet and down to earth.

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Anna Akana
Anna is a Youtube personality who not only makes video content, but also writes, produces, directs and acts in her own short films. She is also a comedian and performs stand-ups, while managing her own clothing line. I admire her for having the willpower and determination to overcome her obstacles (her sister Kristina committed suicide and she herself struggles with anxiety and panic attacks) and achieve the things she wants in life.

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Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok)

Ahok is the current governor of Jakarta, the second with Chinese ancestry and also the second who is Christian. In a largely Muslim society, he has faced his own share of racism and groundless opposition from extremists. However, he is headstrong in his conviction and exercises his plans as promised, while also being personable. He is known to be forthright, harsh, and iron-willed, facing corruption and other issues head-on effectively, in comparison to previous corruption-laden administrations.

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Bethany Hamilton

Bethany is a professional surfer who lost her left arm in a shark attack. Despite this, she was able to eventually return to professional surfing – and emerging victorious at that. Her love for surfing and the sea was greater than the obstacle she faced at the time, and along with her unfaltering faith, she managed to rise back up from despair.

 

◊ PEOPLE I KNOW ◊

Mom
My reason of being.


RK

Grew up with a disability and lack of understanding from people, especially his family.

VK/KA/AJ/CS
My constants, though we are all in different countries now and rarely stay in contact.

AY/NA/SG/RR
My circle of support who shaped me to become who I am in Singapore.

OA
School caretaker and operations manager (sorta) in his 60s (I guess) whom I’ve known since Primary 2. Lives in school with no wife or children. Cares for me like his own child, but since going to Singapore I’ve rarely seen him.


OK so things are going to get  p e r s o n a l.

◊ CONCLUSION ◊

I find that I have an affinity for a variety of characters.

Some have otherworldly powers and abilities, which reflect my constant day-dreaming of having a power that nobody else knows about. (Mikan, Sadie, The Little Prince) On a deeper level, this also reflects how mediocre I feel in the world and compared to those around me.

I also find that I am fascinated by characters who are weighed down by less-than-fortunate circumstances, whether it being an accident, a disability, or an illness. (Van Gogh, Nyle, Bethany, RK) These are very brave people, I feel, that they are able to face the world like everyone else. From my close interaction with RK, I know that it is definitely not easy, and behind the smiles there might be way more tears – but they endure it nonetheless. I applaud these people – their courage inspires me and pushes me to always try to overcome my own obstacles.

Lastly, and maybe most personally, I also find that I am drawn to characters who have lost their father or lack a father figure, or figures who are dependable, strong and caring. (Mathilda, Hugo, Sadie, Ahok, OA) Thankfully, I still have my father around, but growing up, I resented him. I do realise that he is still my father nonetheless and have learnt to love him in recent years. However, I did not realise that I’ve grown apart from him. There is this huge feeling of disconnect, no matter how much I try to establish rapport (or maybe I don’t even try). It slightly bothers me how I’m not entirely comfortable with my own father, and that I might actually don’t really care anyways. I realise that I subconsciously look for a replacement figure and like figures who are dependable and strong.

 


 

Here are three profiled characters from each list.

(Disclaimer: Profiling of real life characters are based on my own observations and the internet, they are not reflective of how these people truly are)

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I find it fascinating how true it is that we are attracted to, subconsciously or not, characters that resonate with us.

Writing this wasn’t easy because I had to deal with some very personal issues. I rewrote sentences many times and deleted paragraphs when I felt too exposed. I considered approaching another topic that I still cared about, but it didn’t feel.. right. This may be a very small attempt to address the issues that matter to me and bother me, but I hope that it opens up new possibilities and help me understand my own thoughts and feelings about the matter.



◊ EXECUTION ◊

Initially, I wanted to have a story set first and a general idea of what kind of look I wanted it to have, inspired by some films.

From all of the above scenes, I really love their common use of metaphors. While used and presented in different ways, they really brought out the mood and the meaning of the scene better. They also reveal parts of the protagonist in hints.

I kept in mind what we learnt in our first lesson about creating films where all the elements point back to its main message. (Dialogue, subtext, mise en scene, props/metaphors, etc). I had a few ideas on how I wanted the 1 min dialogue to be like.

However, I became stuck when wanting to finalise the script and the story idea. I felt like the characters were flat and not well defined. I paused and tried to research on how to write good dialogue. 

I found these quite helpful. 

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/09/seven-keys-to-writing-good-dialogue.html

https://www.nyfa.edu/student-resources/write-dialogue-film/

I remembered the clip of the man and the nun Ruyi showed us on the first lesson. We can learn so much about the protagonist even though he barely says a word. This, I realise, is achieved through illumination by the sub-character’s dialogue and actions, and the protagonist’s reactions.

I am also reminded of this movie that I watched upon reading my senior’s post. It really is an impactful scene that not only describes the relationship between the two characters, but also reveals the protagonist’s flaws and acts as a turning point in the film. And again, the protagonist barely says a word! 

From these two scenes, I realised that dialogue does not need to be complicated or fancy. As how interaction is in real life, we find out more about a person from natural conversation and questions. Action and reaction. I also decided to develop the dialogue by using the character profiles, instead of jumping straight to the story only. 

So, I already had a theme in mind: Family relationships. I decided to develop two original characters based on the two detailed character profiles I made on Hugo and Anna, altering and adding in traits from other characters to fully deliver my theme. 

The main thing that I wanted to show was that the protagonist misses her family. In this scene, I wanted to reveal how the protagonist was so occupied with her academics that she rarely contacts her family. However, she doesn’t express this outwardly. To highlight this, the other character had to be contrasting, i.e. has a close relationship with her family. 

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The next step is to decide how to show this. I wanted the sub-character’s dialogue to reveal the protagonist’s feelings. Yet, how do I make it such that it is not obvious? 

I’m an international student myself, who has grown up away from my family. I felt that I haven’t been contacting my family as often as some of my previous roommates. This is where the idea came from: The two characters could be roommates, and through B’s phone call home and conversation with her family, La’s hidden longing for her family could be revealed through her reactions.

From here, I developed the script surrounding the idea of La listening to a phone conversation between B and her family. However, I felt that it wasn’t enough to show La’s longing. 

In the end I decided to have a preceding dialogue which shows how La hasn’t been visiting home for a long time. This will hopefully intensify the scene. 

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SHOOTING & ART DIRECTION

I asked my roommate to act with me so that it would be more natural. Coincidentally, she was also my roommate when I was in secondary school. 

At first I wanted to shoot on the bed area but in the end I chose to use our desk setting because I thought that using symmetry, similar to Wes Anderson films, could amplify the contrast between the two characters.

I rearranged items on our desks, taking away things that were too distracting (because of the colour), and adding things to illustrate each character’s personality. 

