Category Archives: Personal Works

Emerge, the artist that resides inside…

For a while I have been dying to get back to exhibiting my artworks and express and share my views of the world in the hope that they would inspire people to pursue their passion and share their own God given talents that reside deep within them with the world. That was an opportunity I was presented with in the past month.


I went out on a whim to submit my works to a small obscure gallery in Chicago (mind you when I say small, I do mean REALLY REALLY small) through a website I did not even know existed. Going in with no expectations, I received an email later saying that I got the chance to exhibit all the works I had submitted. Granted it may not have been a big exhibition with many applicants, it was still an opportunity that I could not turn down. But  that was only the beginning. I had no idea how much work was to come.

This time, I was out there by myself, with no help from my teachers, advisors and art mentors. I realized at that moment, as I sat alone on the third floor of my university’s physics building that I had so much on my plate – a unexpected exhibition, an upcoming exam and countless lectures and recitations to attend. But at that moment, I felt the thrill and excitement that I have not felt in the past few years. The feeling of the exhibition. The feeling of the opportunity for the world to hear my voice. The feeling of making art.

Now I had to settle many things – logistics, getting from the small town of West Lafayette to Chicago, printing, all those works, presentation, framed and ready for the exhibition. I thought that after my exams I would be done and could finally relax and get in the “Spring Break zone”, but in that moment I found myself running back and forth between buildings, finding the best way to print my artworks that could do them justice. I found myself grappling with issues of artistic integrity, questioning if one small change could make or break my work. Was the paper colour right? Were the colours vibrant enough? Would framing these artworks make them loose their initial concepts? Questions that I have not surfaced over the past three years that I have been in artistic hibernation.  I would run between printers, making initial prints of my photographs, only to find flaws hours after the printers closed. I asked myself it was even worth it, spending so much on an exhibition so small. There was no one night in that week that I slept more than 5 hours, having no personal studio space to finish my works and no one free enough to help me get the materials I needed, let alone time for a breather after the exam.  But the worst thing was that there was no ride to Chicago. It was way beyond stressful.

At many moments during the week I found myself questioning if the entire thing was worth my time and money. Was it that important to me? I ask my closest friends these questions, and I received mixed answers. Even as debated whether I should do it, I continued to go about seeing how they would turn out. I still went to the printers countless times after making minor edits in the photographs and digital works to get it just right. Once again, the attention to detail was something that I had not done to such get an extent for the past 3 years. Yes, I paid attention to any visual detail I came across. Yes, things that would otherwise not catch other people’s eyes would draw my attention. Yes, I spent a lot of time observing small changes in my surroundings. But never was it a situation where insensitivity toward contrast and colour could change an entire audience’s perception of the piece. Even though your image may look perfect on screen, the various printers also have different effects on the image, making them a tad darker or lighter than you intended it to be. This was yet another element that I had to tackle.

So many things to do, so little time…

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On the one hand, I got more and more tired. On the other, I saw my time and effort pay off, whether my works got to be in the public eye or not. Slowly but surely, every thing came together by grace. I have to thank my friend, Charlene, for getting me all the way to The Windy City and standing all the crap I gave in the car and during the time we spent in Chicago. Also many thanks to all my friends and academic advisors, that although they may not have known much about art apart for their love for the aesthetics, who have either supported me or gave me some advise on printers.

At the end of the day, the lessons and payoffs have been priceless. It has not been easy going about art, especially in a university with a dearth of artistic resources. But through perseverance as well as love for art, I learned to make things work and make ends meet. In the process of completing my works, I revived the feeling of what it meant to live and breathe art. The sensitivity towards colour, contrast, lighting, presentation, etc. all became priorities again. A small crease, if not intended became as obvious as a blotch of ink on white sheets. I also came to realised the price of making art. Not only the price to a buyer but the work’s worth to me. Not only was it time consuming, but the cost of printing and getting the desired materials and the costs of transportation blew a gaping hole in my wallet.

However, experience IS priceless…

Do come down if you are around the area!!! Opening night is Friday, 18 March 2016, 6pm – 10pm!!! If not for the modernity of my art, come to admire the beautiful fluidity of the countless watercolours and painstakingly detailed etched pieces of the masters of these long lost techniques.

