Commission


Back in January I was asked to give a demo of Japanese Woodblock printing at the British museum for the Hokusai show, “Beyond the Great Wave” (which celebrates the artist in the last three decades of his life). Hokusai Prep 7It was a great excuse to spend a lot of time poring over Hokusai’s huge output. I began to admire his unerring brushstroke, and radical, often humorous compositions. Hokusai Prep 8

I’d promised to make a Hokusai-inspired work for the demo, but how I could even start to make a comparable rendition of modern day London? I thought briefly about depicting Whitechapel with cycle couriers: let’s face it, this is probably the closest equivalent to the Tokkaido, or a distant view of St Paul’s in the rain instead of Mount Fuji. Hmmm… I was stuck.

Hokusai Prep 11So I decided I’d look closer at the place where he is now being shown, the British Museum. This place is a veritable temple to the arts, with ionic columns lining the walkway up to the main central hall, and the most beautiful shimmering glass dome that brings a soft brightness to the courtyard inside.

Hokusai Prep 12We look at iconic images, like Monet’s Haystacks, Chagall’s Flying Lovers and Hokusai’s Wave, and the world is subsequently and irretrievably coloured by having seen them. These images are unforgettable, inspiring, desired and thus overused and parodied. At the same time, we like to place ourselves in the picture. Is it selfiegenic? Where do I exist in relation to this?

Hokusai Prep 6The prints I designed are about Hokusai becoming part of my identity: I can hide behind him, and he represents some of what I aspire to be (not caring about much apart from making paintings every day, with a factory of workers transforming them to prints, and hoping to live to 110…)

Hokusai Prep 3Hokusai Prep 4Hokusai Prep 5The demo on 5th June was a very exciting event. We set up in a hall full of of Greek marble sculptures, surrounded by sinuous sea lions and against a backdrop of three headless female dancers in revealing dresses.

Hokusai 01It was really echoey and a bit dark, so they put in some spotlights.

Hokusai 1I was incredibly lucky that my students from the last Japanese woodblock class (in East London Printmakers in May) were very keen to come help out for the evening, as there were loads of customers!

Hokusai 3I talked about the fundamentals of Japanese woodblock printing, showed how to print a three colour print, and then the public had a go at printing a mystery five colour print. Hokusai 2There was one colour and block per table and they had to take a piece of damp paper and print it, then move around the room. Students helped supervise and guide how much water, glue and ink to put on the blocks. Hokusai 4It was busy and chaotic but thrilling to see the results.

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The British Museum show is highly recommended. It’s on til 13 Aug, with a change over of prints in early July (3–6). For more information please see

http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/hokusai.aspx

I’m running a course in Japanese woodblock printing in East London Printmakers this Autumn, For more information please see https://www.eastlondonprintmakers.co.uk/course/japanese-woodblock-2/

Hokusai Prep 13Finally, if you’d like to buy one of the prints, please get in touch!

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HKK, a gourmet Chinese restaurant based in East London, contacted me late last year to see if I would make them eight huge prints for their Chinese New Year celebrations. As I love a challenge, I said yes.

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The storyline was about an Emperor who threw a birthday feast: here he is writing his invitations.

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The ingredients for the feast were gathered from far and wide: here they are aiming at the hawk in the sky, while people (and an enormous chicken) look for fish in the river.

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Chefs created new and beautiful dishes from the fruits of the land and sea.

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The banquet hall was decorated with splendid finery: I imagined these strange silver flagons shaped like rooster heads.

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The emperor arrived to the feast carried on a palanquin by four women (why not?) over a lavish staircase, inspired by the one that goes up to the Hall of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City.

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The Emperor was offered wine from a jade goblet (modelled with oak leaves taken from the design on a Dutch lamppost from Amsterdam) with gold dragons as handles.

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He joined his family and guests for a toast to health, happiness, abundance, peace and prosperity. The VIPs wore pearl necklaces and women had fresh flowers in their hair.

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After the meal, they were entertained by acrobats and ribbon dancers, harp players and singers, roosters and jugglers.

img_7391These prints were designed in four days and carved in japanese vinyl (gomuban) over 11 days: a record time for me. I made use of the Royal Academy Schools’ library where I found lots of books on Qing dynasty clothing and customs, and admired paintings of ancient landscapes, throne-rooms and interiors. I was buoyed along at this crazy pace by adrenaline and the looming Christmas deadline for approval of the images.