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anatomy-of-the-desk

The protagonist’s side is filled with projects, books, and her laptop. Monthly planners are pinned up, and no pictures are seen except for a poster of an ice cave. I also changed the desktop background to a dark colour because the previous lighter colour was too distracting. 

The roommate’s side, on the other hand, is filled with pictures, soft toys and memorabilia. There is almost no sign of school-related things except for the neat organiser at the corner. 

By doing this, I hope to highlight how disconnected the protagonist is from her family by providing a contrasting character right next to her. 

I originally took 4 different angles.

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However, while editing I found it difficult to piece up together, and it was becoming a little too distracting for such a short dialogue. I decided to take a step back, keep it simple and re-shot with just two angles. One from the back and another to show my facial reactions. As for the bathroom scenes, I kept it at one frontal shot, one mirror shot and one top-down shot for the ending. 

EDITING & SOUND

Editing was basically me warming up to Premiere Pro again. Anything I couldn’t do I Googled and it was okay. I also borrowed the Zoom recorder from school and used it to record good audio.

I hunted for appropriate music and tracks. Since it was unproductive and I couldn’t really find anything that fits, I decided to try looking from the pool of music that I already knew. I wanted a piano sort of beat at the start and so started listening through Tom Rosenthal’s music. I eventually found “The Snow”, whose intro was exactly what I wanted to use. For the last part, I was listening to Dessert’s songs when I realised that the lyrics of “Back Around” were somehow fitting to my character.

I was born to tell a lie, I could never change your mind, even when I tell the truth, there is nothing I can do, nothing I can do

She isn’t honest with her feelings, so she “tells a lie”, and there is seemingly nothing she can do about her dilemma of focusing on her academics but also missing her family. 

REFLECTION

Overall, I’m satisfied with what I’ve done for this project. I’ve learnt so many things, from how to make a good film/story, how to put forth a theme in a story, to how important it is to have characters who are real, because they make the story so much more engaging, relatable and believable. I tried my best in applying all of this in my work.

Another important thing that I took away from this project is my finding out the issues or topics that matter to me. I realise that while I am concerned or interested in relationships between father and children, or how disabled people can go about their daily lives, the general idea is that I am interested in human relationships. This was a Eureka moment for me. I realise that what I am essentially interested in is the dynamics of human interaction and how this affects every single individual.

Well, I’m glad good things came out of this project and hopefully this will carry on to future projects.

Thanks for reading!

Watch the final product in my final post!

 

 

P.S. After more than half a year of not going home, I will be enjoying my time with my family during recess week 🙂

 

2D Project 3: Ego – Process and Execution

Everything is going by so fast! Nevertheless, this was a challenging but fun project to do. I love colours but they almost killed me this time. Here I will be elaborating on how I got to the final work and also the descriptions behind each of the twelve compositions. For a summary, check out the final work post!

◊ PROCESS ◊

At first, I was excited and started thinking that I would play around with different techniques and craft methods for each of the twelves compositions. I thought of paper cutting, embroidery, crochet, pop up cards, op art, even animation using an optical film (like below).

vento
a page from “Vento”, by Virgilio Villoresi and Virginia Mori

I was exceptionally ambitious, and super excited. During the first consultation, Joy addressed the white elephant in the room: Will there be enough time? This knocked me out of my daydream and I had to be honest with myself, of course there wasn’t enough time to explore so many methods. Also, how was I going to make sure everything is coherent? I decided to cut down to two techniques I was already comfortable with: embroidery and paper cutting.  At this point of time, I haven’t thought of how I wanted to use colours, but I did research on colour theories and the such. Check this out on my colour theory research post!

Along the week, I started to develop my concept. I decided to use the idea of the equations illustrating my growth in Singapore, with each row representing a school I’ve been in. I also searched for artist inspirations and thought of how the compositions would look as a whole. The week passed by and it dawned upon me that at the rate I was going, I wasn’t going to make it. I forced myself to calm down and take a step back. I settled on ditching the embroidery and paper cut, and going back to watercolour/acrylic illustration: the medium I grew up with. I also chose to do my casual illustration style instead of my normal one. Not only is this style more known by my classmates, but it also helps to save time. (heheh) I sketched out the compositions, but was stuck at choosing the colours. Paintings can’t be undone like Photoshop, so I decided to consult my friends and Joy about it before starting on the colours.

Meanwhile, I searched around for inspiration on how the compositions would look like alone and together. These are some that I came across.

tytus-7 tytus-1 tytus-4

^Tytus Brzozowski’s dreamlike architectural watercolours

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^Nicole Gustafson’s ethereal suspended worlds

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^Marco Mazzoni’s meticulous pencil colour drawings

I knew I wanted to include a double exposure element in my work, for the last column especially. This is inspired by the beautiful tattoos done by Andrey Lukovnikov.

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I still wanted to showcase my style and wanted everything to look like a whole. In the end, the main inspiration that gave my work its look is the publicity materials for We The Fest Indonesia.

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I love the usage of circles in their collaterals! It is something very simple, clean, yet visually arresting and recognisable. I decided that I can base my compositions on a circle framing, and play around with it according to the different columns and different situations. In the end, the first column that represents me uses a simple circle frame, the second column, which represents the setting, includes the circles as “portals” to the world of the school, and the last column is a double exposure portrait bordered with a circle frame.

(Me at the start of the school duration) + (School experience) = (Me at the end of the school duration) 

After much deliberation, I was finally able to choose colour schemes for each row, keeping in mind to make use of appropriate colour theories that would communicate the mood for each situation. I also switched over to gouache, because I didn’t want the plasticky finish acrylic has, and wanted more opacity than watercolour. Since gouache is new to me, it took me a couple of tries to get used to it. After settling the colours, I went straight to production!

 

◊ EXECUTION ◊

Once I got the gouache, I did some swatches and made changes to the sketches I have previously completed. I outlined the sketches in a thin pen, painted them in, and added the black outline last. All the while I mixed paint around in order to get the right colours. In choosing the colours, I made use of the existing colours of the uniforms and chose the rest of the colours according to them.

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◊ FINAL BREAKDOWN ◊

ONE ◊ CAREFREE ME + CAGED WORLD = NAIVE ME

2d3-1 2d3-2 2d3-3

This equation is about my life in Jakarta. For my whole life before I came to Singapore, I grew up in Pelangi Kasih School, all the way from kindergarten to Sec 3.

School was relatively easy and the system not so rigid, so I lived a carefree life while still being able to maintain good grades and getting involved in many projects and competitions in school. I was young, only a seedling. I used peach-pink as the dominant colour for the first piece as it symbolises innocence.