Gallery Information:
Morpho Gallery
5216 North Damen Ave
Chicago Ill 60625
Morpho Gallery Website


Work-in-progress: memorandum.

memorandum.“We are the sum total of our experiences….” – B.J. Neblett

A little work-in-progress dedicated to all the irreplaceable people in my life, whether they crept in, dug a hole into me or clung on to me.

Memorandum – “something to be brought to mind”

This piece is made up of the people who have influenced me as well as all the things that, I believe, have made me who I am today. Each “item” that fills up the word “memorandum” holds a special meaning to me, whether it be my parents or grandparents, or high school friends, or those that I have just made in college. All these “items” have made my life what it is today, and made me who I am. All these people, likes and dislikes, travels, etc. have imprinted themselves in my memories have been created in their wake and no matter whether they be good or bad, positive or negative. No matter how long it may be, I know that in my mind, they exist and during brief flashes, they will be bought to the forefront of my mind’s eye.

The inspiration for this piece came to me as I made my transition from military life into college. When I reflected on all the things that have past, I realized that there were so many things that I am grateful for that have put me in the position that I am in today. No, it may not be the perfect position to be in, or were they necessarily only good memories, but they were my experiences nonetheless and on hindsight, they were perfect. As soon as I touched down in Singapore, so many things (memories, people, food, etc.) came rushing back to me. Every place that I revisited was cast in a new light, and I started having flashbacks of who I was with and what kind of experiences we had there. The beach, the canal, my old high school campus, my new high school campus, the hobby shops, McDonald’s, KFC, places too numerous to count. However, it is not limited to the physically places or things, even songs and scent have memories that cling on to them. No matter how hard I try to override those memories, they will come back to me at one point or another and when they do, they hit me like a tidal wave. You may call me sentimental, but this is who I am.

As seen from the work, the word “memorandum.” is filled with all that I have mentioned – people, experiences, countries travelled, food, things that I love. But as you step back, the word fades out, getting lighter and lighter, reflecting our flaw in remembering even the things we hold most dear to our hearts. However, in those brief flashes where place or face acts as a catalyst, you have a phase of introspection where you delve deep into your memory. It may be a forgotten birthday, a forgotten friend, a place long forgotten, but they will suddenly become as clear as day, each and every thing printed out clearly before you.

memorandum. will forever be a work-in-progress. As time passes, more things will be added to the grey cells of my mind and changing who I am. As Heraclitus said, “The only thing that is constant in change.” As my experiences pile on and the people who influence me increase, so will I, and so will this piece.

memorandum. was to be displayed as an A0 “print out” on one of two possible options – on acrylic or on card with spotlights directly on the word. If card were used, color of the card would be a similar color to the wall and if acrylic, the words would be embossed or laser carved such that the light would create a shadow of each word on the wall behind.

In memories…

Cardboard Carpentry

An interlude to all my history of art, I bring to you Cardboard Carpentry. Inspired by my travels to清境 (pronounced qing1 jingo), Taiwan, I have attempted to take cardboard to another level but try to make it into furniture like those I have seen in the Carton King. These pieces are works-in-progress and are far from completion. Whatever you see below has been made purely from “recycled” cardboard boxes of televisions, washing machines, etc.



Rather simple – to find other uses for cardboard beyond the circular process of making more boxes or for purely aesthetic ones such a scrapbooking or mounting images on a surface.  As mentioned earlier, the tables, chairs, bags, games, etc from Carton King, 清境 got me thinking about the potential for the material. It is almost an everyday material – your bulky packages arrive in them and electronics are encased in huge ones amongst so many other things. I am not saying that we do not recycle them enough or more efficiently than when I create them, but rather I hope that this is an alternative that could get others going on the potential of it.

I wanted to stretch the material even further and try experimenting for myself with it. I asked myself if  someone else could do all that with the help of machinery, could I do it without, and if so, what would I make and how would I make it? As I mentioned in the post, 清境, I highly doubt that the cardboard used at Carton King came from recycled boxes simply do to the sheer volume of cardboard necessary to make all the goods for sale. In addition, the process of making all these goods are not only labor intensive, but also demand clean, unadulterated cardboard for a sellable finish.