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Once approved, I scanned them and enlarged them to 133 x 76 cm each, and started phase two of the project: screenprinting them onto delicate shoji paper to hang in the restaurant interior. Luckily my studio, East London Printmakers, was quiet over the Christmas break, so I had enough space to work…!

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This stack of paper took over 100 hours to print… done in only 6 days.

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Finally some of the work was picked out with gold leaf. It’s not that obvious on a backlit image, but the gold shimmers in the light.

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Here are some installation shots of the work in the restaurant HKK Shoreditch, London.


The work is up until 4 March (extended an extra three weeks!) 2017. Let me know if you go along!

http://hkklondon.com/ 88 Worship Street, Broadgate Quarter, London EC2A 2BE

http://www.eastlondonprintmakers.co.uk 42 Copperfield Road, London E3 4RR

Here is the promotional video for the Royal Mint Lunar collection, showing more about the design process for the 2016 Chinese Lunar Year of the Monkey. I can’t believe the stuff they do at Mint when it comes to making the dies and polishing them: when I realised it’s all done by hand I felt really bad for making such a fiddly design to polish to get that mirror finish…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYb7_A5mQL8

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYb7_A5mQL8

 

IMG_9539Last week, The Royal Mint held a party to celebrate the Chinese New Year 2016 and the new Lunar Monkey coin at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

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This tiny linocut I made in Italy in the Summer of 2014 has become a gigantic poster!IMG_9541

There was champagne…IMG_9597

…and classical Chinese music playing.IMG_9702

IMG_9583I gave a talk about the process of designing this coin, inspired by Rhesus Monkeys and their cheeky tricksIMG_9620

The one kilogram solid gold coin was on display. The edition size is eight, and seven have sold already, at a handsome price of £42,500 each.IMG_9587IMG_9584

Here are some of the engraving tools, the dies and the polishing sticks used by the master crafts people at The Royal Mint.IMG_9580

It was great to share the event with my mum…IMG_9745…some happy Year of the Monkey customers…

… and old and new friends!

IMG_7607There is more information on the series at The Royal Mint website.

http://www.royalmint.com/features/lunar-series

http://www.royalmint.com/our-coins/events/lunar-year-of-the-monkey-2016

Well, here’s wishing you all plenty of health, wealth and happiness in the New Year! I’m also wishing that we are all blessed with friendships, family and fortune. Here’s a tiny linocut I made after my linocut class at East London Printmakers today. The sheep are all tangled up in one of those wool care wool mark labels, looking rather warm.happy new sheep 2015_e

The launch of the Sheep coin from The Royal Mint happened last year, but from today I shall be putting mine on display. Here is a super cute picture of 6 year old Lillian Sun looking at the gold-plated silver 1 ounce coin. The official press release and some links to other press is below.

SO… Happy New Year all!!! Let’s Party!
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THE ROYAL MINT CELEBRATES LUNAR YEAR OF THE SHEEP

 As part of the celebrations for Chinese New Year, The Royal Mint has created a new design to mark the Lunar Year of the Sheep, the second issue in the hugely successful Shēngxiào Collection.

 British Chinese artist and printmaker Wuon-Gean Ho, who designed the 2014 Year of the Horse coin for The Royal Mint, continues the collection with a design that once again draws inspiration from both her British and Chinese heritage. The Year of the Sheep coin is the second in this auspicious series and its design reflects characteristics of those born in the year of the sheep: freedom-loving with a passion for company.

 The design artfully uses symbolic elements to create a fusion of Chinese and British heritage. Blending the Chinese symbol with imagery of the distinctive Yorkshire Swaledale sheep, the intricate details of the design highlight its beautiful smooth curled horns in contrast to the swirls of their wool coats.

 Shane Bissett, Director of Commemorative Coin at The Royal Mint said: “Following on from the hugely popular Year of the Horse coins range, of which three quarters were sold out in the first few months, The Royal Mint is happy to be bringing its craftsmanship and artistic skills to this latest coin in the Shēngxiào Collection. Supporting the centuries-old tradition of giving zodiac coins at the Lunar New Year, we’re expecting to see similar demand this year for Wuon Gean’s stunning design.”