As a result of my parents, school, surroundings, and how I was generally brought up, I lived a sheltered life. There was a straight path drawn for me and blindfolded, I happily walk straight, not knowing that I was in a cage, protected from the world. This I illustrated with blue, to show the calmness of the life I lived. By doing this, the straight path, which is in yellow, is highlighted due to contrast.  

The result of this is still, a naive me. Still oblivious and very carefree, I live my life happily and without thinking of the future. The dominant colour yellow illustrates this very light, happy feeling that corresponds to my state at the point of time.  

Overall, I chose to use the primary, triadic colours as to illustrate the basic building blocks that I started with. I was young and life was simple. However, I chose to use a much lighter tint, and used pastels of the three colours as I feel it would fit the idea of youth and innocence better.

 

TWO ◊ EAGER TO PLEASE + SCHOOL AND FRIENDS = SAD ME

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The second equation is about my first two years in Singapore spent in Anderson Secondary School. While I learnt a lot and made lifelong friends, it was not a very pleasant journey at the start.

When I first came to Singapore, I was extremely eager to please. I was determined to be the perfect student and naively thought that it would be an easy journey. I grew from my experience in Jakarta, but I was a mere bud. My optimism and energy is shown through the use of a dominant bright orange, with blues from my uniform as an accompaniment.

Little did I know, school work was really tough. I was doing the worst I had ever done my whole life. Plus, my initial impression of my classmates was not very good, as the culture of welcoming new students was very different compared to what I was used to back in Jakarta. I closed up and did not want to face these problems head on, hence in the composition I am depicted as looking away from the setting (towards the viewers instead), unlike the rest of the compositions in the middle column. I used blues and a dull lavender to show the dark state that I was in, making use of the bright orange as accents in the glowing eyes.

As a result, I was a very unhappy girl. No matter how hard I tried to make friends, I knew that it was not a genuine effort. It made me feel very discontented, and I used a lavender with low chroma, almost grey, to highlight this dullness, along with the dark blue and the teardrop pattern at the back.

Overall, I chose to employ a split complementary colour scheme for this equation (orange, blue and purple) so that I will be able to show how my initial positivity (orange) was quickly drowned out , replaced with the analogous colours of blue and purple. 

THREE ◊ COME AT ME + ROLLER COASTER = STRONG ME

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The third equation is about my years in Temasek Junior College.

I thought that going to JC, it would be easier for me to start anew as everyone is new to the school. I wanted to enjoy my days and do better, and was determined to do so. This want to start anew, I hope, is able to be communicated through my use of bright green. I took on a fresh perspective and got rid of my old ways of thinking, I became a young flower.

Of course, JC was a tough journey. Academically, everything became even more difficult and I struggled to keep up. I took Art for A Levels and it took up a lot of my time, and by the end of JC1 I lost my scholarship. JC years were some of the worst years of my life. However, they were also some of the best years of my life. I loved Art and I was close to my classmates and Art friends. I had fun in House Committee and in orientation, and generally had a much better time compared to secondary school. JC was really a roller coaster filled with ups and downs. These challenges and journey is illustrated with red, as the colour can symbolise both danger (negative) and excitement (positive).

At the end of the two years, I find myself much stronger, more resilient, than ever before.  The dominant red (more of a coral to fit the lighter tones) represents my strength and the complementary green also shows my contentedness. Overall, the colours I chose for this equation sets the mood for each composition, with coral and lime (tints of red and green) as the main colours, and blue to complement the two.

FOUR ◊ READY ME + GRADUATION IS A LONG WAY = ?

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The last equation is about me in NTU. I am the most mature I have ever been (OK I’m still childish). I am transitioning into an adult and whether I like it or not, I will need to be responsible for my own future. I feel like I have become much calmer when facing challenges, so I tried to use minimalistic colours to create this equation.

I am still determined and eager to do my best in university, so I used three values of orange to illustrate this energy. Calm and filled with determination, I start my ADM journey.

The goal right now is to graduate, and it is still very far away. I illustrated this by creating a long walkway that ends with a mortarboard on a pedestal. I created an illusion of depth to show that it is far away, and my pose shows how I am ready to take on this challenge.

The last column is a reflection of how I am by the end of the years I spent in the particular institution, and since this is still in the future, it is a huge question mark, with black to show this void. However, I am positive of the outcome and hence use orange as the background to show this.

Overall, I used just slightly differing shades of orange, and black and white for contrast. The simple colour scheme is supposed to show a calmer, more mature side of me.

 

◊ REFLECTION ◊

I am glad that I was able to showcase my characteristic style in this project, and was able to make use of the circle framing well to make all the compositions look cohesive. I still need to improve in terms of time management, and there are also a couple of other things that I thought I could have done better on. I feel like I could have coordinated the colours across the rows better, and practiced more with the medium to achieve better saturated colours and a smoother brushwork.

All in all, I had fun in this semester and though I was literally dying through all the projects, I enjoyed myself and learnt quite a bit, not only in terms of skills and techniques, but also my way of thinking and developing my art processes. I want to thank my classmates for their inspiring works, and Joy for being a super nice and encouraging teacher. This class will be missed!

For a summary of everything, check out my final work post!

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.

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  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 ◊

!!!MAJOR SPOILER OF THE WHOLE MOVIE ALERT!!!

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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.

 

◊ BREAKDOWN OF FOUR COMPOSITIONS ◊

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 WORK ALONE, UNDERSTAND?” ◊ INDIA

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. 

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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.

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Durga

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. 

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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.

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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.  

“IF I WIN, YOU KEEP ME WITH YOU FOR LIFE” ◊ JAPAN  

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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

“THIS IS FROM MATHILDA” ◊ MEXICO

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“I THINK WE’LL BE OKAY HERE, LEON.” ◊ BALI

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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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LOVE IT!!!

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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 1: My Line is Emo – Execution

So, I decided to add in an execution post. Here I will be elaborating on the creation of each line in my final work. For my main thought processes and elaboration on my theme, you can check the process post and for a short summary of everything, check out my final post!


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This is a summarised table form of my final work layout. Before going into making the final prints themselves, I would do several tryouts on loose sheets of paper. I also tried different backings. For some of the lines, I replicated an existing texture that I have from previous experiments. In these cases I did the patterns first and associated it with a sea creature afterwards. 

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Journal page recording my thought processes as I started on the final strips.


RELIEF ◊  SKY

To represent clouds, I tore cotton pads into thin strips and placed it onto an ink-rolled linoleum tile. Then I placed a backing of choice on top of it and used the roller to transfer the ink onto the backing. I tried a couple of different backings, from normal cartridge paper, to newsprint and tracing paper.

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From left to right, cartridge paper, tracing paper (but clouds not defined enough), final print used.