At its most basic form, it is essentially paper (or most times recycled paper) that has been treated to withstand handling, wear and tear, etc. Some have been treated to the extent that they are waterproof on the surface or reinforced with strong adhesives and numerous layers. The standard cardboard will have a corrugated “core” that enhances it’s strength, yet allows it to maintain a relatively light mass so that it does not add unnecessary weight in addition to the object that it contains.

As can be seen in the image on the right, the corrugation is triangular in fashion, in order to give it some strength and durability. However, more often than not cardboard will end up creased along the hollow areas if bent or folded parallel to the corrugation due to handling and it is difficult to find cardboard surfaces that are not tainted by these crease marks. It is almost impossible to obtain a clean finish if one uses cardboard as the main material of a structure. Pressure on the surface will also cause dents in the cardboard that may look aesthetically displeasing in addition to compromising the structural integrity. Over time, lines are bound to appear and the colour will almost definitely go off if not chemically treated in any way.

Furthermore, this material is susceptible to the elements, rarely lasting a day in inclement weather. In the rain, watermarks will appear in blotches like mould on bread and eventually the card will go soft and lose all structural integrity rending it useless in nearly all circumstances, especially its purpose to protect and contain items. (Do not get me wrong though. Soggy, drenched cardboard still has many uses. However, I was and currently am attempting to keep the material in the condition that I received it in.)

That being said, it is recyclable, biodegradable and in most circumstances environmentally friendly if recycling remains a self-sustaining cycle, easily being broken down and remade into its former self. But, I highly doubt that is the case.


As much as it may be hard to believe, the process was rather straight forward. My process of making the chair was an immediate transition from conceptualization to realization. I was determined to not sketchout my plans, dimensions, etc. but immediately start constructing the chair on the spot. This “spur of the moment” methodology is something that I have grown up with and continued to hone after all these years, constantly thinking three-dimensionally rather 20150206_205701than going through the intermediate two-dimensional process of sketches and written words. Personally, I find that this process demands a lot of forward thinking as well as instantaneous problem solving. When a problem comes up during my process, I will have to immediately troubleshoot in order to not ruin the flow of creating the piece. I have applied this process to many of my works which includes majority of International Baccalaureate submissions revolving around the theme of Space. I understand that stating this becomes a matter of trust, as you readers and audiences truly do not know if I actually sketched out any part of my process or not.


Moving on from the transitionary phase between conceptualization and actually manifesting the product, I contemplated the design and aesthetic look of the piece. At the start, in my mind’s eye, the chair was to be a simple one. It would have a square base of which three sides would act as “legs” or main support of the chair and last would remain unsupported. In addition, there would also be an armrest and a backrest. Overall, It would be asymmetrical in nature.

With that in mind, I started to take measurements from other chairs and used them as references when determining the height of my construct. The cardboard box, which originally contained a SONY Bravia television (Image above), was then divided cut up into separate segments using the fold lines20150103_000033 as guides. The largest area were then divided into three segments which would then become the three sided support of the chair. The unused cardboard was set aside to increase the strength and durability of these supports. The seat area (image on the right) was cut from the other large surface of the box and reinforced with corrugated cardboard that was meant to protect the television from any impact.

After making a hell of a mess in my room, I ended up with the basic components to create the form of my chair (Image below).

As I imagined it in my head, the chair would not be that aesthetically appealing other than the fact that it was made purely out of cardboard and glue. So in the moment, I made the decision to cut out fame-like shapes at the sides as can be seen in the image above. This simple design was sparked by old Chinese chair 20150103_003231designs (usually cylindrical), where the center of the support would be cut out and a rectangular frame would be left. I believed that that design was simple yet sophisticated enough to catch the eye yet retain the structural strength to support a man’s weight. To enhance the strength of the chair, I made layers of these frames, which unknowingly added some depth to the side of the chair and enhance the aesthetics of the chair further. Keeping with the asymmetrical theme of this particular project, I decided that not all side will have the same concept of depth, with each side being layered with a different number of cardboard sheets. The finished components can be seen in the picture on the right.

In addition to all these “flourishes”, I continually pondered over how I could enhance the strength of this chair, which led me to reinforce the area where most chair legs would be. Making a huge mess, I cut up long, wide strips of cardboard from various other recycled boxes to form square pillared legs for the chair and, after gluing them on, am in the midst of tidying up their aesthetic look but pasting on unmarked strips of cardboard. Due to the small surface area of the contact point between the leg segment and the maid body of the chair, I decided to use epoxy to ensure that the legs remain fast to the main frame. The end product can be seen below.


