What is an emotion and why do we feel things? Why do our memories evoke such strong sensations within us? Emotions to me is a wonderful part of our world. They add to our experiences in an indescribable way. Without emotions our experiences would not even be significant to us no? Here I created 6 panels, each tied to a different emotion and all 6 together tells a story, a story about my days after NS right before entering uni. And now I will tell a story about how these 6 panels came to be.
Prologue: The Planning
After week 3 I took a step back and reevaluated all the different techniques I have used and the patterns I have created. As suggested by Prof. Joy, I listed down all the different formal qualities for each piece and tried to link an emotion from there.
After taking a step back, I managed to pick out the patterns and techniques that I knew I wanted to use for sure. And these patterns more or less already had an emotion tied to them. Some of them would be
This pattern that resulted from folding ink on glue I felt clearly represented despair. The lines flowing down that are reminiscent of rain gives a very melancholic air
This pattern was somehow reminded me of bubbles. Mainly due to how lighter shades are encapsulated by thick outlines. This I felt could easily represent any sort of feeling that rises from the stomach like bubbles. But here I chose to use it to represent anxiousness due to the sharp lines that explode from the center.
Drip painting has always been to me very fun to do and the strong playful lines always represents something joyous. So here, I knew that I was going to use it to represent excitement.
Automatic writing I was sure I was going to use as it was a technique close to me. I use it to reflect on my thoughts and it calms me. And in a way I thought it was my own unique pattern. My handwriting had become so atrocious that it has become its own beautiful pattern and now I am able to use it for a university level project? How could I ever pass this chance up? This I tied to the emotion of being pensive. Simply because the words that are actually scribbles represents my thoughts and how I make sense of them.
For mono printing, I wanted to include specifically this image as it invoked within me instantly the feeling of longing. This I felt was because the image looked ghostly due to the fading lines. It looked like an image from the past and that’s what I felt longing was. Always looking at the past, but at a distorted image, one faded and worn by time.
Besides the patterns already linked strongly with an emotion. I also picked out the patterns and techniques I knew I could use on the side and combine them with other patterns to create something complex. These were ones that would fir suitable as the background or foreground.
As you can see, I tried to incorporate as many different techniques as possible because I thought that emotions can sometimes be very similar, but at other times they are also vastly different from each other. So naturally I should respect that difference by trying my best to represent them using different techniques.
I also wanted to show comparison between working within the confines of the panel VS working on a large piece and cropping it out. This I feel represented the traits of emotions. That is how some emotions overwhelm you and how some emotions are contained.
Lastly,I also wanted to play comparing between using either one technique for an emotion or using multiple different techniques to represent an emotion. After seeing the movie inside out a year ago and looking at this table
I realised that some emotions can be complex one comprising of more basic emotions. I can try to represent this in my final work by varying the complexity of the patterns created and the number of techniques used to represent an emotion. This way I can play with comparisons between basic and complex emotions and I could also play with repeating motifs to show how some emotions are similar.
Now with all this in mind, after picking out which patterns and techniques I was adamant about using. I realised I practically have 5 emotions down. Despair, Anxiousness, Longing, Pensive and Excitement. With these 5 emotions I could fill in the gaps and create my story. And here was when I decided to use my post-NS story to be the overarching theme as the emotions coincidentally matched that. It just needed the cherry on top which was the final emotion and I decided to go with Hope. The first 3 emotions were rather negative. Pensive was a neutral state and excitement was leaning towards happy and thus I chose hope to be the other extreme to contrast with despair.
With my six emotions down, I immediately penned down which combinations and techniques I should use. And from here I was ready to make my 6 panels.
THE START: CREATION
For despair I decided to use the ink on glue technique to create a marble like effect. Originally, this was what it looked like.
As you can see the marbling was more apparent and at the same time it was considerably “pretty” with the whiplash lines and the curves. This was because in a way I thought despair was pretty as it form who we are. It forces us to reflect and rebuild ourselves anew.Also, ironically I decided to work within the confines of the panel. This was because firstly , the glue would take a long time to dry and the glue would create a sticky like texture which would make it difficult to cut and secondly, I wanted to show how despair in my opinion looks like it is overflowing and that it is consuming you, but in actuality it can always be contained. However, after it dried it started to look a lot different. And this was intentional. I knew that the pattern would change and this was representational of how despair was sometimes out of your control.And on top of that, an accident happened while I was creating this panel that caused the paper to tear.
I decided to still use this panel for my final piece due to multiple reasons. Firstly I thought that it still looked aesthetically pleasing. Secondly, the accident that happened was out of my control and once again, despair in my opinion was just that. Despair sometimes is out of our control. And lastly, when I saw what had happened to my panel, for a brief moment I experienced true despair(until of course I realised that the panel suddenly was a personification of despair in every sense). Thus in totality, it still was very much apt for the emotion I was trying to convey. The tears in the paper created white negative space. After the glue had relatively dried and the pattern had changed, there was lesser white spaces in the panel. I wanted to show pockets of negative space however, because I wanted to show that no matter what , despair doesn’t consume all of you. There will always be pockets of hope and light.