Eventually I chose the tracing paper as the backing as it gives a slightly translucent effect that I felt fits the quality of soft clouds. I also included a layer of white cartridge paper behind it so that the line will look lighter in shade. To the sky line, I assigned the emotion relief, as I felt that the open sky is very liberating. Every time I go for a dive, when I resurface and take a gasp of breath, I would feel a huge sense of relief. Relief that I am still alive, relief that I could breathe again.

 

BLISS ◊ WAVES

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Bliss is represented by waves, the boundary between sky and sea. I like watching the waves move about, whether it is still or turbulent. There is this hypnotising feel waves give you. I particularly like standing by the shore, gazing at the waves lapping at my feet, which makes me feel as if I the ocean was pulling me in its embrace and letting me go, pulling me in and bringing me back to shore, while in actuality I was just standing there, still. The waves make me feel happy, in a lighthearted way.

To achieve the mark, I cut the outline of the waves on a waste sheet of newsprint and laid it over a sheet of cartridge paper. Then I used a toothbrush, dipped it in Chinese ink, and started flicking the brush all over to create an ocean spray effect. 

 

ELATION ◊ CLOWNFISH

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I made the same type of marks during the first monoprinting session, and thought that it reminded me of Nemo from “Finding Nemo”, so I recreated the mark, but this time using a cotton bud to create the lines. I had to make sure to put enough pressure so that the ink would be removed from the lino.

To me, the verticality of the lines represent the action of going upwards, and this symbolises positivity.  This highlights how we tend to look “upwards” when we are happy, and especially when we are elated, we tend to brighten up and become positive in our disposition! 

 

INFATUATION ◊ JELLYFISH

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This line was one of the more complicated ones in terms of execution. There were several steps to it as I did a collage of several prints. I wanted to recreate the ethereal, flowy quality of jellyfish. I was cleaning ink off the table using wet tissue and found that it created a pretty cool texture on the table surface. Just out of curiosity, I put a sheet of paper over it and pressed. The result was a cool exact water droplet texture replica as shown in the bottom right picture. I thought that it looked like the frills of a jellyfish. I decided I would need a base layer so I tried to drip more diluted ink (top left picture) and then pressed the paper on top of it. The results were as shown in the two other pictures, a cool marbling effect with a softness to it that I felt could represent a jellyfish. I did more of the water droplet texture print on tracing paper, and using a penknife, created frill- like strips out of the print. In the end, the collage consisted of the water marbling print as the base layer, frills from the water droplet prints on cartridge and tracing paper, and also drawn lines using an ink pen.

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The resulting collage felt very whimsical and intense, since there are so many elements to it. I likened this to the feeling of infatuation over someone you love, as it is almost as if there is an overwhelming sensation of emotions. 

 

PASSION ◊ MESOPHOTIC CORAL REEFS

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The creation of this line was a result of a experimentation. I painted Chinese ink lightly over the fibres of a cotton pad, placed it on the paper, and added pressure using the roller. I really loved the resulting print – a mesmerising, organic pattern.  This pattern reminded me of a cluster of coral reefs, and hence I researched to find out whether coral reefs grew in the mesopelagic (twilight) layer of the sea. Turns out they did! They are slightly different, though, from the coral reefs that grow in the epipelagic (sunlight) layer. 

The amalgamation of soft, thin lines and denser areas create a dynamic and organic flow about the strip. It felt as if the corals were swaying a little bit in the currents, a passionate affair. 

 

AFFECTION ◊ TIGER SHARK

I was starting to play around with shampoo and figuring out how to use it in my printmaking. I randomly squeezed shampoo on an ink-rolled linoleum tile.

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The result was a beautiful striped pattern! I absolutely had no high expectations, but shampoo proves to be quite versatile in terms of making marks (elaborated on other lines). Sadly I do not have any pictures of the freshly finished result! I was probably too excited to have taken a picture of it. After the first print on cartridge paper, I laid a sheet of tissue paper over it and made another print, which also gave wonderful results. The print on the tissue paper was what I decided to use for the final work. It smells really good!

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Tiger shark image from graytaxidermy.com

2d proj1 10A section of the tissue paper that is saved and pasted on my visual journal.

The quality of the seemingly blurred out lines and the softness of the tissue paper gives an overall fuzzy quality which I likened to affection.

 

ASTONISHMENT ◊ GIANT TUBE WORMS

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Giant tube worms image from theecology.tumblr.com

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I simplified the giant tube worm into the stem and the head. To mimic its physical features, I used a toilet brush to create swift strokes representing the stems, and pressed the tip of a cotton bud on the linoleum tile repeatedly to create the heads.

I was really quite astonished when I saw pictures of the giant tube worm as I have never seen such a creature before. I tried to express my astonishment through the print by using quick flicks of the wrist to create the rapid lines, and quick dabbing of the cotton bud tips as if each stroke was a shocked gasp (which was my literal reaction when I first saw a picture of the worm). 

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ALARM ◊ ANGLER FISH

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To create the angler fish line, what I did was I rolled a layer of ink directly onto cartridge paper, added two thick lines of white acrylic down the page, and afterwards, I dragged the paint vertically using the comb, creating a thorn-like effect.

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This effect is supposed to mimic the jagged teeth of an angler fish.

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Angler fish image from knowledgebase.lookseek.com

I assigned alarm to this strip because of how the teeth sort of overlap, creating a messy, almost claustrophobic feel due to the tightness of the darker area (background) surrounded by the lighter areas (teeth). I thought that there was a sense of danger that is imbued in the pattern, and I would imagine myself tone quite alarmed if I ever encounter an angler fish in the sea.

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BEWILDERMENT ◊ BRITTLE STAR

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Brittle star image from palaeo.gly.bris.ac.uk

The creation of this line is one the most experimental. I had no clear pattern in mind that I was aiming for, but I just wanted to sort of replicate the body of a brittle star, roughly. I actually created a stencil, which was cut using a nail clipper.

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I used this stencil to create multiple star shapes on a sheet of cartridge paper, by rolling ink on top of the stencil.

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Afterwards, using acrylic, I added feathery extensions to mimic the limbs of the brittle star. I also added some extension using the hair roller.

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The resulting pattern was an all-over composition of stencil pattern and acrylic paint, and I was literally quite bewildered when I looked at the strip. Hence, I thought that ‘bewilderment’ would be most fitting. I also cross checked with friends, and they too felt bewildered when looking at it closely, as there are so many elements to look at. The feel is similar to when you look at Jackson Pollock paintings, which also have all-over compositions.