As an intermission and with a strong desire to finish “something” and hold it in my hands, I made another small footstool out of the leftover cardboard. This simple stool was made out of numerous layer of cardboard with detachable legs. 20150509_181954Being compact, it also it durable, easily support heavy weights.You can see it from the images on the right. From the top view, you can also see how cardboard is prone to creases and folds. Nevertheless, I believe that it is a project that anyone can undertake and should try at least once if there is any leftover cardboard lying around the house.

The Carton King (thewanone post)
The Carton King (Website)
Cardboard (Wikipedia)

Atmospheric Affair

To continue where I left of, this is one of two climaxes of my play. By now those who have been reading are familiar with my work Tabula Rasa. Exhibited in Asia’s only sustainable light festival, iLight Marina Bay Singapore, Tabula Rasa is a light installation piece within a shipping container. The container was part of nine other containers stacked up one on top of another to form a three-by-three square grid to form an artwork by the New Zealand art collective/studio Storybox. In order to make their work more interesting, they invited various schools in Singapore to submit proposals on installation pieces that could utilize the space within the two containers that sat on the base layer. One of the schools was Laselle, College of The Arts and the other was mine, representing School Of The Arts, Singapore.


This piece was a major turning point of my artistic process for many reasons. For one, this piece made me think beyond the physical aspects and elements of a space, forcing me to look beyond into metaphysical elements such as sound, wind and light. In many ways, I feel that most developing and practicing artist forget that these invisible elements play crucial roles in the interpretation of an artwork. I, for one, look at all works with this in mind. Ingrained deeply in me are the words “respect the space” and with that planted a seed that continuously tells me to be aware of the space that I am in. This has allowed me to perceive environments in more ways than the usual first impression and contemplate the possibilities of that space whether I use it or not in the future. In addition, the fact that this piece was to be put under the public eye made both the journey and the final product things that had to be carefully considered. Questions like “how will the audience respond?” and “what would people think?” constantly haunted me during the process. As a student artist, audience may be forgiving on some level, however, the fact that it is open to the elements means that you are attempting to impress an idea upon people, who will in turn project their response whether it be desirable or not. Ultimately, your passion for the idea will show through, and, as I believe, people will see into that piece of your soul which you have laid out to the public eye and choose to accept it or not. It is the moment that YOU or I can make an impact. It was a turning point of change for both maker and viewer.

In this piece I used light and a smoke machine to create walls of light, much like the light curtains used in technical theatre. In contrast to those in theatre, I created these walls to be horizontal rather than vertical. This was achieved by constructing a false wall that was flushed to the left side of the container which housed both the LED lights as well as the smoke machine. After fixing the lights and the smoke machine in place, a curtain draped over the gap and the entrance in order to conceal the fixtures whiles simultaneously preventing the excessive escape of smoke from the container. Other than these four components, the rest of the container was left empty for people to walk in and immerse themselves into the installation. From the entire duration of the exhibition, the lights would be left on and the smoke machine was programmed to release burst of smoke at regular intervals to maintain the atmospheric effect within the container.


The objective of this installation was to sensitize people to the space that they were entering and to make them question “what exactly was the artwork?” By this atmospheric effect within the container, I wanted to see if people realized that as they stepped in, they became part of the work. I hoped that they would be able to “feel” their bodies being severed from their heads and legs due to the walls of light and realise the impact of lighting on any space, thereby emphasising how simple, minimalistic metaphysical elements can change not only a person’s impression of the space, but also change the impression of how others view them in that space.


As can be seen from the images above, a children may have been the only ones who manage to fully experience the environment created. I believe that with their imaginative capacity and sense of playfulness, they saw exactly what I intended the artwork to do. This brought to mind yet another revelation – sometimes we need not be so serious in viewing works that we have to judge them whenever we see them merely because we have the capacity to do so. Being perceptive and fully aware is one thing. But being quick to judge and criticize falls under an entirely different category. Let us first soak in the atmosphere, the piece’s and our surroundings before we start to analyze and attempt to appreciate what lays before our eyes. Mind you, that I said “attempt to”, as I know that to honestly appreciate something  is easier said than done.


