Sunday, August 31, 2008

A road with many junctions.

  I was half hoping Mr. Michael Quah our Form 3 Art teacher would show up at our Reflections Gathering. He was the one who set me on a quest for originality in Art.  I've been searching for the answer for the last 40 years, still unsure if I've found it.  Perhaps I need to recognize it first.  It remains an indelible question in my mind.  During a lesson we handed in our individual pieces of our paintings to him for comment.  He singled out mine and shook his head at me.  He said it was all too familiar and uninteresting and wished I could do better.   

Then he took up another piece which showed some images that looked like wooden fences and cakes in random places all over the paper.  It actually looked nice and refreshing, but I didn't know why.  He said, Now, this is originality.  This is what you should aim for.  It was done by a student who was more interested in science and mathematic subjects.  I was confused further by the explanations he tried to give me.  Perhaps they were beyond my comprehension then.   

As I set out on the road of life, I found out I would have to live a life full of expectations of everyone else.  It wasn't just mine.  I can’t just do what I like and to hell with everyone else.  The commercial art line had its frustrations.  I had to comply with what other people wanted.  Everyone had an opinion as to what's good and right.  I decided I couldn't live with that.  It was a fork in the road and I took the one well travelled.  I left the art world behind.  I discovered there were different roads at different junctions leading to different destinations.  And as was expected of me, I raised a family along the way.   

Now that my obligations are almost fulfilled, I look forward to the day I could do things as I pleased.  I aim to claim back my life.  But having lived a life of endless obligations has set me in a solid cast.  It looks like a formidable obstacle and I’m not sure if I can break through it.  Perhaps the reason why I left the commercial art world was I feared casting my art into a fixed solid mould that conforms to what everybody else decides to be correct and proper.  I would then not be able to explore and experiment.  Breaking away from it prevented me from killing my dream.  I don’t regret having that road still open.  

I am now at another junction waiting for the light to turn green looking for a sign that says ORIGINALITY.  I hope this road takes me back to my dreams again.  And I hope to find the answer waiting for me.  

Teachers, be careful what you tell your students.  It can influence the way they live their lives. 


  1. Retirement coming? So you too are a nonconformist albeit a repressed one. What line of art - photography or painting?

  2. Paintings and other creations as in these
    and these

    Note: error in above link 'Reflections Gathering' corrected

  3. Man you've got talent! Some of them were painted before I was born :) I see you like birds a lot.

  4. Art to me is my private world. Here is one area where I maintain my free spirit, like a bird or the breeze roaming, flowing through the trees, forest, rivers...
    Even if it may never bring me the bread and butter I've never given up on it and I never will.

  5. Yeah , its art fot arts sake...that's art in its purest form.
    I'll be rooting for you !

  6. You're opening up an art gallery when you retire? That'll be cool.

  7. That's a good idea. But my pursuit of Art is akin to your pursuit of kungfu.

  8. You're not planning on beating someone up with a picture frame are you? Hahahaha. Seriously, I'm told that inner peace comes from focus, which is why meditators use an object like a candle to focus their mind on. Its nothing religious, just a regular physical act that if done a certain way will isolate a mental frequency. When you focus on painting until you forget the time, you could be experiencing a little bit of that absorption.

  9. I have such a kind heart (ahem) I wouldn't try to 'frame' anyone.
    Also I walked away from martial arts because I decided I'm too 'kind' to try to hurt anyone during sparring sessions. I ended up with the bruises instead.