 

SORROW ◊ EEL

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Eel was quite fun to do. I wanted to see if just adding water would create any interesting effect, and it absolutely did. I first rolled some ink onto the linoleum tile, sprayed water on it, laid a sheet of paper over it and rolled it under the press. Without adding any more ink, I repeated the process several times, and this resulted in a et of very different looking prints of differing values and line quality, which I thought was super cool. This was the method that I used for making the eel strip, as a section of the print reminds me of slithering eel bodies.

There was a sort of melancholy to the pattern that is also reminiscent of teardrops, and I thought that ‘sorrow’ was an apt word to describe the feeling when you look at the strip.

GLOOM ◊ DUMBO OCTOPUS

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This was also one of the more unexpected outcomes. Like the shampoo, I also had no idea what the outcome would be. I randomly dripped some baby oil onto the ink-rolled linoleum and pressed down a sheet of paper on top of it. I was expecting some sort of marbling effect, but what came out was this coarse-ish texture that really reminds me of some kind of animal skin. Plus it smells amazing.

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I already had the dumbo octopus as one of the animals in mind, and thought that it could actually represent the dumbo octopus. The overall grainy and dark look of the print emits a pessimistic aura that feels like a dark, rainy day, and hence I felt that ‘gloom’ was an apt emotion to assign it to.

 

WOE ◊ MANTA RAY

I was inspired by Rorschach to try this method. I randomly dripped block printing ink, Chinese ink, shampoo and a little bit of water to a sheet of cartridge paper, which I then folded into half. I did not have any expectations for it so sadly, I did not document the process where I added all the condiments to the paper. Here is a picture of the result.

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At this point, it was only meh, so I tried a couple more times. Here is another result.

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I love the rorschach pattern created. I was thinking that the shampoo would act as a white paint, but it turned out that it would evaporate when I left them to dry. This gave a completely new look to the first print that I thought was meh.

2016-09-07 035934 1 2016-09-07 035940 1Front and back side.

It immediately reminded me of a manta ray! I decided to use it for the manta ray line. One problem is that I would need one long strip, whereas this was just a short strip of design. I figured that I could cut a strip of the top part that looks like the head, and then dissect the body into different sections and assemble them together next to each other to make a line.

2016-09-07 042339 1Left side shows cut strips, right side shows reassembled strips.

The overall spreading effect and the haunting negative space created by the shampoo lines, along with the dullness of the newsprint backing, feels like a lament of misery, hence I felt that ‘woe’ was a fitting emotion to assign this strip to.

 

TRAUMA ◊ BASKET SEA STAR

In one of my explorations, I tried blowing ink through a straw, and it create this veiny, mesmerising effect that I thought was pretty cool. It really reminded me of a basket sea star.

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Basket sea star image from wikipedia.org

The problem is, the straw is not a bathroom object! I eventually thought of a way to improvise: I could cut the edges of a cotton bud, and voila! A mini straw! I have to admit, it was a tough and long journey to produce one long line of blow painting but it was worth it because the results are really cool!

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There is a sort of vitality and vigour to the lines created that suggests an explosive reaction to something. It also reminds me of overgrown forests in fairy tales where the branches would poke you in all directions and give an overall eerie feeling. I thought that this could really represent the feeling when going through a traumatic experience.

 

ENVY ◊ GILLS

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This line was a result of experimenting with facial foam. Honestly I thought that I would get a similar effect to the shampoo prints, except maybe a little bit less diluted as the foam has a firmer texture. I did not expect for the resulting print to be so visually different! The slightly beady texture and the viscosity of the foam created a beautiful network of veins on the paper. While this is not exactly representative of any sea creature, I thought that it definitely resembles gills.

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The tiny spreading of the veins reminds me also of the circulatory system. I felt like this could represent envy because I visualise envy as a feeling that creeps through your body slowly.

 

FURY ◊ STOPLIGHT LOOSEJAW

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Fury is represented by the stoplight loosejaw, a fish that lives in the Mariana Trenches. Similar to an angler fish, it has sharp teeth, but unlike the angler fish, whose defining feature is its light, the stoplight loosejaw’s defining feature is its wide gaping jaw. Its teeth are also relatively thinner and longer. 

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Stoplight loosejaw image from miteebite.com

To achieve this, I used the toilet brush instead of the comb. As seen in the picture above, the toilet brush makes finer lines compared to the thicker, more defined lines created by the comb (small section on the top line).

I thought that the overall composition looked angry and violent, with the gaping jaw filled with razor sharp teeth, especially. Hence, I linked this pattern with fury.

 

TERROR ◊ PING PONG TREE SPONGE

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Ping pong tree sponge image from nazo108.sblo.jp

The ping pong tree sponge is characterised by its appearance which literally looks like a tree with ping pong balls attached to it. 

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To replicate its physical features, I squeezed a sponge into a ball shape, moistened it, tapped it in block printing ink and dabbed it on the paper. I did this repeatedly with varying concentration of ink. I was mindful of creating an overall dark tone as the ping pong tree sponge is found in the trenches, and I need the print to be dark so that I could achieve the gradual darkening effect. Even though in reality the ping pong tree sponge seems to be light in colour, I chose to capture its physical quality instead in order to comply with my concept.

The spreading effect in each of the circles give a scary feel of something evil lurking in the darkness, or like many pairs of eyes in the darkness. Therefore I thought that this piece speaks terror in its simplest sense.

 

NERVOUSNESS ◊ COLONIAL JELLY/BIOLUMINESCENCE

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Comb jelly image from nationalgeographic.com
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Colonial jelly image from wired.com

One of the key features of animals that live in this layer of the ocean is bioluminescence. Remembering how I created a luminous effect using water in my earlier experiments, I decided to use the technique to try to create a bioluminescent effect, but just a subtle one so that the overall line would still look really dark. 

I did this by rolling a thick, even layer of block printing ink on the linoleum, and spraying water on the tile. Afterwards it was the typical process of laying a sheet of paper over and rolling it under the press. I do not have pictures of the process of making the final ones, but it is the same idea as earlier elaborated under the “Sorrow – Eel” line.

I likened the print to the emotion of nervousness, when your heart beats so fast and you do not know how to act such that it feels as if you are surrounded in darkness. I imagined that if I sank this deep into the ocean, I would feel so agitated and panicked to an extreme level until it becomes sort of a numb, nervous tingling that is visualised by the dim glow of bioluminescence.

 

DISTRESS ◊ OCEAN FLOOR

We have finally reached the ocean floor! Execution for this line was simple. I applied a thick layer of block printing ink on the linoleum, and rolled the hair roller on the mat, picking up traces of the ink. Afterwards, I laid over a sheet of cartridge and applied pressure using a roller. The result was a disturbing pattern of small swivels that feel almost distressing due to its disorderly manner. 

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The original result is of a darker black, the slightly warm colour seen here is because of the picture quality.