After NS ended, unlike most people, I felt sad. I had really enjoyed myself during NS. I loved the friends I made and for the first time I felt like I had all the free time in the world to do what I enjoy. When NS ended however, suddenly I was stumped. I didn’t have direction and to make things worse, the friends that I had oh so held dear started to drift apart. I felt truly alone. It was as if I had been walking on a simple straight path and then suddenly there was a forest in front of me. I felt lost, and I fell into despair.
For anxiousness I decided to use both the blowing ink technique and the ink bubbles because anxiousness to me felt like that. It feels like numerous tiny small bubbles rising from the pits of your stomach, making you feel uncomfortable and strange. Mix that with a little bit of panic and fear and worry and you get anxiousness. Hence why I decided to use patterns that look like bubbles and literal bubbles to create anxiousness.
For the blowing ink technique, besides the fast rapid breaths I decided to use the calm slow breaths too, which created the darker more solid splotches of ink. I decided to include this to show panic and worry. To me when I am anxiousness, no matter how hard I try to calm myself, I always end up feeling more panicked.
Lastly the splattering and popping of ink bubbles created small dots of black on the paper. Besides the using of literal bubbles to show that bubbly feeling, the dots too represented fear.
Here I had also worked with a larger piece of paper and cropped out the part I needed. This was suitable for anxiousness as I feel that anxious thoughts can never be truly contained or suppressed. Anxious thoughts always pop out of nowhere. It is as if they know when you are weak or when exactly it is you let your guard down.
After feeling despair. I started to worry. And that worry grew into fear. I did’t know what to expect for my time to come in NTU. Will I be able to make friends? What if these relationships become short and fleeting? Will I be able to survive the rigorous education system? What if I get kicked out? Me feeling alone at that time also only fed to these thoughts. Fear and worry had mixed with panic. I was feeling anxious for my time in university.
For longing I decided to use mono print to create 2 different patterns on the same panel. First, I used mono print to create the distorted image of the flower.
I had actually wanted to create something more similar to this, however no matter how many times I tried to recreate this, It just wasn’t meant to be. The image didn’t want to imprint itself at all and the flower was too unrecognisable.
At my wits end, I decided to cheat a little and accentuate the shape of the white flower with white acrylic, just enough so that it is sightly recognisable as a flower but still very much ghostly an vague.
The next pattern I decided to use was the frame within a frame effect. This was to give the illusion of depth within the panel. The overall effect was a ghostly white flower within a shattered mirror.
As days grew into months, I started to long for the simple life I had during NS. The work was simple, the hours were good, the company was great and I still had tons of free time to myself. What more could I ask for. Now I had no direction and the looming forest of doubt only served to cloud my judgment. I started to wish for that time again. I started to long for the past.When we look to the past and longed for it, we are never looking at the same thing. But when we long for the past, our memories has been warped by our bias and desperation. We are merely looking at the ghost of the past.
For pensive I decided to use the automatic writing as that was what I did when my head was overrun and clouded. First, I used the tissue and ink technique to create the background which represented the dark clouded mind. Next I used the thin brush to do automatic writing and then layered it again with the Maru fountain pen writing.
Yes, initially, I thought this would have been far too messy for my liking. This time however, I diluted the ink a little when using the thin brush so that the first layer of automatic writing is only barely visible. The different layers of fake calligraphy was meant to show how our thoughts are layers and layers that build up on one another.
Whenever I am depressed and thoughts overrun me, I give up on trying to suppress them. Instead when I am laying on my bed, I let them overrun me. I let my brain run wild, let those thoughts flow and eventually my brain will tire itself out. After, when things are a little calmer, i would take a pen and write those thoughts down. Once again, the thoughts will come overflowing. Eventually, my brain will run faster than me hand could write and my handwriting will eventually transform itself into scribbles. Now it is not the writing that becomes my form of meditation, it was the act of writing itself. This was my catharsis and this is what I did to get myself on track. I refused to stay depressed any longer.
Excitement was pretty easy to do. I imitated Jackson Pollock’s method of drip painting to create energetic lines and curves. I dripped Gouche paint straight from the bottle it came out from. The resulting lines seemed to embody the amount of energy I used to create them. This however, I felt, was not enough as there was too much negative space in the panel. To fill it out more, I used the bubble technique to create dots and splatters of ink.
Like anxiousness, I feel that excitement has similar roots. But instead of a negative connotation, it has a positive on, and this was shown through curves that gave the illusion of an upwards direction for to me, excitement is always uplifting.
For this piece I also had worked on a larger piece of paper and cropped the part that I thought showed excitement best. This was apt for excitement, as excitement can never be contained no?
After calming myself down and letting my thoughts flow and talking to the friends I still had, I started to feel a little bit lighter. I was still anxious and afraid of whats to come. But the thoughts are now different. Will I be able to make friends? God I hope I can find people I can relate to. Will I be able to cope with the work load? I hope I will be able to work hard and score well. Now, there was excitement mixed into all the darkness and suddenly it wasn’t so dark anymore.
