Whewwww I can’t believe it’s been ten whole months since I last wrote a blog post. Life has changed, the world is upside down, and I’m still making little linocuts to soothe the soul, inject humour in the day, and explain to myself what I think is going on.

horro scroll colour

The first few weeks of working alone, isolated in my flat in East London, were a mix of relief at stopping my commute, tinged with fear of the virus. I would spend hours looking at my phone, wading through pages of horror stories, like an unending river of disaster and dread. I couldn’t really do much but worry about my parents.

pray to blossom colour_e

The tree outside the bathroom window became a wall of blossom and I would open the window really wide, and stare out into the breeze, and pray that everyone I know would stay healthy.

Bracken House garden print

Likewise, the communal gardens were bursting into leaf, and it was just so nice to sit under the dappled shade, even though my thoughts were of death and destruction.

blue mood_e

Sometimes I’d make myself extremely sad by wishing hard for a hug. Then I’d think, that as no-one had seen my face for days and days in real life, that perhaps I didn’t have a face anymore, and that I was in effect just a paper bag ghost.

dream lunch colour

My paper bag ghost would still be hungry. I’d think of my dream meal, inspired by mum’s mackerel with belly stuffed full of curry powder and onions, with blistered skin and sweet sticky rice. The sun was shining every day and I would set the table on the balcony and make myself a bowlful of raspberries with sweet vanilla ice cream.

send help in colour

Somedays I didn’t speak out loud all day, and my train of thought would start to crumble, as if my sense of identity, without a listening ear, was optional.

I'm doing fine

Somedays I would start drinking at 4pm to see if it made anything better. Somedays I tried video conferencing parties with friends. It didn’t really help…

covid zoomin_e

There are undoubtable benefits to working from home. I can now attend zoom meetings while sitting on the floor of the bathroom, with no trousers on, if I want to.

two metres colour_e

I can go for a jog in the neighbourhood and terrify the locals by infringing on their two metre zone.

yoga bum_e

Facebook Live videos of exercise classes have become my favourite moment of the day. With all the isolation, inactivity, stress baking and comfort eating, my bottom is getting bigger, but at least it makes mum laugh.

home studio at night

Anyhow, this series is ongoing: I have many more prints that I would like to make. My tiny desk in the corner of the living room is a lot more than I would have had if I were living in rented accommodation in one room, as I did for the past 20 years. And the best thing about a handmade print (oh! actual ink on actual paper!) is that you can chop it down, scribble on the back, and post it to wonderful people, like an old-fashioned talisman.

I'm doing fine blue

PS.

I gave a talk on my print series a couple of weeks ago, and mentioned some of these prints towards the end. If you are interested, have a watch here (it’s 23 minutes long, and was a seminar hosted by the Centre for Fine Print Research, University of the West of England, Bristol.)

https://vimeo.com/413495704

 

 

 

 

My mum’s from Malaysia and dad’s from Singapore, so I love visiting these countries even if they are relatively foreign places to me. My niece invited me to her wedding in May, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to catch up with family.

Study in Millenial Pink

The wedding was in a “Six” star hotel, called the St. Regis. We lounged around in the gap between official ceremony and evening fun, getting ourselves pampered and primped. It did amuse me to see that the epitome of luxury was a chilly air conditioning bordering on UK winter temperatures, and that the fruit bowl contained northern hemisphere waxy green apples.

Mellower Coffee

I spent some time hanging out with my brother and sister in law. They took me to a fancy cafe called Mellower Coffee, whose top hit menu item was a black coffee with a ball of candy floss suspended above. As the steam rose, the floss melted, looking like pretty rain. We tried the cake, which looked much better than it tasted. I was so happy lurking in the noisy buzz of this popular place, spending time in companionable silence.

Belly Fire

My sister in law was kind enough to let me come to her acupuncture session one afternoon. I was amazed by the number of needles that the doctor put in, and how calm she said she felt afterwards.

Teh Tarik and Mahathir in the Midnight café

After a long bus journey I arrived in Malaysia to see my mum’s side of the family. We ended up drinking Teh Tarik in the midnight cafe, and reading about the shock victory of Mahathir, who had just won a second term in office at the ripe age of 92. In hot countries like Malaysia, the night time is peaceful and cool, it’s a good time to get snacks once the appetite returns. I love the way people enjoy this time of the night together.

Hungry cat café

Malaysian food, even breakfast, is the best. Every now and then I long for a bowl of fresh slippery salty noodles in gloriously bright purple plastic bowls, lit by the flicker of neon cut by a whirring fan. My cousin and I had a quick bowl before we set off for Singapore together in the car. The cafe had a little scrawny cat who poked around under my table; I wanted to take him home.

I’m still working on some more of these prints, and they have brought back good memories of fun times with family. I know that taking pictures would have been more immediate, and accurate, but these slower images bring back the sounds and smells and heat of the place… for me, at least.

 

Last year, when I was on a residency in China, I made a series of fifty water-based woodblock prints (mokuhanga prints) which ended up becoming an animation called Smiley Rock.

Smiley Rock still frame

The technique of printing successive thin layers of watercolour is called bokashi and some of the frames for the animation were made from progressive stages of the printing process. I took photos of the print, while printing fresh layers of colour, so that you can see how the colour builds up. I edited the piece in the Royal Academy Schools in Piccadilly, London, and talented musician Eliot Kennedy made the music for me.

Smiley Rock frame being photographed for the animation

The animation is currently being shown in West Yorkshire Print Workshop, as part of their group show called Japan, until 1 September. Read about the show here or at https://www.wypw.org/blog/japan/

japan33

Smiley Rock is also coming with me to the IMPACT conference in Santander, Spain next month… I’ll be showing the animation alongside some of the frames. Watch this space!

09_smileyrock_prints

You can watch the animation here or go to https://vimeo.com/237974015