Designer of the Year of the Sheep coin Wuon-Gean Ho says “I wanted the design to draw upon my British and Chinese heritage, as my parents are from Malaysia and Singapore and I was raised in the UK.  I recall observing sheep as part of the British landscape – in the grounds of Blenheim palace, on the hillsides of the Peak district and in the rolling Brecon Beacons.”

 The second design in The Shēngxiào Collection is available to order from www.royalmint.com

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-london-31464673

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/gallery/royal-mint-celebrates-lunar-year-5179648

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ukchina/simp/uk_life/2015/02/150217_life_sheep_coins

http://lkcn.net/news/uk-life/114-royal-mint-year-of-the-sheep-coin

http://www.coinweek.com/world-coins/the-royal-mint-issues-gold-coin-to-celebrate-lunar-year-of-the-sheep/

http://www.rexfeatures.com/livefeed/2015/02/17/the_royal_mint_celebrates_lunar_year_of_the_sheep

http://coxsoft.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/sheep-coin.html

http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/special-edition-coin

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/picturesoftheday/11417192/Pictures-of-the-day-17-February-2015.html?frame=3201959

http://www.myactimes.com/actimes/plus/view.php?aid=883988

http://www.boxun.com/news/gb/intl/2015/02/201502180408.shtml#.VORdM-asXSc

http://www.neehao.co.uk/2015/02/the-shengxiao-collection-the-royal-mint/

The Royal Mint have been working on a promotional video for the lunar year of the sheep coin. Here I am talking about sheep and printing linocuts in East London Printmakers a couple of weeks ago… Was great to watch and learn from Adam Millbank of www.jonesmillbank.com who deftly ran around the studio filming on two cameras, switching lenses, juggling lights, timing answers to account for the noisy train line that passes overhead every minute, and dispensing giant chocolate buttons to keep the whole team happy throughout the day. I think you can see the effect of the chocolate at the end!

Link to video here

The Chinese section of the BBC got in touch after the new Sheep Coin from The Royal Mint was released on the 1st September, and invited me to visit. What a wonderful day out!

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I saw the stage where they present breakfast TV and the weather cubicles, and many people looking very serious, typing away at hubs of information. Apparently there used to be 43 different languages spoken in the BBC, now cut back to 30. Upstairs was the radio channels which were very funky and with a great view. Of course I had to pretend to be a rock star for a minute or two before we got to work…

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Jacky (Chuanzi Xing) interviewed me about the commission, asking me how my printmaking interest first started, and whether being a mix of Chinese British has influenced me in any way. She was very cool, calm and professional with perfect English, so it was easy to chat to her. You can read her interview here (it’s in Chinese but google translate gives you an idea of what we talked about). There is also a link to my description of the sheep personality here (sounding very serious even though I’m making it up!)

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The Royal Mint had couriered a gold-plated solid-silver coin over to the BBC for the interview, but of course, being a lump of metal arriving in the National Headquarters of information meant that it was a potential bomb threat, and had to undergo extensive tests before it made it inside!

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It was worth the wait, and the gold contrasted nicely with the reflection of the BBC’s red upholstery, which picked out the detail in the landscape well.

IMG_6166_eI’d brought along a coin from the Year of the Horse with me, so we put them side by side to compare. They looked pretty handsome in their cases, and I began to see the fun behind collecting.

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Looking forward to the next coin now: the Year of the Monkey. Should be lots of fun!

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Photo courtesy of Chuanzi Xing, BBC

To read the interviews please see

http://www.bbc.co.uk/zhongwen/simp/uk/2014/09/140906_iv_sheep_coin_designer.shtml

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ukchina/simp/uk_life/2014/09/140904_life_sheep_coin_wuongen_ho.shtml

And to see the CCTV (China Central TV) video and interview please see here

http://english.cntv.cn/2014/09/01/VIDE1409573879279610.shtml

http://english.cntv.cn/2014/09/01/VIDE1409573879279610.shtml#.VAZD60P2J1A.facebook

And finally the BBC Radio Oxford Malcolm Boyden show interviewed me on Tuesday 2/9/14 at 2:20- 2:25 (two hours and 20 mins into the programme) about sheep related things…

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