Reaching this layer of the ocean, there really is no more hope, no more light, no nothing. It is a very distressing situation, I feel, because you have absolutely no control, and this is one of the things that fear me the most. Other than the unpredictability, there is also no sense of safety at all, and while distress may not be a strong enough emotion to describe this feeling, I feel that it is an apt emotion to describe both the pattern and the feeling of frustration when you have finally reached a dead end.

 



◊ REFLECTION ◊

A few things I learned throughout this project are:

  • Line qualities and tonal qualities contribute a lot to the perception of emotion through sight. Thick or thin lines, neat or ragged, dark or light, all of these qualities affect the overall feeling of a line and pattern.
  • Limited materials do not mean limited artistic explorations. By choosing to restrict the materials I used to only bathroom objects, I pushed the boundaries of how these materials could be used, and learnt to improvise when needed be. This resulted in me finding new techniques that I never knew existed before. 
  • Inspiration can come from anywhere. 
  • Work faster to reflect the amount of thinking I have done.
  • Research more about artists and artworks relating to the project as more ideas may be able to be generated and developed from doing so.
  • Try out more materials and techniques, do not be afraid of failure.
  • DOCUMENT MY WORK

Overall, I find the journey to be quite fruitful in terms of figuring out my artistic direction and learning new things. I knew that I am someone who needs to think of something well before carrying it out, but the problem is that I take way too much time reconsidering things and pondering over ideas. This resulted in me not being able to produce enough materials to reflect the extent of my thinking processes. This has been a recurring habit since way back, and with the constant amount of projects, I hope that I will be able to change and work faster, slowly but surely (ha the irony). I think that if I can work faster, I would be presented with more opportunities to grow and develop my ideas, instead of letting the ideas simmer and just remain as they are. 

 

 

 

2D Project 1: My Line is Emo – Process

Okay, so since I’m not really used to blogging, I did not update anything about my work in progress for My Line is Emo. Mostly I chronicle my thoughts and ideas in small notepads that I have and later compile them into my visual journal, but I will only be including a few of the key pages here. One thing is that I did not take a lot of pictures. Only afterwards I realised that it wouldn’t be good for documentation purposes, I mean how do I expect others to visualise my thoughts?? And even when Joy kept on telling us to document everything. Sorry Joy. 

Nonetheless, this post will be an elaboration of my initial exploration, research, and thought processes over the past 5 weeks.  The execution of the final lines are elaborated here! And for a summary of everything and the final work, check here!


◊ THOUGHT PROCESSES ◊

In week 2, we were introduced to monoprinting. It was pretty cool because I have always wanted to do printmaking using linoleums and the such, but never got the chance to. At this point of time, I totally had no direction and was just trying out monoprinting itself. I brought a bunch of random stuff from my room that I thought would make an interesting mark.

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Left: Roller and block printing ink. Right: Me happily using the press.

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Bubble wrap.

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Hair roller print which looks like the sea bed.

20160818_145502 2016-08-25 123745 1Some kind of hay/rattan. Looks like underwater plants.

rsz_2016-09-11_080753_1Toothbrush print which reminds me of reeds or tall plants under the sea.

From all of the prints that I made, I saw that a lot of them reminded me of either under the sea or the ocean. I thought that it could be a possible theme. I also felt that the toothbrush made a really cool effect (the print reminded me of bushes under the sea). Suddenly, a connection was made in my head! Why don’t I make the ocean my theme and bathroom things as my material?

You might be having questions in your head. As a child, I have always associated the bathroom with the ocean. Playing with water or swimming in the bathtub, I would pretend that I was under the sea.

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While this experience is highly personal, I thought that the two are not too disparate for people to not be able to see even the slightest of connection. I was honestly quite baffled that some of my friends have never thought of connecting the bathroom to the ocean.

Anyways, I decided to pursue this theme and talked about it with Joy during our consultation on the third week. I did not have much to show her at this point of time. Long story short, I spent too much time thinking about how I should go about doing the prints/marks and did not produce actual results. The consultation did give me a clearer direction in terms of how I want to execute my ideas, though. I had materials down, so for the emotions part I instinctively thought of my trips to the S.E.A. Aquarium where I saw jellyfish and sea dragons. I thought they were magical, and they made me feel many different emotions at the same time.

IMG_9454JPG IMG_9529JPGIMG_9569JPG IMG_9678JPG From top left clockwise, tranquility, passion, peacefulness and excitement.

Joy suggested that in two panels, I could highlight micro (small) and macro (large) movements, using bathroom and ocean materials respectively. I thought that it was a really good idea. I could have an animal from the ocean represented in two adjacent lines using two different materials to express contrasting emotions. I consolidated this into a page in my journal:

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Now my next step would be to gather materials from the beach and do more prints. However, I did not manage to make prints  directly at the beach. I collected a few things to use for the next monoprinting session. Meanwhile, I also thought that I could use the lines to represent layers of the sea or different sea creatures.

In week 4, we had our group consultations. I shared about my ideas and problems to my classmates and Joy, and received feedback. Again, I did not produce enough results to reflect the extent of my thinking processes and ideas. This was one point that everyone felt I needed to improve on.

“Just do it” -Nike

HAHAHA more seriously though, my friends suggested that I should not limit myself in terms of materials. This came about as a response to me saying that there are some non-bathroom materials like bubble wrap and foam slices that produce really good textures that are reminiscent of the sea (octopus and fish skin respectively). Also, I did try using ocean materials like sea water, sand and crushed seashells, but none made any interesting prints. This made me reevaluate my choice of materials and feasibility. I felt that it was a good takeaway and told myself to really up my game this time.

That was what I thought UNTIL I fell into a pit of confusion when I proceeded to plan my next steps. Without the bathroom and ocean materials, what would the difference between the two boards be? How do I justify my techniques? What would be the link between the emotions, materials and theme? Should I scrap the two boards idea then? As you can see, I really do think quite a fair bit. I decided to try going with the bathroom and ocean materials anyways.

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I continued making prints from some other materials I found at the beach. It was frustrating because I did not seem to be making any decent prints from the ocean materials. It was then I finally scrapped the usage of ocean materials from my project, not only because I was not satisfied with the results, but also because of its impracticality. 

During the same session, I also played around with tap water, which I directly sprayed onto an ink-rolled linoleum tile. I really loved the results. (Sea water could achieve the same results, but they looked the same, and also I only had a limited supply of sea water)

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There is sort of an ethereal, glowing feel caused by the negative spaces and the diluted vs concentrated parts.

I could feel my mind spiralling in 10 000 directions so I forced myself to focus and decide on what I want to do. I finally decided to restrict myself to only using bathroom objects as materials in creating my lines. After all, I could use the same object in different ways to create different marks. This was when everything fell into place. 


◊ THEME AND LAYOUT ◊

I will elaborate on my theme and how I went about doing the layout and assigning of emotions in this section.

Okay, so at this point of time I knew that I would only be using bathroom materials. I could still have the two portrait A2 board layout, with micro and macro movements on each board, for example by using toothbrush for one line and a back scrub for the line on the other board (this was suggested by Joy during our first consultation). 

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However, I could also just have one portrait A1 board with 18 lines to separate the layers of the sea into. I felt that this was better as I could have more space to emphasise the depth of the sea. I thought that 9 layers were not enough to represent the sea in the correct proportion as shown in the diagram below. The journal page also shows my further research on the layers of the ocean and the sea creatures or plants that are found in each layer.  

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Layers of the Ocean from seasky.org

I then created another template which I used for the final work.  

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This is where I scribbled and planned the final layout, division of sea layers and also the sea creature, material and emotion associated. The deeper the ocean, the darker it becomes as less and less sunlight is available. I decided to visually show this by making my lines progressively darker from top to bottom. I also decided to include the horizon (sky and sea level). In accordance with this visual cue, I also arranged the primary emotions categories from positive to negative, with negative being the darkest. Every layer of primary emotion is representative of how I feel towards that part of the ocean.

I have sort of a love-hate relationship with the sea. To be honest, I am pretty scared of the sea. I dislike floating in the sea with my feet not touching the ground, especially if I look down and am unable to see anything. I am afraid of drowning, of unknown animals swimming around my feet (What if it’s a shark? A jellyfish? A crab? A MERMAID READY TO DRAG ME DOWN TO MY DEATH FOR HER AMUSEMENT???).

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But I like mermaids

Basically I do not like having my sight sort of taken away from me and having no control. However, I also love the ethereal quality of the sea. I love going to aquariums and watching magnificent sea creatures swim in all their glory. I love gazing at the sea from the shore and it makes me happy. As long as I am in no possible danger, I find that the sea is very calming and an out-of-this-world place (I love the mountains too though).

Therefore, I chose to arrange it in this manner from top to bottom. I imagined slowly sinking into the bottom of the sea.

Joy I feel happy and content when watching the horizon and the calming waves.
Love This part of the ocean is where I imagine most of the creatures I love to look at live.
Surprise Creatures that are rarely seen start to appear, and I imagine being surprised when I encounter them.
Sadness At this point of time I would start to feel lonely and gloomy due to the darkness.
Anger The sadness would morph into irritation because of my helplessness and inability to control the situation.
Fear When I am nearing the bottom, I would start to panic over how I unfamiliar my surroundings are and fear over the dark and the unknown.

From here, I created marks and cropped them accordingly, being mindful of the overall value of the strip so that with all 18 strips together, a gradation can be seen. I was also conscious in trying to express a certain primary emotion for each line, and only afterwards I assign a more specific emotion to the finished line.

For the execution of the final lines and the elaboration on technique, check it out on this separate post!


◊ REFERENCES ◊

I did not have any specific artist references for this project. Most of my inspiration came from my personal experiences and also my previous visits to the aquarium, and my general interest/fear of the sea. 

I did look at Rorschach for one of my lines, though.

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Image sources playbuzz.com and drawception,com

I felt that the action of folding a piece of paper into two, creating symmetrical patterns, is quite intriguing and has the potential to create interesting marks. I also felt that a widespread effect could also be achieved in order to mimic the physicality of a manta ray. All the other lines were purely experimental and explorational. 



The journey had not been a smooth one but I am glad that I pushed through! I am happy to say that I did work hard for this project and every line was a whole-hearted effort. I have not only picked up a new skill (monoprinting), but also learnt a few things here and there from feedback and from my classmates’ presentations! Thanks for reading! A fuller reflection is up on the execution of final lines post!

4D Project 1: Curating Self Research and Process

The camera may record accurately but it is people who choose what and how it records. Photography appears to offer truth when in reality it can portray any manipulative or suggestive statement. Photography is a powerful media tool capable of persuasion and propaganda. A photograph need only be sufficiently plausible so that it appears to offer the truth

 -(Galer, 2004)

Here are my initial exploration and research for the first 4D project, CURATING SELF. Check out the final work here


◊ TASK 1 ◊

Originally I was quite conflicted about how to go about doing the first task. I tend to think a lot so I made some mind maps to streamline some ideas of mine. 

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There were multiple ways to curate myself. Do I want to show the real me that nobody sees? Do I want to show the me that I want others to see? Do I want to show who I think I am? Do I want to show physical traits or my personality? After consultation with Lei, I finally had a focus to work on. She pointed out that a recurring theme was reflection, as seen from my explorations in my visual journal (pictures will be spread throughout this post). This means that in three pictures I could show a reflection of myself in others, a reflection of others in myself, and finally a reflection of my true self. These artists were part of my exploration for task 1. 

◊ NAN GOLDIN ◊

“Misty doing her make-up”, Paris 1991

Nan Goldin did not care about good photographs, what she wanted was complete honesty. Goldin has captivated me in her idea of capturing one’s essence and true self rather than a perceived personality. This particular photograph inspired me to play around with the idea of mirrors.

“Self-Portrait in my Blue Bathroom” Berlin, 1991

Mirrors have deep symbolic meaning. When they were first discovered, their uncanny ability to imitate reality propelled them to become a necessity as a means of personal assurance of oneself. Some meanings or symbols that mirrors could have/represent are:

  • Narcissism
  • Reflection of true self
  • Truth/Lie
  • Purity
  • Desire
  • Influence

After brainstorming, I find that one quality of mine could be well represented with mirrors. As a person I am able to influence others as well as I am easily influenced by others. This could be a illustrated as a reflection of myself in others and a reflection of others in me. My very first idea was to reflect my face in a mirror in a shot featuring a friend of mine. Here are some test shots. 

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In the end, I managed to find the right angle to hold the mirror such that my arm would not be distracting. I held the mirror above the frame of the picture.

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◊ CINDY SHERMAN ◊

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Cindy Sherman’s photographs feature herself in many different characters and settings. I personally like her untitled film stills as there is a wide range of characters that she was able to portray through costume, props and setting. Her framing techniques also invoke a sense of presence of other characters out of the frame, even though she is usually alone in the photograph.

I tried to evoke the same feeling of presence of other characters in the room although I did not include them in the shot. In reality I was alone in the room. Through these photos I was trying to portray myself as an affable person. I tried both high and low angle too to portray myself as down-to-earth/dominant. In the end I did not use any pictures based on Sherman’s photographs.

◊ IRVING PENN ◊ CHRIS BUCK ◊

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Irving Penn interests me as he could clearly show his subjects at a very vulnerable stance, as he catches them off-guard in his photos. I thought that through capturing myself unaware of the camera shooting, in a sense, could show a hint of the real me, and not posing for the camera. 

Chris Buck’s self portraits are amusing at first glance. He photographs a miniature plastic version of himself with objects or in settings like the dentist. I interpreted this as him showing how small he feels when confronted with these objects or subjected to these situations. He could be facing alcoholism, and feels intimidated by the problem. He could also be scared of performing in front of an audience, hence the trumpet. The dentist scene should be self explanatory by now. Through this, I thought of how I could also define myself through my fears or imperfections. 

In the end, I also did not use these as my references.

◊ METRA BRUNO AND LAURENCE JEANSON ◊

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Metra Bruno and Laurence Jeanson’s “Identity Project” shows clearly the juxtaposition of everyday humans and the images imposed to us through advertisements and media. I thought that the method creates visually striking images and could also show how there are parts of myself that are not me or are obtained from other people through influence. In the above page I used cutouts from magazines. Below, I decided to use facial features from my friends to show how I am influenced by them.

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The mouth represents how the way I speak is usually influenced by the people I spend my time with. I pick up accents and slangs from many of my friends. The eye represents how I am able to see from that person’s point of view after spending my time with them and talking to them. It looks a little bit unnatural as sometimes these influences are not lasting and are sometimes not my true self, however I am usually comfortable with it, hence in the final photo I am seen to have a smiling face. (Final photo in final work post!!)

Here is a behind the scene shot of the setup outside my room.

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Here are some other shots that I experimented on, but did not use in the end.

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From top left clockwise, shots of the youth mark on my left shoulder, more shots of the youth mark showing how I used to not be confident of it, shots of various physical appearances that are representative of me, scrapped idea of tears on acrylic sheets, battle scars, snapshots of self portrait gifs, cling wrap exploration showing stress.

Another scrapped idea is of me surrounded by clouds in a deliberate studio setting. 

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◊ TASK 2 ◊

I was much more certain about task 2 in terms of what I wanted to portray. I knew that the object would have to be my crochet needle and yarn, which I take as one object, as they come as a set for me. They were a huge part of my life in 2015 because crochet was my medium for my A Level final work. I distinctly remember spending all the time crocheting: while I walk, in class, in the bus, before sleep. It was a newly acquired skill and I was struggling a little bit with it at first, but eventually I grew to love it, and it also helped me come to terms and cope with some family medical problems.

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Originally I wanted to show how much time I spent crocheting by photographing me crocheting in various places and situations. However, I decided to show the transition between hating to loving the art instead. (Final photos here!!!) Here are some behind the scenes photos of the shoot.

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From left to right: Set-up for the top down shoot, backdrop set-up featuring my curtains, close-up of crochet backdrop.

I went back to my JC to get Metastasis, my final work for A Levels. I took the pieces and pinned them up on the curtain. Originally it was supposed to be on the floor and shot from a higher ground, i.e. the second floor. However, as my friend could not make it to help me at the last minute, I decided to make do with the curtain. I call the backdrop Metastasis 2.0, and it is still up there because I am too lazy to take it down HAHA

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The original “Metastasis”, 2015

◊ TASK 3 ◊

Like task 2, I was clearer in terms of direction. Obviously, I cannot take photographs of my house or other significant places back in my home country, Indonesia. Instinctively I thought of the hostels that I had stayed in as significant places in my life in Singapore thus far. I have always identified myself through the school/institution I was studying in at that moment of time. The hostels that I stay in are my temporary homes in Singapore, and I do everything in my hostels. This is what made me want to feature my hostels in Singapore for this task.

Lei advised me to have a common visual or concept behind the photographs in this series, for example doors. At first I wanted to do corridors or my room doors, but I realised that I am no longer able to access my previous rooms in the hostels. Also, I only had time to do the shoot at night, so I was a bit worried about getting decent pictures, and also about the overall concept.

The shoot itself became quite meaningful to me as it was the first time I went to visit some of these places in a long time. From NTU, I traveled to Changi, and then Dunman High School Hostel (Junior College period) in Mountbatten, Anderson Junior College Hostel (Secondary school period) in Ang Mo Kio, and finally back to Hall 2 in NTU. I wanted to go to Parry Hall in Kovan too, as it was my first ever home in Singapore (even though I only stayed there for two months), but could not find the time to. At Dunman, I got to chat with the security uncle and auntie whom I grew close to during my stay there. It was a very heartwarming feeling as I have not seen them in a long time. I did not know anyone who was still staying in AJCH, so it felt quite alienating as I did not even have the authority to go into my “home” anymore. However, in all cases, there was a common feeling of warmth that a home gives. This is what I tried to show in the end. The buildings that I show in the photographs are the first landmarks I see on my way home that really tells me that “I am home”. Like a lighthouse, these landmarks draw me back and show the way home for me, as usually I would arrive back at the hostel at night. Usually tired from school, these landmarks are the bright, warm indications that I am finally “home”, where I can rest, even if it’s a temporary home.

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I tried documenting my journey home to Dunman High School Hostel.

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From left to right: Inside the security guardhouse where I chatted with the security uncle and auntie who were like my grandparents, the guardhouse as seen on my way back.

I decided that the landmark to photograph would be the guardhouse, as it not only gave me a sense of security, but I always feel welcomed when I get back to the hostel. This trip to Dunman was the point that inspired me to portray these landmarks in my hostels as the light in the dark. 

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This was also a consideration for the visuals that I wanted to portray: Behind the fences, these previous “homes” are no longer accessible to me, and I am no longer welcomed. However, this could only be applied to Dunman High School Hostel and Anderson Junior College Hostel. Hence I did not use this idea.

I also wanted to include Changi Airport as the start and end of the series, but decided not to in the end because the pictures were too different from the rest of the photographs that I decided to use in this task.

In terms of technique, I had to take many shots to finally get the effect that I wanted. I did this by adjusting the ISO and the shutter speed settings, to mimic the dramatic lighting that Cindy Sherman employs in her photographs. Sadly, I forgot to document what the settings I used were.

Check out the final selection here!!



While this project was a fun one, I did face a lot of stress in terms of time management and focusing on an idea to be built upon. I will need to be clearer in my decision making in the future.

There was a lack of visual continuity in the first and second task. Compared to the strong visual connection in the third task, task 1 looks like they were three random pictures put together. 

I also feel like I did not experiment enough on vantage point, although I did explore on framing techniques and angles (high, low, dutch tilt). I was too focused on the concept and did not give enough attention as to how I should produce the photographs. This is a learning point for upcoming projects.

Overall, I am glad to say that I have finished Project 1, and that I have rediscovered my identity and existence in Singapore, all the while learning how to use the camera again. Time for the next project! (dies)

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