Updated: May 2
I get this question. A lot.
The next question that follows is usually. How do you come up with all those stories? (I will talk about that in the next few posts.)
I answer the question three ways.
It came from a dream
In summer of 2014, I took my ex-boyfriend (current husband) on a staycation in Tai O, a fishing village and popular getaway destination in Hong Kong. It is called the Venice of Hong Kong.
Picture canals with local fishing boats and houses on stilts and turquoise sea and emerald mountains. If you are lucky, throw in a pink dolphin or two.
We were in solo café, an outdoor café overlooking a beautiful canal. In the intense subtropical heat and humidity, I drifted into a pleasant slumber. After twenty minutes, I jumped and wrote the entire synopsis of “Plastic, plastic, every where!” in one sitting.
That was the birth of the world of 2084.
It came from copious research
Of course, to take a dream into a lifetime of work takes a few extra steps.
One of the most valuable lessons during my graduate study was the concept of practice-led research. In essence, it means making artworks (an artist’s practice) is the artist’s means of research. That means, the starting point of an artist’s work is a question. At that point, she doesn’t have the answer. Through making the works, she aims to arrive at an answer (research.) Of course, the destination usually turns out to be different from the initial plan.
In the next blog post, I will give some specific examples of how I translate my research into visual forms.
It came from my imagination
However, research is only information if not marinated in artistic interpretation.
Every artist has a vivid imagination. In fact, everyone had a vivid imagination until one is discouraged or inhabited by social expectations. That is why all children have wild imagination and it is hard to find a child who hates to draw and paint. Artists just nurture that creativity instead of crushing it.
Creativity is to make unexpected connections. Connect marine plastic pollution with children eating plastic. Then create a logic so that this unexpected connection make sense in your universe. The connecting tool (that creates the logic) could be artistic formal tools such as composition, rendering, colour scheme, or contextual tools such as art historical/contemporary or social references or motifs. If your logic is very complex, you may create artist statements or even research papers or videos to explain it.
I find my best works come when I let my imagination run wild. Whatever goes. If I come up with a gem, I find ways to create the logic required for the works to be comprehensible to my viewers/readers/audiences. When I came up with the idea “If animals can learn to eat plastic, why can’t children?”, I knew it was a gem and I had to do everything possible to create a world in which this gem makes sense.
You may ask, how do you identify a gem?
It’s different for every artist, but most know intuitively.
Intuition is a capsule of all the knowledge, experiences, pain and mistakes one has accumulated over their lifetime. In a split second, before one can quite verbalise or even understand it, one’s lifetime experiences morphed into an angel, whispering into our ears or pushing us in a certain direction. Psychologists call it our subconscious.
In the next blog post, I will give some specific examples of how I come up with some of these stories and translate my research and/or imagination into visual forms.
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