Hand-bound Chinese character books engage the audience by inviting them to embrace an unfamiliar culture. The books’ pages, printed in my signature monochrome palate of subtly fading inks evoke the fugitive nature of fading memories. The reader is called to stay, sit and contemplate what it means to be temporarily displaced from the familiar, to feel suspended, to experience a sense of otherness.
Lithographically printed hand stitched laser cut books.
Contextual Statement from the exhibition
Until recently, the process of ruminating on my own conflicted cultural heritage has driven my creative work. The mirror of introspection, however, reflects back at me the faces of those whose paths serendipitously have crossed mine: of those with whom I have shared experiences and forged relationships. This offers a point of departure for new work.
This piece is built up of floating characters that make up the poem Xiangsi (Remembrance) by Wang Wei, which can be translated thus:
“The red berries grow in the south, where you live. They flourish on the branches when spring comes. I only hope you will gather an armful and think of me and of the fond love and remembrance they express.”
The red berries in the poem symbolise platonic love and are also known as the seeds of memories. When I was very young, this was one of the most popular of the 300 Tang Dynasty poems and the one, as a small child, I remembered most vividly because of the simple emblem of the red berry. This symbol has remained lodged in my consciousness ever since as though it would one day serve a purpose.
The characters are suspended, floating in a seemingly random but ultimately readable order, and echo the impermanence and rootlessness of my life’s course so far. The books are delicate and their bindings fragile yet very durable, signifying lasting personal connections evolved from trepidatious beginnings.
The script printed on the books’ pages represents a detailed textual analysis of Wang Wei’s writing which I undertook in order to better understand the ancient poem which had lain dormant in my mind since childhood. The fading ink connotes the dissolving memories of my home and my past which I have tried to recapture through the meditative process of my lithographic work. And so I have printed and overprinted the textual analysis of Wang Wei’s poem by way of reinforcing its meaning, ensuring remembrance. Through similar effort, I believe the new relationships I have forged in my life will stay with me. I will not, through lack of attention, allow them to fade.
The chair, which is an amalgam of East and West, old and new, invites the viewer to sit and contemplate the piece and the disparate cultures and histories which have influenced my work, just as it represents the strangers who have stayed a while and become friends.
The final character of the poem means to think, to consider or reflect. It is suspended by a single red ribbon signifying the red berries of remembrance. I have used this red ribbon to symbolise fate and the notion that there is an invisible thread that connects the people I was destined to meet.
Every contact leaves a trace.
Those of you who view this piece, who take the time to sit and ponder, I invite you to untie a black ribbon and take away with you one character from the poem. In doing so, you will take a piece of me with you and I hope that when you see this book again in the future you will remember this moment and my book of memories.