All in all, this work gave me an opening and also opened my eyes by exposing me more to the world of an artist. Not a “student artist”, but a full, practicing one. I could go on and on with the epiphanies and revelations that flooded my mind and have continuously been doing so, but I shall leave it at that and hope that you take some time to decipher my almost cryptographic handwritings in the following posts that they may both enlighten and inspire you as those revelations have greatly inspire me.


3 month silence…

…artistic meditation

Once again I have to apologize for the long break between my posts. I have been busy with applications as well as personal matters that have taken up much of my time and left me exhausted and in great need of sleep. But that being said, I think that the lack of posts is quite apt to illustrate the situation that I was in at that time.

Now I bring to you wordy post filled with reflections. After nearly an entire year creating my series of doors, I found myself at a point of stagnation. I realized that all I had created were doors, nothing more. The visual stimulation was getting old and the subject matter was getting repetitive. I was asked again and again, “why doors? Why ONLY doors?” to which I would reply with the same dry answer that it represented a conceptual transition of space. But after a while it struck me that it was impossible to carry on my exploration and find success and contentment where I was going. It was a dead end. I was throwing myself into a black hole, insisting that it would lead out to something greater, when in fact it was nothing but a time sucking vortex of chaos.

At that point I told myself to stop.

I resided to not doing. I knew that the path that I had to find would need to encapsulate the essence of space into an elegant series of works and accompanying concept and at that moment I was so possessed by the subject matter of doors that if I were to continue, that path would never be found. This caused me to have a three-month silence.

In these three-months, inclusive of my end-of-year holidays and the January of my final year, I removed myself from my practice nearly entirely. I barely stepped into the studio and did not lay sight to any of the artworks that had consumed me. Looking back, those three months are now a blur. I would be lying if I said I did intensive research, burning the midnight oil in desperation to find the elusive inspiration I needed. In fact, I think I just did not care. Do not get me wrong, I was still extremely worried as the hours, days and weeks went by, but some part of me knew that that was the time to be silent and still, and reflect on what could be done. In the end, the waiting paid off. there was an open call for students to submit their proposal for an installation for iLight Marina Bay, Singapore in collaboration with New Zealand art collective/studio Storybox. Through what can only be described as a miracle, my proposal was selected, and that led to the creation and manifestation of the work Tabula Rasa for the month-long exhibition. That opportunity was a major breaking point in my five years of studying and practicing art, and even now, I believe that if that opportunity did not come by, my thought processing, conceptual development and visualization would neither matured as quickly nor as professionally as it did in that short span of two months of intensive conceptualization and physical construction.

What this entire process taught me was that there should not be any fear in just stopping and drawing back to become the outsider looking in. When you are rapt and absorb in the art making and conceptualization process you forget to take the position of an outsider, and audience looking at your piece. I found myself thinking how awesome my work was and, thinking it was perfect as it was, and just continued churning similar copies of works out. What they were was just that – copies. They did not add to the substance of my attempt at a paradigm shifting concept.  Ultimately, the artist is not the one viewer at the exhibition, you are neither the one judging the work nor the one trying to impress the message upon. Personally, I know that things that may be clear to you. However, more often than not be clear to others, especially those who do not usually have their hand in the art scene or practice.

By stepping back, and removing yourself from the “artist’s bubble” you become the critic and in doing so give yourself the cold hard truth you need to reorientate yourself and move the work forward. What I perceived after stepping back was how circular the physical pieces were. I managed to look at them with stranger’s eyes to see that there was little value in continuing down that path. Like me, you will be able to realized the reality and truth in people’s critiques and words, complimentary or harsh.

All in all, by doing this, you will come to see how not bit of criticism is unfounded, harsh or degrading. All criticism is constructive. As much as you, the artist, put in your heart and soul in to attempt move mountains and shift paradigms, you must also realized that it is a reciprocal relationship that you are creating between artist/artwork and audience, for without the audience and their opinions, there is nothing to shift and no room for artistic growth. This was manifested in my work Mechanical Satisfaction – Actually Really Simple (2009), where I placed an empty book next to the piece in order for the audience to respond to the work. I, in turn, drew upon those responses to further my artistic process and sensitize myself to responses to future works no matter that form.