Hope was very simple to make. Here I used a tissue and white acrylic to dab white splotches onto black paper. I ensured that the splotches were thin and light so that I could create a vague spiral pattern. Simple is it not? That was intentional as to me hope was a simple pure emotion. Hope is hope, just that.If you look closely, technically, there is a lot more black negative space then there is white positive space created from the acrylic. Yet, what attracts your attention isn’t the black background, but the small dots of white. This is apt for hope no? In a see of darkness, but that one spot of white can pull you through even the most horrible of times.
Here I have also decided to work within the confines of the panel as to me, like despair, hope doesn’t overwhelm us. It as calming small white light that gets us through. It doesn’t make the darkness disappear. When we find hope, we are still at that point in a horrible situation, the darkness is still there, but that white light gives us the strength to walk through this darkness. And that to me, is hope.
As I continued to reflect, slowly the dark thoughts started to go lighter. They weren’t as frequent anymore. And thoughts about the future started to fill in the gaps. A smile started to form on my lips. I was hopeful of what is to come.
CLIMAX : THE CRITIQUE AND COMPARISON
During the critique, instead of putting the mounting boards one on top of the other, I decided to place them side by side. This was deliberate as I had carefully arranged the panels such that when placed side by side, you are able to compare the panels as pairs.
This was because there are elements within each pair that you are suppose to compare.
- Despair & Penssive
First would be these two. Here I wanted to compare between patterns that were created through methods that you cannot control. For despair,I had no idea ow the ink would be like once the clue had dried. Even the slightest shift in temperature and convection currents would have changed the resulting pattern. For automatic writing, you have a little bit more control, but eventually as your hand and your brain becomes separate entities, your control starts to dissipate. But even then, the resulting patterns are very different. for despair, there is barely any line or form and the resulting pattern is form through gradient changes in the blackness. For Pensive you start to see structure. And that was what I wanted viewers to see, the polarity between the chaos born from despair without any form or line, just a muddle of different blacks VS the structure that comes with pensive thought.
- Anxiousness & Excitement
For these two emotions I wanted viewers to see the repeating motifs between the two, that is the black ink splatters created by popping ink bubbles. Firstly this was to show how for both emotions, to me, the rise form within you like bubbles. Secondly I wanted to show how anxiousness and excitement were both complex emotions born from a common constituent emotion and that emotion, is fear. For anxiousness, we are always afraid. And this fear is mixed with other negative emotions like worry which gives rise to an overall negative emotion as a whole. For excitement, we feel that thrill, because a part of us is afraid of what is to come and it naturally reacts to that fear through that thrill. The fear is still present except it is mixed with a positive emotion like joy and thus an overall positive emotion is born. Two similar emotions in terms of its basic element,yet so very very different. This was what I wanted to show through the comparison between the two.
- Longing & Hope
Here firstly I wanted to show depth vs height. For Longing I had created a frame within a frame. This was to show how being too hung up about the past brings you down, it puts you into a hole of your own creation. For hope, I tried to create height without making the panel explicitly 3D, by using a black cardboard as the panel this made the Hope panel much thicker than the rest and thus the added height. Also, I made is such that for hope, the pattern resembles the starry night sky, thus it makes it seem like the viewer is starring upwards for that is what hope does, it pulls you up. I also wanted to show complexity vs simplicity. To me negative emotions such as longing are complex with many different constituent emotions muddled together and that is why we feel pressured and lost. Thus i used many different techniques together in one panel. Monoprinting, frame within a frame, background and foreground. Visually, you also see a lot going on. The ghostly image of the acrylic flower, the frame, the background, what seems like shattered glass. As compared to positive emotions hope they are very simply. It was simply dabbed white acrylic.
- Comments and Critique
Comments from my friends and the tutors were pretty much positive and I myself am very proud of what I had made. As prof.Joy had pointed out I think what pulled me through was repeatedly experimenting with different techniques and remembering to take step back and curating on the work I have just done.
As with everything, there is always something I could improve on. Here it was time management. For the bulk of one week, i was pretty much lost and confused as I had no direction and simply kept on experimenting with different mediums. Had I not taken a step back sooner, I would not have been able to finish on time. And that rush to get things done showed. The Hope panel had fraying edges due to clumsy cutting and the mounting was also done in a hurry and you can see glue stains outside the panel. I should have paid greater attention to my craftsmanship in the flurry and desperation to get things done.
But of course at the end of it all, I think this project was highly insightful in the world of abstract art. It was interesting to try express emotions through mark making and it was definitely a challenge to express them in the purest form. What I found most challenging was not using colour. To me, to express positive emotions such as joy, you need something bright to bring that across. I was stumped when it came to more positive emotions. But in the end I tried to show that positivity through energetic strokes as seen in the Excitement panel. I am definitely looking forward to the projects to come and I can only hope Ill be able to do better.
Thank you and have a nice day !