4D project 1: Image and Meaning

Hello! I realise I have no updates for 4D at all (since Joel didn’t require us to upload anything to OSS so far) so here’s just some stuff for personal record :)

For project 1, we had to create 3 original digital artworks based on the theme Strange New World. By manipulating visual images, three artworks containing landscape, figure and object (one each) have to be created, be it by addition, subtraction, and/or substitution.

For this project, I started out having two very vivid images of people standing on lamp posts as well as people squatting on lily pads intently gazing at something. These images were just random, but when I started to properly brainstorm for an overarching theme for my works, these images somehow fitted seamlessly with what I had in mind, which was an exploration of human traits that corrupt and dictate our actions.

Our Puppeteers

This work endeavours to explore the human condition. Man, by nature, is inherently self-interested. We have never been spared the company of our puppeteers – our greed, ignorance, and vanity – who subconsciously dictate our actions, permeate our thoughts, and blind our visions. All around us, we see a parasitical manifestation of egotism. In midst of our furious pursuit to feed our already inflated sense of self, we ironically become more and more detached with ourselves. At the end of the day, behind all that grandiose façade, do we know who we truly are? Do we dare to bare our soul to ourselves? Greed, ignorance, and vanity – to which do we own our conscience?


  • Lampposts: a phantom of knowledge, a feeble imitation of knowledge
  • Men on lampposts: people blinded by ignorance. Pompously put themselves on a pedestal, in a bid to lead others, and people actually follow
  • People on the road: Wandering, lost, lured and misled by those on lampposts. They are trying to assert their importance, but have yet find a foothold, i.e. they are finding their own lamp posts, meanwhile they look up to those who are standing on the lamp posts, believing them to be wise and knowledgeable
  • Switch on lampposts: symbolise that the pretence of raising yourself up to a status higher than you deserve is fundamentally voluntary and intentional
  • Fallen lamp and Orange man: switch of lamp is turned off. One can only realise one’s shortcoming by introspection – it is not something that external forces can achieve. Hence, the switch is turned off by the ones who finally acknowledge their flaws
  • Illuminated glow of orange man, he leaves the lamp and heads towards the moon: the light from the lamp posts blinded those who stood on it. Only when one admits to oneself his/her deficiency and is eager to change, can he regain his vision. Then, he would have realise that the moon was there all along. This is an allusion to Plato’s cave. Instead of the Sun, the moonlight – juxtapose against the artificial lamp light – represents knowledge and wisdom.
  • Thus begin the journey towards the moon
  • Use of Gollum in substitute of all people’s faces:
    • Blanket use of Gollum in substitute of everyone’s faces symbolises the loss of individuality as everyone is trapped in the blind chase for wealth
    • Gollum’s significance in LOTR: Gollum was obsessed over the One Ring and was corrupted under its influence – greed has no end
    • The ring became his sole purpose of living, analogous to how people are obsessed with earning money in their lives.
    • The destiny of Gollum foreshadows the consequence of being too greedy
    • Also symbolises how pointless the pursuit is – you accumulate wealth, but it means nothing once you depart from this world
  • Gold that drop out of the basket became rocks, in actual fact the rocks are illuminated by the firefly, thus giving rise to the appearance of gold – reiterates the previous point, that money by itself has no intrinsic value
  • Frogs:
    • Nonchalant to the gold and the firefly
    • What I hoped to convey here is that money is pretty much a social construct, reiterates the point that it has no intrinsic value. We go head over heels for money, yet it holds no significance for the frogs
    • Ignores the firefly: because fireflies are toxic to frogs – symbolises that the firefly and the gold that is carrying is corrupting and essentially a poison to the human soul
    • Floating in the air: humans are weighed down by their greed, whereas the frogs are unbounded
    • Traditionally, frogs are associated with the water element and its cleansing attributes. Its symbolisms include: spiritual cleansing and ancient wisdom, essentially what the people on the lily pads lack. Use of frogs provide a contrast against the humans.
  • Quite straightforward
  • Skeletons, but their reflections in the mirror are beautiful: beauty and physical appearance is a very superficial concept. Being preoccupied with physical appearance means nothing if you don’t enrich yourself spiritually and intellectually
  • Mirror: symbolises self-perception and fantasy
    • Difference in colour: the actual palette is desaturated, while the mirror image is flushed with vivid colours– expectations vs reality
    • Objects appear superior and more ideal in the reflections, do not reflect reality, but an impression of our desires
  • Make up brushes at the side are demonized and appear threatening.
  • Use of poisonous insects and animals: alludes to the malignant nature of the beauty industry, the menace of the insects and animals also suggests that giving up the brush (in other words, stop being obsessed over physical appearance) is forbidden once you picked it up = there is no way out


  • Definitely technical problems. Being unfamiliar with photoshop (because I use AI more), I can’t get the effect I wanted in my mind
  • Also, I was limited by the images I can find online (e.g. when I want to find a particular posture/particular angle of a scene but there just isn’t any)
  • Perspective gave me many problems
  • Gollum faces could have been better imposed on the people,
  • Harmonizing the colours (especially for greed!) and having a unifying theme throughout all three images

These 3 artworks are arranged in sequence of its creation, which explains why the first looks so much more amateurish than the last.


Overall, I really enjoyed the process of creation in this project: you start with a vague idea and walk the journey with it, curiously observing how your idea develops and how inspirations jump at you at the most unexpected moments. In aspects of semiotics, it was interesting to actually seriously consider why you use a certain element; what does it represent in this context; how can I use a certain symbol to my advantage; and how does the symbols changes the interpretation of my work. As a non-frequent user of digital media, working with digital images was a fresh experience – there are a lot of things that can be manipulated in digital media but not in traditional. For example, I can be a lot more adventurous in digital media because the actions are reversible, and thus I am empowered to be vastly more experimental :)