At the end of it all, I now see no criticism as negative or bad in anyway. Rather, it is transformative, moving my own paradigms to more effectively create works that can appeal to your audience, alter stereotypes without compromising artistic integrity.

Doors – Physical Manifestation of Conceptual Transitions

In the beginning…

There were doors…

14497Now a flashback to past! Back to Space. I hope those who are checking have begun reading Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, for I drew inspiration for my initial works mainly from that novel.

Moving on to doors…

This body of works come as an exploration of what we so often take for granted. Yes, we know that a basic room is made of four walls and a door, possibly windows thrown inabbas-kiarostami-photography on the side. However, we recognise the walls that lay right there in front of our eyes, but often neglect the entrance into that space. This consideration made me question – how do we view doors? a transitioning point into another space or a mere object barring the way and obstructing movement between spaces?

In my opinion, doors signify a transitioning point between one space and another. Even as they stand alone without her brother, solid, concrete walls, they divide space according to where they are placed. Many see walls as the main divider of space, I on the other hand was always intrigued by doors taking on that role instead. That idea conjured images of C.S. Lewis illustration of the cupboard in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, where the four children step into the wondrous magical land of Narina simply by stepping through the door of a cupboard in the attic. Similarly, Neil Gaiman’s novel, Neverwhere, depicts a girl who can open doors to any place she desire to go to, a room, an alleyway, etc. These inspirations emphasised my concept of a door being a transtioning point, a divider of space and made me further question the functions of a door and people’s perception of what a door is.

I then went on to break down the door, literally and figuratively. This came in the form of discovering how the components of a door were made – the hinges, the frame, IMG_1645the door itself, and attempting to recreate all these components myself form the raw materials I had on hand in the studios.This process saw me buying all the different variations of hinges that I could get my hands on, garden gate hinges, typical door hinges, even “manufacturing” my own hinges varying in size and material to really feel how each part of a door contributed to the entire system that we see in every room. In going through this process, I discovered the process of art making, handling and feeling the material, to stretch it to its limits and push it further than I have ever done before. IMG_1538I would flatten, hammer, even soften aluminium just to create my own hinges. In that rigorous, laborious journey, I found satisfaction in simply “making”, and it gave me such great joy to just appreciate the final product and know that I saw IMG_1539 2the process from beginning to end. The simple realization that I was actually creating the door from scratch made me reflect deeply on the art making journey that all artist embark on. That, as artists, each component, whether it be a brushstroke or a single nook made by a chisel, matters greatly in the grand scheme of things. it is an initial step in to the creation of an entire system thatIMG_1642 2 allows a work to become whole and, ultimately, convey what the artist’s soul want to share with his audiences, to challenge norms and draw viewers out of their comfort zone.

At the end of this investigation, I came up with a series of works that represented my exploration and research over the year. (I know most might think “one year is a long time for such few works”, but I will explain later.) These series sought to break down the conventional concept of the door and in doing so hope to subvert people’s stereotype of what a door represents. For instance, in the piece on the right, I delineated the wall and the door in three-dimensional space through the use of a line. This use of the line arose as I considered the simplest form of mark making and how it could be translated from two-dimensional to three-dimensional space. Its final manifestation was to be a single beam that would be “drawn” across the space I wished to divide. It would start at one end, connected to the wall, and run, roughly at an average person’s shin, to close to the other end. At that point, the beam would rise then continues to the end of the wall to form the form of the door. By breaking down the form to the bare minimum, I hoped to challenge the conventional stereotype of the door – can it just be the outline? Is that line sufficient an obstruction for people to realise the existence of that door? And that, I believed successfully captured the essence of the exploration at that point.

Now, I hope you all enjoy the galleria below:

2) Door (1)
Door (1), 2011
36 x 24 x 22
Plywood, Manufactured hinges
3) Door (4)
Door (2), 2011
36 x 24 x 18
4) Door (3)
Door (3), 2011
36 x 24 x 18
Plywood, Acrylic Mirror
5) Door (2)

Door (4), 2011
36 x 24 x 22
Plywood, Manufactured hinges
6) Door (5)
Door (5), 2011
70 x 29 x 27
Plywood, Solid Wood

Abbas Kiarostami Photography
Neil Gaiman’s – Neverwhere
C.S. Lewis – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe