Issue 19 2019
in this issue Tan Puay Tee Regina Lafay Bellamy Kanak Champa Chakma Shrikant Kadam Tomomi Sato Sor Sophany and Sor Sophanin Aradhna Tandon and others 1
Lotus The Blue
Lotus The Blue
Photo....Top's Studio, Muar, Johor, Malaysia
66 Editorial Thoughts on the current issue
by the Founding Editor
Malachi Edwin Venthamani Robert Raymer interview, Malaysia
18 Tan Puay Tee Woodcuts By Malaysian woodcuts by Martin Bradley
28 Contemporary Worlds, Indonesia Exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia 44 The Longer View Essay on 'Print' by Richard Noyce, Wales 56 The Principle Girl Malaysian Book review, by Martin Bradley 60 Zurhem Spring and Summer fashion collection from Bangladesh
82 All Cut Up Montage by Regina Lafay Bellamy, England 92 Reinvigorating Bangladesh Modernism Bangladesh artist Kanak Chanpa Chakma by Martin Bradley
Front Front cover; cover; Mella NaziaJaarsma Ahmed the landscaper
102 A Strange Experience Short story by Vivek Nath Mishra, India
Issue 19 2019
A Strange Experience
108 Shrikant Kadam Pune, India 120 A Ruffled Mind Malaysian Short story by Martin Bradley
128 Tomomi Sato Paintings from Japan 138 Khmer Sisters doing it for themselves Cambodian Surrealist painting, a review by Martin Bradley 150 Life An Intimate Dialogue Aradhna Tandon, Indian paintings 158 Georges Rhumerie and Restaurant. Siem Reap, Cambodia
Lotus Welcome to
The Blue Lotus (arts magazine) This issue features artworks from Bangladesh, Cambodia, England, India, Indonesia, Japan and Malaysia. There are short stories from India and Malaysia, reviews from Wales and Malaysia, fashion from Bangladesh and food from Cambodia. This issue could not have been created without the kind assistance of all the participants, to whom I am deeply indebted, and you the readers. The Blue Lotus is open for submissions, but cannot pay and asks those who submit not to simultaneously submit elsewhere. Thank you. Now read on
Malachi Edwin Vethamani interviewed by Robert Raymer
Malachi Edwin Vethamani
I was introduced to Edwin back in 2006 when I gave a creative writing workshop for MELTA, the Malaysian English Language Teaching Association, in Kuching. At the time, I had been based in Penang and was considering moving to Sarawak with my Sarawakian wife and our young family (we were expecting our second child) and I thought I could make some connections at the conference and apply for a position at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak where I later taught creative writing. Every time I saw Edwin, who was the President of MELTA from June 2001 till January 2008, he always had a big friendly smile on his face. Not only is Edwin a gifted poet, but also a short story writer, editor, bibliographer and academic. He is currently Professor, School of English, University of Nottingham Malaysia. He holds a doctoral degree from University of Nottingham UK. His most recent publication is his first collection of short stories entitled Coitus Interruptus and Other Stories (Maya Press, 2018). He has published two volumes of poems, Life Happens (Maya Press, 2017) and Complicated Lives (Maya Press, 2016). He edited a volume of Malaysian poems covering a period of 60 years entitled Malchin Testament: Malaysian Poems (Maya Press, 2017). In 2003, he edited a volume of poems for young adults entitled In-Sights: Malaysian Poems (Maya Press, 2003). In 2015, he published A Bibliography of Malaysian Literature in English (Petaling Jaya, Maya Press). In addition to being a past President of MELTA, he was also Vice President of Asia TEFL from 2008 to 2013. He is a recipient of the Chevening Award (1993-1996) and the Fulbright Scholarship (2000). He had received the Asian Education Leadership Award from the World Education Congress in Mumbai, India in June 2013. 9
Robert: Lately you’ve been rather productive with the recent publications of two books of poetry, Complicated Lives and Life Happens, a collection of short stories Coitus Interruptus and Other Stories, plus the Malaysian anthology Malchin Testament: Malaysian Poems! People often say or think…who has time to read poetry? Sadly, I was one of them until I found a way! Red Lights. Like most drivers I detest getting caught at a red light, especially when I am running late, but then I found the perfect solution — a way of killing two birds with one poem! I keep a book of poetry beside me. Now I often wish the red lights were slightly longer so I could finish the poem I’m in the midst of reading. This past year, thanks to those red lights, I have read most if not all of your published poetry. They even inspired me to dig through my unread collection of poetry that I had accumulated over the years with the best of intentions and began reading them…poem after poem that I might never have gotten around to read. And for this, I am grateful for you for getting the poetry ball rolling. One of your poetry collections is titled Complicated Lives, which seems to sum up our lives these days. Are our lives truly more complicated than those of previous generations, even that of our parents, and does that complication give us more possibilities (angst) to write about? I’m also thinking, perhaps, the various sexual permutations that seem to exist in your own writing. Does complicated lives produce better poetry and prose? Or just better gossip for the readers? Edwin: I believe every generation has had its own kind of complications. I would agree that our lives are indeed complicated. We would wish for simpler lives but I’m afraid that’s not often the case for many of us. The complications do give us (at least, it does for me) more to write about. It allows me to explore the various kinds of relationships we find ourselves in, not just with fellow human beings but with fellow creatures and the environment itself. The sexual permutations are often about love and the desire to be loved; gender is secondary. And some of my poems deal with sexual desire and how that could complicate lives. It can be difficult to separate sex and love and that could cause its own complications. “Better gossip?” No! There’s no gossip in the poems. There’s both pain and celebration. Robert: True, but that doesn’t prevent readers (and nonreaders) from gossiping about the poems (and the poet), which was what happened one hundred and fifty years ago when Walt Whitman published Leaves of Grass (and added to throughout his life). Speaking of Whitman, I recently had this surreal literary moment. While in the midst of reading Leaves of Grass (at red lights), I was reading Lincoln by Gore Vidal (at home), when a clerk-cum-novelist asked Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of Treasury, to consider a clerkship for a great poet. “He comes to you, sir, with a letter of introduction and commendation from Ralph Waldo Emerson.” Suddenly I had goose bumps; I knew he was referring to Walt Whitman! I knew he had gone to Washington D.C. during the Civil War because his brother had been wounded in a recent battle; then he stayed to help to comfort the other wounded soldiers, which he wrote about in Leaves of Grass. Although he never met Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln did know him (and his infamous reputation) as did Lincoln’s personal secretary, John Hay who later wrote a book about Lincoln and had asked Walt Whitman, since he was in town, to sign his copy of Leaves of Grass. 10
Then Walt Whitman added several tributes to Abraham Lincoln after he had been assassinated. I don’t know how many degrees of separation that is, but sudden ly I felt like I personally knew Walt Whitman; and thanks to reading his poetry, I was inspired to read four books about the Civil War that had been lying around for years waiting for…someday. That day came after reading your poetry, Edwin, because that got me to read Leaves of Grass. So, who knows where a good book of poetry or even a single poem can take you if you let it? For me, it brought me closer to an infamous Poet and a famous President and a terrible Civil War that still haunts the American psyche today. In Life Happens you quote the Bible “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sin”. Love — wanton love or self-indulgent love — can also cause a multitude of sin (and a few marriage breakups along the way). Do lovers, more today, than in the past, go too far in their kiss-and-tell books or their hook-up and broadcasting their blogs all over the social media? For the lover, it can increase their notoriety (Don Juan, anyone? Or the Kardashians?), but what about the named or flushed-out victims who must deal with the real-time fallout that can destroy their current relationships and wreck their professional and personal lives? Are people going too far to inflict pain on others (payback) and even themselves? Is poetry and even prose, based on your own writing, truly cathartic or are writers merely a glutton for punishment? But at whose expense? Edwin: I certainly do not subscribe to any form of kiss and tell in my writing. Those who write such real-life confessional books are certainly not doing it for any kind of literary reasons. Sadly, that seems to be what some publishers want, and they know these books have readers and they will sell copies. My poems are often drawn from various sources and I rework them and create my own images and metaphors that attempt to capture the experience, the moment or the emotion. Writing prose and poetry are different experiences. Writing poetry sometimes has an element of being therapeutic. Robert: As does writing prose, which I had experienced firsthand during a divorce and a custody battle. I wrote a long story that suddenly answered my unasked question…where was she coming from? Why was she doing this? And what had I done that led to this? And, more importantly, what could I do to help resolve this in a way that would be best for both of us and our child? Edwin: Some of my early poems, especially the ‘Mother Poems’ in Complicated Lives deal with my coming to terms with my mother’s old age and Alzheimer’s illness. These poems are very close to me and I still find it difficult to read them aloud in the Readings sessions. I actually invite others to read these poems. Some of my poems have been described as confessional poems. Here, I’d say that I’m not necessarily the persona in all of these poems. Poetry allows for this ambiguity and I do draw on it. When I write stories, I draw from various sources. If one listens and looks hard enough you see and hear so many things that give fodder to writers. They are seeds that allow for fertilization with the imagination and you have your stories. I often take an issue or a problem and see how I can give it a fresh look. My stories do not have a clear closure as I want the 11
readers to continue to think about the characters and what options they may have. Robert: We write, if not for ourselves, then for others, it seems to me, even if it is only for one person. What may be closure for the writer and closure for the reader may be very, very different. It’s how we react or respond to a particular piece of writing or, by association, how it links to our past that suddenly awakens us or even provides a solution that we hadn’t been seeking. Each reader may respond to a different aspect of the story or the poem, even to a particular word that resonates for them in unexpected ways. Thus, the cause and the effect can go on and on for generations of readers…long after the author had passed away. Another of your quotes from the same collection is TS Eliot, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” This is a true sentiment that applies to various aspects of our lives, including running a marathon, but specific to writing, based on your own experiences, please elaborate. Edwin: I subscribe to what Eliot is advocating in this quote. I like to think that my writing is an attempt at “going too far”. One needs to be careful with what one decides to publish. There are things I write and don’t publish. But I certainly needed to write them for myself. My editor is my barometer who cautions me, and I rarely disagree with him. Some of my readers say I’m brave to publish what they read in my books. So maybe, now I can go a little further. Malaysians self-censor for many reasons. There is the fear that our work might be banned or at worse the writer gets arrested. One has to be careful with matters of race and religion. My writings do deal with race and aspects of religion, but I am very careful not to offend though I might touch on these issues. Robert: What got you interested in reading and writing poetry? Who were your early Malaysian influences or mentors at school? Which poets, both local and overseas, grabbed you or shook you out of your complacency and made you think, this is what I want to do! Edwin: From an early age, I loved reading. A habit I picked up from my eldest brother. As we could not afford to buy books, I joined the British Council library and the library at the Lincoln’s Cultural Centre. Living in Brickfields in the 60s and studying in Methodist Boys’ Secondary School, Kuala Lumpur, I could walk to both the libraries. I used to look for new books and try to be the first reader. In my 20s, I read more poetry than prose. And I read more modern poetry than I did the Romantics like Wordsworth. In fact, I only began to like Wordsworth much later in life. I enjoyed T.S. Eliot from my Form 6 days. I loved the way he wrote about people and life after World War Two. His religious poems resonated well with me, coming from a Christian background. I try to capture our contemporary society in my poems too. As in the case of poetry, I read more modern prose writers like Virginia Woolf, Joseph Conrad and E. M. Forster. Shakespeare grew on me very quickly too. I started reading Shakespeare in Form 4. I had a wonderful English Literature teacher. She introduced me to many writers in cluding Ovid. The American writers came much later in my life, then I discovered Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Faulkner and Baldwin and Scott Fitzgerald. Among the earliest Malaysian writers, I read were Ee Tiang Hong, Muhammad Haji Salleh, Wong Phui Nam and Hilary Tham. Edwin 12
Thumboo had just brought out a volume of Malaysian and Singaporean poems entitled ‘The Second Tongue’ and it opened the door to local writing, especially poetry. I read Malaysian short stories and novels much later. I had the privilege of being a student of Professor Lloyd Fernando. He was certainly a mentor and role model. We became friends and he gave me access to his personal library in his home and much of my early research on the bibliography of Malaysian literature was done here. Robert: Getting the right teacher or lecturer can make a huge difference; one turns you on, the other shuts you down. For your Malaysian anthology Malchin Testament: Malaysian Poems, which spans sixty years and covers nearly sixty poets, what were your criteria for choosing the poems? I could imagine that would have been a difficult undertaking, not wanting to leave someone deserving out, against cries of being bias or showing favouritism or having to defend yourself to the inevitable backlash from fellow poets and friends, “How come so-and-so has four poems and I only have three!” Edwin: I had several criteria for selecting the poems. First, that the poets are Malaysians or are poets born in Malaysia and may now have gone abroad but continue to write about Malaysia. Second, I chose only poems that have been previously published. My work on The Bibliography of Malaysian Literature in English helped me to find just about every published poetry collection by Malaysians poets. Third, I only published poems that the writers gave me permission to publish as they hold the copyrights to the poems. The number of poems for each poet represented the volume of the poet’s publications. There are some poets with just one or two poems. These are usually the emerging poets whose works have appeared in anthologies and the poets did not have their own collection of poems. There are more poems from the established Malaysian poets. Robert: That sounds fair; I hope they were all happy! I liked how the anthology, as you stated, “brings together voices of poets from multicul tural and multilingual Malaysian appropriating the English language for their own expression” which I feel is a tribute for all Malaysians, something everyone should be proud of. But has there been a struggle for this multicultural and multilingual Malaysian voices to be heard and accepted by all? Is this an on-going process or has Malaysia turned the poetic corner, so to speak, and embraced all of these voices, enriching the literature of Malaysia in the process? Edwin: Malaysians write in an English which is quite distinctive. We can recognize Malaysian English both in its standard and non-standard forms. We can see the influences of the local languages on Malaysian English and it certainly enriches the language, but we need to bear in mind that it should have intelligibility for both local and international readers. Writing in English in Malaysia has not been easy. Having the writers’ voices heard is a good start. We do not have many publishers who want to publish poetry. There is the option of self-publication. Even established poets like Wong Phui Nam self-publish. Most poets look for options abroad and online literary journals. It slightly better if you are publishing prose but that too is very limited though the opportunities are more in the last few years. Those who write in English in Malaysia do not get any governmental 13
support unlike those who write in the Malay language. This lack of support has not deterred the writers as we see many more young people writing in English than ever before. There are some success stories of Malaysians publishing in English who have won awards and received international recognition. The first person to win such an award was Shirley Geok-lin Lim in 1981 when she won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for a debut volume. Tan Twan Eng, Tash Aw and Rani Manicka have won prizes for their novels. This year, Saras Manickam won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Asia. So, it is looking good for Malaysia, writing in English. As a literary tradition, we are only about sixty years old. There is a lot of diversity in the writing and that for me makes Malaysian writing in English rather vibrant. Robert: Plus Ivy Ngeow’s Cry of the Flying Rhino and Bernice Chauly’s Once We Were There both won prizes. Having witnessed that transition in the thirty plus years since I first came to Malaysia, I wholeheartedly agree. Anthologies...poetry...short stories...is a novel the next in your future offerings, or is that risking going too far? Edwin: I am working on a number of projects. I hope to bring out a collection of Malaysian short stories, similar to that of Malchin Testament: Malaysian Poems. It’s ready to go to the publisher. This project has taken a lot of time as I want it to be representative of stories from the 1960s to the present. I have also been writing poems and short stories. This I do constantly. I’ve re-written couple of my short stories into scripts, hoping they will be staged at some point. I was very encouraged when three of my stories from Coitus Interrupted and Other Stories were used to stage a performance called ‘Love Matters’ in Mumbai by Playpen Performing Arts Trust directed by Ashish Joshi in 2017 and 2018. I would look to write a novel but maybe not yet. Some of my short stories could have the seeds for a full-blown novel, we’ll have to wait and see. Robert: Back in the 1990’s, I used to be the Penang Coordinator at MACEE, the Malaysian-American Commis sion on Education Exchange, which was run under the Fulbright Program. As a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship, tell us about your Fulbright experience. How has the program impacted your writing and your professional life? Edwin: I totally enjoyed my Fulbright experience. It was the first of a series that was called “Reading America”. We started at New School University, New York where we were given lectures on a variety of topics ranging from literature to politics and history. New York City was in itself a learning experience. There’s so much to see and do. Going to the New York University Library and having access to use it was very exciting for me. I was in all the bookshops, especially Strand. There were theatres, museums and art galleries to go to. I can just go on. We then went to New Mexico. Here we had a few tours and going to the native Indians reservations was an amazing experience. Made me feel rather sad when we were told about the history and violent past with the white settlers. A highlight in the New Mexico section was going to Georgia O’ Keeffe’s house and seeing her work. Finally, we went to Washington D.C. Here, we received various guided tours, including the White House and some monuments. The visit to Library 14
of Congress is something I will remember. What an amazing library both architecturally and in terms of its collection of materials. The Fulbright program provided an excellent opportunity for networking. There were about twenty of us from different countries who shared similar interests, mostly literature. We are still in contact and I’ve been to visit some of them. We continue to communicate and read each other’s work. This has certainly contributed in our professional lives. Robert: I'm sure it did. I once had an amusing experience with Fulbright in Kuala Lumpur when attending a formal dinner in the mid1990s. The set menu consisted of, among several delicious dishes, two Brussel sprouts, which I thought a rather peculiar choice. I wondered who had taken the poetic licence to suggest such an unpopular dish for the menu of a formal dinner filled with hundreds of Fulbright scholars, Malaysian government officials, and international dignitaries? No doubt, someone very important and everyone was afraid to say, “Aiyoh, are you crazy?” Instead they meekly shook their heads in agreement. Not to anyone’s surprise (I call it poetic justice), those same two Brussel sprouts were the only untouched items left on the hundreds of plates taken away by the waiters. What else would you like us to know about you, about your writing, or any writing topic that you feel passionate about that needs addressing? Edwin: I like to present a Malaysian Indian perspective which is contemporary but also deals with the past. The past is very important to me, for example the loss of people and places. Brickfields, my birthplace, features in my poems. I like to write about loss, longing and loving. My hope is that my treatment of these themes and issues will be different and will give a fresh and unique perspective. I am currently doing a book tour to many universities. The purpose of this tour is to meet my readers and potential readers. It gives me an opportunity to meet young people and very much want to share my love for poetry and literature. So far, I’ve visited about eight universities in Peninsular Malaysia, one in Sarawak, one in Singapore and two in Taiwan. Robert: What advice would you give young poets or writers who are struggling to finish (or even seriously start) their first book? Edwin: If you want to write, my advice is to read. Read widely and read as much as you can. That is certainly the first step towards becoming a writer. I would advise writers to have reading buddies. People who you could trust to be honest with you about your work. Also, a poet or short story writer, one could send poems and stories to literary journals and online magazines. Many of these are peer-reviewed and they often give useful feedback; getting them published is certainly a great way of building one’s confidence. Hopefully, with this one publication they will have enough writings and confidence to get more work published, possibly even a book.
Malachi Edwin Vethamani is currently Professor, School of English, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus. He holds a doctorate in Literature in English from the University of Nottingham, England. He is a recipient of the Chevening Award (1993-1996) and the Fulbright Scholarship (2000). He received the Asian Education Leadership Award from the World Education Congress in Mumbai, India in June 2013. His areas of research include New Literatures in English, Malaysian Literature in English, Modern and Contemporary Literature, New Englishes, Malaysian English. His publications include a collection of his poems entitled, 'Complicated Lives' (Petaling Jaya: Maya Press). In 2015 he published 'A Bibliography of Malaysian Literature in English' (Maya Press, 2015). He has a column in the 'New Sunday Times' which delves in English Language and Literature in English.
tan puay tee woodcuts by Martin A Bradley In making woodcuts, Tan Puay Tee continues an age old Chinese tradition. Evidence suggests that ‘woodcuts’ or ‘woodblocks’ (that is carved blocks of wood initially used for silk design printing), had began in China during the 4th or 5th centuries. A century later, and China had invented paper. Woodblock printing, in black, was used for Buddhist religious texts, calendars, and calligraphy, but soon bright red (vermillion, or Cinnabar as it was known) was added to produce two-colour prints, mostly of text. Between 960 and 1279 woodblock printing was used to make decorated books in China, and was at its most popular their between 1368 and 1644, such as the ‘Northern Story of the Western Chamber,’ corrected by Zhang Shenzhi, 1639. Zhang Daojun compiler and editor, Chen Hongshou artist, Xiang Nanzhou carver. Woodblockprinted book, ink on paper. Western styles of art production had been encouraged by the Chinese government since 1902. This increased with the May Fourth Movement (1919), and spread during the early years of the twentieth century. The 1920s and 1930s saw a revival of woodblock printing in China, this time the avant garde used ‘Expressionist’ black and white style, led by artist and educator Li Shutong, who advocated creative woodblock printing and, later, by writer and activist Lu Xun who was interested in woodblock prints as a political tool. Since the 1880s, Singaporean newspapers (under British Malaya) had already being using woodcut technology to add images to text - cartoons and advertising. In I. Proudfoot’s ‘Early Malay Printed Books’ (1993), an early Bible, in Singapore, published by the London Missionary Society (1825) had typeset Jawi along with woodcut illustrations. Another, mentioned in ‘Proudfoot’, and published by the British & Foreign Bible Society (1868), also featured woodcut illustrations alongside Jawi typeset text. According to Art Historian Foo Kwee Horng (in his MA dissertation for the National Institute of Education, Singapore), towards the end of the 1930s interest in woodcut printing was on the wane in Singapore, but was given a new lease of life by the Sunday art supplement in the ‘Nanyang Siang Pau', which heralded in the Creative Woodblock Movement. Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (established in 1938) had educators practising in Western Art, sculpture, arts Education and applied fine arts, as well as one teacher (Chen Puzhi aka Lan Jia) who specialised in woodcuts. Chen, from China’s Canton, was a pioneer of Chinese political woodcuts, and a communist who had fled to Singapore while being pursued by the Chinese Guomingtang government. The heyday for Singaporean woodcut printing was the 1950s and 1960s, sparked by 18
Golden sound, 1984
the social unrest of the time. Like in 1930s China, the starkness and power of woodcut imagery were used (in Singapore) as a political tool. Tan’s woodcut’s are not the delicate antiquarian illustrations of ancient China, nor are they those political wood gougings depicting workers’ struggles, or the bondage of the working classes (proletariat) to the rich (bourgeoise) of China in the 1920s and 30s, nor yet again the harsh social/political narratives depicting life under colonialism of Singapore’s 1950s. Tan’s work does deal with the harsh realities of life, but not in such an overt fashion, despite woodcuts being entirely suitable to that purpose, and that medium’s tendency for angst ridden, fiery, narratives. I will mention two very different woodcuts by Tan Puay Tee; one carefully executed woodcut depicts a landscape in multiple shades of grey (Peep 1988). This landscape is populated by three trees, their branches stripped bare of leaves. In the distance are hills, or mountains, while above them all drifts a human figure printed in black. All we see of the figure is his hands, which droop, and the figure’s head cocked to one side, perhaps sleeping. His body appears to be a light brown cloud (possibly originally white, but the wood pulp paper has aged). to one side is another, smaller, cloud. There is a hint of Marc Chagall’s oil colour ‘Over the Town’ (1918), or perhaps Chagall’s lithograph from 1966 depicting a flying mermaid. Like Chagall, there is a dream element to Tan’s grey woodcut, created in 1990, but why, you might wonder, are the trees bare. In Malaysia, this green, fecund land, leafless trees are seldom seen unless they are dead. We might wonder, is this the soul’s journey, not across the River Styx but over some barren landscape where life refuses to exist? Or, some echo of
Two sisters, 1984
distant Greek myths where, as the poet John Gilbert Cooper relates in his epic poem ‘The Power of Harmony’ (1745) … ‘Now change the scene, Nor less admire those things, which view’d apart Uncouth appear, or horrid; ridges black Of shagged rocks, which hang tremendous o’er Some barren heath; the congregated clouds Which spread their sable skirts, aud wait the wind To burst th’ embosom’d storm; a leafless wood….’ The other artwork (Rest 1982), contrary to the other, is in pale blue and black, leaving the white of the paper as a third colour for the background. In this print, we are presented with two figures framed by a tentative border, black at the bottom, blue above. Both figures are male, inked black with white details in the woodcut fashion. Both are seated, wearing sarongs and singlets, one black the other white. Both smoke. In the mid ground is the prow of a fishing boat, behind, and in the background, sit another two fishing vessels. The print is a thoughtful piece. The two figures present as if in thought. Is this a rest after a hard day’s fishing, a moment grabbed to smoke in, a brief respite from a hard working life? There seems no joy in the faces of the two smokers, but they sit, in contemplation perhaps of what they have done, or what they need to do, theirs lives similar enough to not warrant conversation. The boldness of the print is typical of woodcut, stark, but in a gentle, harmonious sense. The lines of the chequered sarongs are clearly evident, as is the drooping cloth of the fishermen’s singlets, paired with the fishermen’s shoulders, fallen, laden with the weight of their rural existence. 23
Cat and fish, 1981
Blue mountain, 1982
Shelters, Albert Yonathan Setyawan, terracotta; slip cast.
Albert Yonathan Setyawan, born 1983 Bandung,West Java, Indonesia, lives and works in Kyoto, Japan. Albert Yonathan Setyawanâ€™s monumental ceramic floor installation Shelters 2018â€“19 comprises 1800 terracotta components meticulously arranged in a 5.5-metre square grid. Each individual form is painstakingly slipcast from a handcrafted plaster mould in one of five architectural shapes. 29
Artists Julian Abraham ‘Togar’, Jompet Kuswidananto, and Agus Suwage produce sound sculptures and field recordings that provide us with a ‘sound check’ at both the local and the national level. Their work is a warning of the importance of continued active listening in Indonesia and the social responsibility that emerges from listening to others.
Tolerating the intolerance, Julian Abraham 'Togar', stainless steel ventilation dome, motor, LED lights, microphone, megaphone and steel support Collection of Nicholas Tan, Jakarta, Indonesia
Contemporary Worlds: Indonesia is the first major exhibition in Australia to explore the myriad practices of contemporary Indonesian artists working in turbulent post-Reformasi Indonesia: from the fall of Suharto in 1998 to the present day. The vibrant and complex art of Australia’s close neighbour reflects the social and political changes negotiated by Indonesia and the key historical experiences and cultural moments that have shaped the archipelago over time. The exhibition features recent works and large-scale new commissions by some of the most exciting emerging and established artists from Bali and Java’s key artistic centres of Bandung, Yogyakarta and Jakarta. Artists explore concepts ranging from sexuality, gender roles and family, to environmental concerns, the art market, new materials and forms, the everyday object, and how we might listen to and learn from the sounds of Indonesia. This exhibition is not just a snapshot of creative activities in Indonesia now, but provides witness to an incredibly dynamic group of artists who are engaged, connected and responsive to ideas and issues of global significance. 30
Throw away peace in the garden, Eko Nugroho, manual embroidery with rayon thread.
Belonging to a younger generation of artists who emerged post-Reformasi—known as generation 2000 or the internet generation—Eko Nugroho witnessed the rapid social and political changes that followed the fall of Suharto’s 32-year rule. Working primarily with popular culture imagery—street art, comic books and science fiction—seamlessly woven together with traditional Javanese motifs from batik and wayang (shadow puppets), Nugroho has developed hybrid pop-figures that embody the attitude of this period. They appear in his underground zines initiated in 2000 in collaboration with other artists in the spirit of the newly won democracy, and more recently feature in sculpture, embroidery, mural painting, contemporary wayang kulit performance and installation as the artist playfully experiments with different media. Nugroho’s multidisciplinary practice has grown from a central objective: to find public space, in any shape or form, to share his art.
Ladies and gentlemen! Kami present, Ibu Pertiwi! Zico Albaiquni, oil and synthetic polymer paint on canvas.
Like his father, renowned artist and social activist Tisna Sanjaya, Albaiquni critiques society and is inspired by the Social Realist philosophy of Indonesian artist, writer and commentator S. Sudjojono (1913â€“1986). Here, Albaiquni combines the image of an exhibition of Indonesian traditional textiles in the luxurious interior of the Pavillon Dauphine in Paris with a scene from an iconic Indonesian nationalist painting by Sudjojono, Kami present, Ibu Pertiwi, (Stand Guard for our Motherland) 1965.The juxtaposition serves as a commentary on inequality in contemporary Indonesian society and the exoticisation of the tropics. Albaiquniâ€™s distinctive palette is drawn from the latest neon house-paint colours popular in his local Sundanese community. Like the 1919 studio photograph of three young men aloft in a biplane included in the painting, the colours signify modernity and social aspiration.
Paradise #3 , Octoro, ambrotype photograph on glass, courtesy of the artist. Indonesiaâ€™s colonial past has left a rich visual legacy of stereotyped images of an island paradise and its people. Contemporary Indonesian artists draw on this treasury, repurposing paintings and photographs to challenge official history and redress the anonymous archival nature of images coloured by colonial nostalgia and a foreign patriarchal gaze.
Paradise #2 , Octoro, ambrotype photograph on glass, courtesy of the artist. Performance and installation artist Octora critically deploys colonial imagery, transforming archival photographs by inserting her portrait in place of the anonymous subject and gazing directly at the viewer. By personalising a female stereotype and returning a masculine gaze, Octora challenges conventions embedded in colonialist depictions of Indonesia and Indonesians.
Silent operation: Sign study based on the formula of contemporary (visual) art, Uji ‘Hahan’ Handoko Eko Saputro, and Adi ‘Uma Gumma’ Kusuma, installation comprising neon wall-works and interactive game application
Uji ‘Hahan’ Handoko Eko Saputro is an artist practicing within, and actively shaping, the new parameters of this century’s ‘transnational’ scene. Ruminating on this experience, Hahan’s investigation of artistic strategy has been developed into a conceptual project now spanning several iterations. Working collaboratively with Adi ‘Uma Gumma’ Kusuma, this newly commissioned neon work demonstrates an array of career-making moves that come with the heady promise of artistic success. Here, the artists invite us to participate in their findings, providing a chance to play the contemporary art game for ourselves via the use of a networked communication system.
Carnival trap 1, Eko Nugroho, resin, wire, upcycled plastic, iron and synthetic polymer paint
The landscaper, Mella Jaarsma, costume: wood, paint, iron and leather; single-channel video: 3:40 minutes, colour, sound.
Above Mella Jaarsma developed The Landscaper during a residency at Jatiwangi Art Factory in West Java. She was inspired by the contrast between idealised depictions of the local landscape in East Indies paintings, and the brutal colonial history of the region. The Dutch physically ‘landscaped’ and romanticised Indonesia, through numerous constructions and agricultural projects as well as stereotypical images known as Mooi Indië paintings. The idyllic images belie the cruelty and violence enacted in 1808 when, using forced labour, the Dutch constructed the Great Post Road that traverses north Java. These exoticised landscapes which are still produced as tourist art and becak (cycle rickshaw) decorations today, feature on the carved wooden panels of Jaarsma’s costume. In Jaarsma’s work, this contested landscape is presented in the spinning panelled skirt of a Sufi dancer, who witnesses the natural panorama.
Left Belonging to a younger generation of artists who emerged post-Reformasi—known as generation 2000 or the internet generation—Eko Nugroho witnessed the rapid social and political changes that followed the fall of Suharto’s 32-year rule. Working primarily with popular culture imagery—street art, comic books and science fiction—seamlessly woven together with traditional Javanese motifs from batik and wayang (shadow puppets), Nugroho has developed hybrid pop-figures that embody the attitude of this period. They appear in his underground zines initiated in 2000 in collaboration with other artists in the spirit of the newly won democracy, and more recently feature in sculpture, embroidery, mural painting, contemporary wayang kulit performance and installation as the artist playfully experiments with different media. Nugroho’s multidisciplinary practice has grown from a central objective: to find public space, in any shape or form, to share his art.
All text and images, except for where specifically mentioned, are curtesy of the National Gallery of Australia and/or the artists.
Leonor Veiga The Third Avant-garde investigates radical art manifestations in Southeast Asia, which took place around the mid-1980s, when postmodernism started to gain force in the region. It proposes that the advent of postmodernism in Southeast Asia is anchored in the materiality of traditional arts, an aspect that renders it different from its Western equivalent. The dissertation distinguishes two sets of postmodern manifestations: first, practices that use traditions in a celebratory way, and second, a set of works which use traditional arts radically. This study proposes that the second possibility manifests a double dismantle—first, against local patronizing forces that were enforcing artists to practice academic art and Western media (such as painting and sculpture), and second, a distancing attitude from Western art intelligentsia, who acted as ‘owners of the discourse’, and regarded ‘non-Western’ practitioners as followers rather than as trendsetters. For this investigation, the discipline of anthropology was called in, as was the art historical category of the avant-garde. The two approaches combined reveal how contemporary art from Southeast Asia that reprocesses traditional arts can be regarded as avant-garde. These gestures are novel, and result from practicing art in a certain location, and which is bound to a specific socio-political context.
The Third Avant-garde investigates
radical art manifestations in Southeast Asia, which took place around the mid-
1980s, when postmodernism started
to gain force in the region. It proposes that the advent of postmodernism in Southeast Asia is anchored in the materiality of traditional arts, an
aspect that renders it different from its Western equivalent.
An introduction: This paper is unusual. It is not an academic paper, and I am not a practising printmaker. It is a personal view. Perhaps it is a testament. My experience of the world of international contemporary printmaking over more than 25 years has introduced me not only to an extensive community of artists but also to an increasingly wide range of works of art, made in a continually growing number of techniques. While this experience has been wonderful, enabling me to travel to many parts of the world, it has also given me much food for thought. My whole career since my first days in art college in 1962, and from which I graduated more than 50 years ago, has been connected in one way or another to the visual arts, as a designer, administrator, curator, artist, photographer, teacher, lecturer and writer. Because I have no connection with any academic or art institution I have had the freedom to operate as an independent writer since the mid-1980s. I have been able to observe and write about the art world from the outside without having to follow any particular faculty rules or academic policy. That freedom has been both challenging and exciting, and has taken me on an extraordinary journey. I have had the great good fortune to meet a very large number of artists, many of them in their studios. I have seen more exhibitions and artworks than I can count, I have served on competition juries in many countries, and I have written extensively on a wide range of arts subjects. At the same time I have become increasingly aware of historical, social and political developments in the world, witnessing for myself the ways in which the arts have played their part by their reaction to these changes. And yet, for all of this experience, I now find myself questioning the role that the visual arts have in our present-day society, and the directions in which they are heading. So in this paper I am going to ask many questions that I believe artists should be asking of themselves, and those that they teach. My hope is to initiate a continuing discourse, with the possibility of stimulating the consciousness of those who make art works. 44
It is not for me to tell them what to do, nor would I wish to do so. However, the view from the outside is sometimes illuminating, even if it is one that some people on the inside might be reluctant to contemplate. * * *
Choe Yun-ui bronze type 1234
The long and rich history of Printmaking has established a succession of rules and definitions, and with them a strong sense of orthodoxy. To go against that orthodoxy risks raising objection from established practitioners. And yet the history of Printmaking demonstrates that there has been a continual process of evolution in the understanding of what the medium is, and what it can include, and indeed what its purpose may be. At times there has been a sudden surge forward: many of these surges result from the emergence of a new technique or materials, and in recent decades the adoption of new technologies to create print images. And, of course, there is also the growing influence of the internet. Rememberâ€Ś no orthodoxy lasts forever. This paper asks many questions. They are important. 45
Some artists and academics might consider these questions heresy: I accept that this may be the case but make no apology: asking such questions can be a good thing. A statement: Printmaking is Art, and Printmakers are Artists. If we accept this, Printmaking can no longer be treated as being the poor relation of the other visual arts, but becomes the equal of painting, drawing, sculpture and photography. Art is not made, and does not exist, in a vacuum. Art is just one of the products of our society which, together with the complex range of social, technological, cultural and political developments over thousands of years of history, has created the world society in which we live. Art and politics is a potent mixture. At best it can be controversial, at worst it can, literally, be life-threatening. Making Art that criticises governments or politicians, presenting
Gin Lane William Hogarth Copper plate 1751
a critical or satirical version of events or policies, can be unwise. As a consequence art in general, and in its more specifically political forms in particular, can be subject to official disapproval or made illegal â€“ the spectre of censorship and imprisonment remains. The condemnation of so-called Degenerate Art by the Nazi Party in 1930s Germany is one of the darkest periods in the history of art. While this extreme case might not be matched in our time, in some countries there is the return of the equivalent of the â€˜nomenklaturaâ€™ system of state-approved artists and art institutions that stifled so much good art in the era of Communism, while 46
leading to the production of much mediocre art that is now discredited. Paradoxically perhaps, that same ‘nomenklatura’ system provoked the reaction of some artists whose unofficial art – the so-called ‘underground art’ – survives to demonstrate that the human spirit cannot be suppressed. In the present time it is significant to note as examples of transgressive art the resurgence of political/satirical cartoons such as those that feature Donald Trump, or the politicians behind the increasingly discredited Brexit process. Those who produce such works are the heirs of Goya, Hogarth and Daumier, and many others. Not all such creative activity is simply condoned or ignored by political regimes: journalists and cartoonists have been imprisoned in Turkey and Iran. Even worse punishments have been imposed in some countries. Art, in all its forms, is still feared by authoritarian government regimes in many parts of the world. Such governments consider artists to be dangerous, because they are able to influence other people and change their views. The presence of the Internet and social media increases the potential of this influence. At the same time, contemporary art has become a desirable form of international currency for trade and investment. The increase in the number of Art Fairs and high value auctions is notable, including the emergence of Middle Eastern and Asian countries in the art fair calendar. This has had a major effect on the making and selling of art in those parts of the world. The establishment of new institutions such as the spectacular Louvre Abu Dhabi is helping to tilt the balance of the art world away from the Europe – North America axis, and this is a good thing. There is much more that could be said about these aspects of the art world, but this short paper does not allow the space for that. To return to the subject of Printmaking: a successful print has to demonstrate a balance between technique and concept, between making and meaning. If one of these two constituents becomes dominant, then the work as a whole suffers. How often have you looked at a print and admired the technique, but have then wondered what the Printmaker is trying to say? Or, perhaps you have looked at a print that conveyed a clear message, but which was technically inferior. You might then ask what a print should say, and whether it is important for a print to have meaning. Is it enough to demonstrate a skilful technique or a sophisticated use of colour, texture, line and so on? Questions such as these are important in the mediums of woodcut and linocut, each of which has a long and highly respected history, and in which the mastery of technique is both hard to learn and challenging to maintain. The celebrated work of many generations of masters in those mediums in many countries, across Asia and Europe and, increasingly, North America, is testament to that history. The Ulsan International Woodcut Biennial has been and remains noteworthy in highlighting and celebrating the excellence of the work that is being made by contemporary artists in woodcut and linocut. Without any doubt that is an event that is very important, especially if it encourages newcomers to the medium to learn more and improve their work, seeing out new ways to express themselves. At the same time it is a wonderful opportunity for artists from other countries to share their work in dialogue with Korean printmakers. *
I would like to ask some more questions: Is meaning or mystery important in the creative arts anymore? Do artists and creators want to touch the human heart or soul? Do art consumers want their heart or soul to be touched by art? Can Art change lives? Or is a work of art something to put in a frame and hang on a wall to cover a stain? Is it merely part of a room’s decoration? Is it a way for someone to say ‘look at me, I can afford this very expensive work of art’? For comparison IKEA, the international chain of home furnishing stores, sells large scale (140 x 100cm) framed photographic prints with high quality images for €55-77 (that is approximately 70,000 to 100,000 Won). How can a hard-working artist compete with that if all a customer needs is something to decorate a wall (or to hide a stain)? So the question remains of what the purpose of art may be in the mind of the art buyer or consumer. I suspect that in these hard-bitten, money-fixated times, there are only a few people left who look for and buy art for aesthetic satisfaction, or to support struggling artists, or to form a collection that they will later donate to a museum. Not so long ago art lovers with limited financial resources could buy a print by an artist for less money than a drawing or painting by the same artist: in simple terms that was good for the buyer, and good for the artist who was able to produce an edition of prints. This is still a practical option for an artist if the print is produced on a flat piece of paper that can be framed and hung in a home or office. The problem comes with what has become known as extended printmaking, and I will return to that later. For the moment let us remain with the idea of a print as being made on a flat piece of paper of modest dimensions, made in an edition. There is a series of related questions that come from this: How many matrices (intaglio, screen, or digital file) do you as a printmaker produce in a year? How many of these are then used to produce an edition, and what is the total number of prints that you make in a year? And how many sheets of paper do you use? It is likely that these are quite large numbers. Let me ask you the same questions if you are a teacher of printmaking, in terms of the total numbers produced in a year by all your students. The numbers you calculate will be a much larger. Let me go on to ask the same questions of the total number of all the printmakers in South Korea, or in Asia, or the world – at each step the numbers get progressively larger. Perhaps you will by now see where these questions are leading. The total number of prints made in the world in a year is probably incalculable, but is certainly a very large number. What happens to all those prints? How many of them are sold, or exchanged with other artists? How many of them are put into flat file drawers or portfolios, unseen by anyone for years? And what is their eventual fate? And, dare I ask… how many sheets of paper are used, how many litres of ink and, finally, how many more prints does the planet really need? Dare I ask what impact printmaking has on the fragile ecology of this planet? But of course, and this is something we all understand, the matter of creating an edition of prints is deeply ingrained in the DNA of the 48
medium. Purists claim that a unique print or monoprint canâ€™t be a true print since it does not exist in an edition. So, why make an edition if there is no demand for it? Does making an edition create the demand, or is it done to comply with the orthodoxy? Could it be that printmakers are over-ambitious or over-confident? However unwelcome they may be, these are all serious questions.
* *KrakĂłw * 2018 Trans-Grafica How do we chart the situation of Printmaking at this point in the 21st century? Within its own world Printmaking has advanced to incredible levels, and is perhaps it is becoming the victim of its own success. Beyond, in the wider art world, and the wider world beyond Art, Printmaking, defined strictly as that, occupies a relatively minor position, compared to painting or even video art. This somewhat negative but realistic view is true of traditional Printmaking, a piece of paper in a frame. However, it may perhaps be less true of works made in the field of what has come to be known as extended Printmaking. And that is a very big field that continues to grow. I refer to such things as: very large prints with dimensions measured in metres, print installations with three-dimensional elements, prints on sculptural forms, prints including video or holographic projection, prints made as installations or directly on the walls of galleries, or external walls (including Street Art), prints on unconventional surfaces such as hanging fabric, and many more. It is significant that works such as these are increasingly being included in major international competitions and exhibitions, including the recent Triennale and Trans-Grafia exhibitions in KrakĂłw, and some of the exhibitions that were part of the recent IMPACT 10 conference in Santander in Spain. There are other examples I am sure. Most of such work is not suitable for a domestic setting and is fit only for a museum or a large commercial building. And that is a very limited market, made more precarious by the reduction in public arts funding that is causing problems for artists in many parts of the world. Such works can be seen to be approaching the general world of visual art, rather than the more exclusive world of Printmaking. I have written about expanded Printmaking for many years. My own personal collection contains both traditional and experimental prints, as 49
well as paintings and sculpture. To me they are all works of art: I do not choose to categorise them in detail, I donâ€™t think it is necessary. So, I will repeat this: Printmaking is Art and Printmakers are artists. I repeat this because I believe that is necessary to reconsider the purpose of Art and Printmaking in our time. In times such as these that we are living through Art needs to engage more effectively with society if it is to gain more relevance, and can help to drive beneficial social change. You might think from some of my comments that I have lost my respect for Printmaking. I most certainly have not. I still get great pleasure from seeing and handling well-made prints and learning how artists in different parts of the world are developing and extending their skills. It is still a wonderful and life-affirming experience to view at close range the work of a talented printmaker who understands the process and uses it with great skill, who chooses the paper and ink with discretion, and who uses all this experience to communicate a deeply felt passion for the subject matter. I still believe that Printmaking is the most democratic of all art mediums, and that it has the unique characteristic of bringing people together. The success of community based print workshops and collectives clearly shows this. Such workshops have great practical and educational benefits for those who practice printmaking or who wish to learn the techniques. By sharing the facilities and equipment it becomes much simpler and more economic for artists to produce the matrix and make the prints. Classes in the basics of a technique encourage others to learn about printmaking and to improve their skills. In addition, one major benefit is learning how to work collaboratively with others, sharing skills and techniques and improving as a result. Beyond all these benefits there is the social aspect of working with like-minded people, and often the possibility of exhibiting the results of the work in a shared gallery space. This truly is a community and there are numerous benefits. There are still, of course, many printmakers who prefer to work in the tranquillity of their own personal studios, and that also is good: the printmaking community is a very varied one and that also must be celebrated.
Christine Style, Genetic bird explosion
But I am increasingly concerned that for some artists the making of a print, whether in a private or community workshop, a mastery of technique is often seen as being the goal, and that conveying a deeper 50
meaning is often a minor concern. In my work on juries around the world I have seen a great many prints that are technically superb but that have very little depth of meaning, or even mystery. In the same way, as the size of prints increases, the only thing that can sometimes be said of such large prints is that, well, they are large: this is particularly the case for digital prints, but increasingly for intaglio prints as well. There is an time-honoured tradition of in the printmaking world of making black and white abstract prints, often in linocut. Artists have developed highly sophisticated techniques of cutting the block, and the size of the prints has increased in recent years due to the widening availability of largeformat printers and large-sized sheets of paper. While I can understand the attraction of working in this way, it has to be asked just what is the future of such large prints, and for whom are they intended? What, in short, is their purpose, and what is their eventual fate? * * * Considering the art world in general, there is this wonderful quotation from the Mexican poet and human rights activist, Cesar Cruz: ‘Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable’. And Robert Crumb, the American comic artist known for his highly skilled, anarchic, socially and politically engaged work, shows himself in a self-portrait cartoon saying: ‘I’m not here to be nice to people.’ These two quotations suggest that art has to be more than simply the mastery of technique. This, of course, is nothing new. The satirical prints of 18th century English artists such as Gilray and Rowlandson, or the raw passionate prints by Goya, Hogarth and Daumier, were not made as home decoration or to end up in the private collections of rich men. They were made because such artists were angered at the injustice of the social and political conditions they saw around them, and chose to make works that satirised, or criticised, the established governments of the countries in which they lived. These artists were political artists. They are now celebrated as great artists. Their work was about the transmission of ideas, powerful and uncompromising, and in some cases, such as Hogarth, was effective in helping to bring about social change. More recently, as part of anti-government demonstrations from the 1970s onwards, artists have set up temporary workshops to screen print posters and banners. Graffiti, digital images and social media protests have joined these tools of engagement. The role played by the poster artists of Poland from the 1960s to 1980s has become widely recognised as being part of the movement that brought communist rule to an end. The role of the screen-printed posters of Shepard Fairey in the first election campaign of President Obama is equally recognised for its power and influence. The Street Art in Egypt during the Arab Spring broke all the rules and played a big part in bringing about change, especially as it was shared in real time through the social media. Art really does have the power to change the world, or parts of it… All this is good, but what about art in the wider everyday context of the contemporary world? Does art have to have an explicit political meaning, or activist message in order to be valid? Does art have to be more than merely decorative or illustrative? Perhaps art buyers want something that allows an escape from reality, perhaps 51
Barack Obama 'Hope', 2008 Election poster, Shepard Fairey
Genevieve Hathaway, photographer, Street Art in Egypt during the Arab Spring.
Tom Huck, Stuck pig blues, 2019
they don’t want to be reminded constantly of the harsh reality of the world outside. I would agree that there is still a place for contemporary art that achieves this aim. Art, like music and poetry, has a role in engaging the more contemplative parts of peoples’ lives, bringing quietness into a noisy and demanding world. On the other hand there are some contemporary artists whose work is intentionally political. These include the highly talented and increasingly recognised American woodcut artist, Tom Huck. His very large-scale prints, often made in triptych format, demonstrate equal measures of superb technique and passionate, angry, politically-motivated imagery. His works sell at high prices to both serious collectors and top rank museums. He has recently shown his work in a two-person exhibition at the Carlos Museum of Emory University in Atlanta: sharing the exhibition with another celebrated woodcut artist, Albrecht Durer. He is also an artist who is committed to the development of a strong community arts base in his home city of St Louis in Missouri, running regular classes and an annual and very influential Woodcut Boot Camp, the limited places for which sell out months in advance. In addition to his large scale prints he also makes work at smaller scale, to be sold at low prices to print lovers. He is one of the ‘Outlaws of Print’, a group of impressive and dedicated American woodcut artists whose work stands up in protest against the iniquities of the current American establishment. Perhaps it need not be added that work of this group is very popular among American students. * * * I have asked many questions in this paper. I have done so because I am committed to the contemporary arts. I believe that the arts have the power to redeem the human race from all that is dark and negative in the world, and that the arts have the power to make us better people. The visual arts, like music and dance, have the distinction of not requiring the use or understanding of any particular language – they are universal. It is possible for people from countries with very different cultures and languages to communicate with other people across the world through music, dance and the visual arts. If you think about it, that is a very powerful force. It is a force that can be used for good or bad purposes, and that is where the ultimate responsibility of the artist lies, to seek ways of using creative inspiration and ability to make the world a better place. In the end it is for artists themselves to decide if that is what they want to do, and what meaning, if any, they want their art to have, and how to go about it. And it is for them to choose if, and how, they want to be remembered through their art in time to come. And it is for them to choose how to make things that enable them to make a living and to survive in an increasingly competitive world. This is admirable, but is it enough? We have to ask, all the time, what is the purpose of having art in the world? And then to make art to the best of our abilities to fulfil that purpose. Is it not time to think long and hard about all these questions? I believe that it is. Wales, May 2019 Republished from the catalogue of the Ulsan International Woodcut Biennial, July 2019.
The Principal Girl A Re-view by Martin A Bradley
The Principal Girl: Feminist Tales from Asia is an anthology of short stories from Malaysia and Singapore, edited by Sharifah Aishah Osman and Tutu Dutta. It is a collection of eighteen stories, in two hundred and twenty two pages, revealed by authors from Malaysia, Singapore and diaspora. In pantomime, as in life, young females have been frequently required to dress as males to be recognised for their abilities, chiefly as the ‘Principal Boy’ or ‘breeches parts’. In a more enlightened age it may have been ‘The Principal Girl’. Sadly the ‘Principal Girl’ has often existed only as the love interest for the Principal Boy/hero/rogue. Famous girls as boys have included the likes of Marie Lloyd, the Queen of the Music Halls, and Dorothy Ward, for pantomime is a topsy turvy world of gender reversal with women as men and men as women (including ‘Pantomime Dames’ such as Dan Leno’s Widow Twankey). The 18th century began the tradition of women dressing as men on stage. Before which most roles, be they male or female, were performed by men. A century later and Madam Vestris (Lucia Elizabeth Vestris) was making her name in gender swapping roles and rose to become a theatre producer/manager. I confess that it was the striking blue, practically Gauguinesque, cover by Farisya Faizal which initially caught my attention. A puzzled, or was that surprised, female face, her hair adorned with flowers, shone from a background of tropical leaves from either Gauguin’s Marquesas Islands, or Penang. Next, the text - ‘Feminist Tales from Asia’ had my curiosity well and truly piqued,. Those words encapsulated promises of short stories viewed from a very different perspective. I noticed the name Preeta Samarasan, and then, like a puzzling pantun, everything clicked into place. Samarasan (author of ‘Evening Is The Whole Day’) has been the public face of Malaysian feminism for some time; quietly setting writing and feminist discourse standards for the region. Tutu Dutta (coeditor of this anthology, along with Sharifah Aishah Osman) remains a leading figure in Malaysia children’s and young adult books, and has produced myriad mythic tales for our delight and delectation. Both women are fine examples of strong, dare I say intrepid, females and are ‘Principal Girls’ themselves. Not in any secondary sense, you understand, of being reliant on a love interest, but prime (of first importance), able, resilient and tenacious enough to forge their own heroic paths. And thus, as it turned out, were many of the 57
characters in the eighteen stories. Heroic females are not at all unfamiliar. In the West. Author Maureen Murdock has countered many male myths with her ‘The Heroine’s Journey’, including that of Joseph Campbell’s ‘Hero with a Thousand Faces’ within his ‘The Hero’s Journey’ and concept of a ‘monomyth’. Contemporary writers like Margaret Atwood, (The Penelopiad), Judith Butler (Antigone’s Claim) and the great female philosopher Helene Cixous (The Laugh of the Medusa) have all delved into what had previously been male myths. However, coming from the East, the stories in ‘The Principal Girl’, (situated in a frequently misunderstood and oft times overlooked South East Asia and its diaspora), enhance our understanding from this newer perspective of storytelling, within a fresher understanding of equatorial gender relations. Just as an anthology such as ‘The Principal Girl’ cannot contain all short stories currently written, so this review is selective too. Joyce Ch’ng’s ‘Reborn’ aptly begins this fascinating anthology. It is a carefully crafted tale combining myths from the East (Feng Huang), West (Phoenix) and from Egypt (Bennu), with a soupçon of Ancient Greek philosophy. I’ll not give the plot away, but say that it is a beautiful narrative deserving of a greater word count. The story drips with poetic depth, is captivating and over a greater distance may even prove to be charming, literally. Then, on page twelve, the reader wakes up to the shock of Preeta Samarasan’s pointed, and maybe poignant, words in ‘The Girl on the Mountain’. It is as if Angela Carter, that doyen of adult fairy stories is reborn for, to quote Samarasan’s own words back to her, she is ‘a girl who dares to say what she thinks’. Like Carter, Samarasan infuses new spirit into what could have otherwise been just another strong-willed princess (male) fantasy. For a third story, I have chosen Golda Mowe’s ‘Under the Bridge’. Mowe is Sarawakian of both Iban and Melanau descent, and has written much of Iban legends and superstitions. Her story in this anthology is no disappointment. It is a cautionary tale of identity and ego, best read to find out more. Shalini Nadaswaran’s romantically moral tale of ‘An Epic Misunderstanding’ completes my quartet. It is also the final story in the book. I have to confess that I did find it irksome, and disruptive, to have to rush to the glossary at the story’s end to find translations for Tamil in the text. How to be authentic with your narration while not alienating your reader, is a delicate juggling act. Perhaps footnotes, or simply adding the translation in brackets might help with the reader’s flow. That said, it was an interesting, though saddening, story. The anthology, as a whole, hangs together well. I eagerly await the next volume, and hope that it too may contain all female voices, for that really, apart from the actual writing, is the strength of this anthology. Well done the writers, and well done to Sharifah Aishah Osman and Tutu Dutta. The writers include...Joyce Ch'ng; Preeta Samarasan; Hezreen Abdul Rashid; Leela Chakrabarty; Maizura Abas; Sumitra Selvaraj; Anna Tan; Golda Mowe; Julie Padasian; Julya Oui; Krishnaveni Panikker; Latifah Tamerlane, Renie Leng Sharmilla Ganesan and Shalini Nadaswaran. Cover by Farisya Faizal. 58
Zurhem is the embodiment of modern flair with traditional sophistication. It is about ready-to-wear
standards and an impeccable bespoke service. More importantly, it is an experience. Zurhem, like many leading names in fashion, is the brainchild of the label’s Mehruz Munir (CEO) & Saadat Chowdhury (Chairman). The conceptualizing and creation of the brand was pursued after Mehruz came back to Dhaka after attending London College of Fashion to hone his skills and knowledge on Menswear. Zurhem encompasses Prêt-à-Porter and a Bespoke Suiting Salon. Clients are able to walk in for the ready-to-wear division, while bespoke services are met through appointments. It is the ideal combination of high quality and service in menswear they are dedicated to uphold. For all inquiries, please contact: +8801940401010 or email email@example.com Address: Zurhem, 7th Floor, House 44, Road 12, Banani, Dhaka 1212, Bangladesh
objects we see every day and presenting them in a pop art influenced visuals was Andy Warhol’s claim to fame. For Zurhem’s Spring Summer 2019 collection -powered by AMP -- Mehruz Munir created a collection inspired by rickshaw art that is bold, flamboyant, often
chaotic and unapologetic. The designer collaborated with rickshaw painters and experimented with prints that will immediately remind you of Dhaka. There’s an element of familiarity and the excitement of shapes and silhouettes that are all too current and edgy.
Apologies to the Bengali Lady ...is a postcolonial fever dream of drama, comedy and absurd farce! Step into the mind of a woman writing the history of Shakespearean prostitute-actresses in colonial Bengal. As academic fixation turns into existential crisis, where does Shakespeare end and She begin? While the fate of the Bengali bhadramahila has traditionally been to "cook and clean and not be seen" Apologies presents one Bengali woman's tussle with the Shakespeare in her head to be seen, heard, and known. Along the way, we shed light on the Bengali prostituteactresses who were the first women to perform Shakespeare's works in the region. Apologies is an exploration of reparations, colonialism, and finding love for Shakespeare at difficult times. Apologies to the Bengali Lady is performed by Anya Banerjee (Richard III at Lenfest Centre for the Arts, Kill Hamlet at Signature Theatre) and Clayton McInerney (King Lear at BAM and Mad Forest at Lenfest Centre for the Arts). and is directed by Velani Dibba (Patience at the Corkscrew Festival 2019 and Falling & Loving with the SITI Company) and Stage Managed by (Dog at Signature Theatre and Broken April at the Lenfest Centre for the Arts).
Anya Banerjee is a New Zealand-American actress and writer of Bengali descent who developed the idea for this play from her MA Thesis in Literature, researching the influence of Shakespeare in colonial India. She has just completed her second year of the Acting MFA program at Columbia University. This is her first play. Our team has been rehearsing/rewriting/staging at Columbia University and we were invited to workshop the show in May in D.C. at the 2019 Crosscurrents Festival at the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown University. After a run at the Tank in NYC we have brought the show to Scotland for two weeks of performances at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival at...
Greenside at Nicolson Square August 12-17th and 19-24th @5:15pm 2 for 1 tickets from 13th through the 16th The performance runs for 1 hour https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/apologies-to-the-bengali-lady We encourage you to follow our twitter @Anya_Banerjee and instagram @apologiesthetheplay for updates on the play and for further information on the Shakespearean prostitute actresses of colonial Bengal, including a bibliography see apologiestheplay.com Playwright: Anya Banerjee Director:Velani Dibba Featuring: Anya Banerjee, Clayton McInerney
all cut up Regina Lafay
Getting along swimmingly
A turn around the garden
Kanak Champa Chakma
reinvigorating Bangladesh Modernism by Martin Bradley
“Art transports us from the world of man’s activity to a world of aesthetic exaltation. For a moment we are shut off from human interests; our anticipations and memories are arrested ; we are lifted above the stream of life.” Clive Bell, p25, in The Aesthetic Hypothesis, Art, Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1914.
I was fortunate. During my short sojourn in Dhaka between February and March 2019, I was fated to meet with Kanak Champa Chakma on a number of occasions. This eventuated in me being invited to her studio, for a delicious homemade lunch and to see her stunning artworks in varying stages of growth. This gave me a slight glimpse into the life and art of this accomplished Bangladesh artist. While heeding the advice from a renown Dhaka writer not to reference outside of the culture, in this instance there is no denying the need to mention the influence of Paul Gauguin’s powerful, original, colouration and simplicity of line on the works of Kanak Champa Chakma. The artist, herself, would be the first to admit to her fascination with what Roger Fry had determined as the ‘Post Impressionism’ of Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin (1848 - 1903), as had Syed Manzoorul Islam, writing for Kanak Champa (The Sights and Sounds of Kanak Chanpa’s World), in Kanak Chanpa Chakma, published by Duncan Brothers, in Dhaka, 2005. In the last years of the 19th Century Gauguin, and others, had been seeking fresh ways to look at art, painting especially. In ‘Ivory Apes and Peacocks’ (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1915), James Huneker, writing about Paul Gauguin, mentioned that "He was weary of a Paris where everything had been painted, described, modelled, so he sailed for Tahiti, landing at Papeete.” In 1891 Gauguin, travelled to Tahiti, then to the Marquises archipelago, to satisfy his curiosity for ‘the primitive’, a life unspoiled by its brush with European ‘civilisation’. He was disappointed. Modern life had reached there first. In 1901 he had to travel deeper into those, and adjacent isles, to find a fresh way of looking at this art. Before his return to the Pacific isles, Gauguin had written “Think also of the musical role colour will henceforth play in modern painting. Colour, which is vibration just as music is able to attain what is most universal yet at the same time most elusive in nature: its inner force.” (Paul Gauguin, Letter to Fontainas, 1899). Gauguin’s ‘inner force’ of colour has echoed through the ages, influencing other artists such as Wassilly Kandinsky (1866 - 1944), renown for his own colour theories. Before his untimely death (in Atuona, Hiva Oa, the Marquesas Islands, in French Polynesia, 8th of May 1903), in 1897 Gauguin had painted a large canvas, ‘D'où Venons Nous Que Sommes Nous Où Allons Nous’ (‘Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?’) spanning some 139 cm × 375 cm (or 55 in × 148 in). That large painting has been highly influential on the works of other artists, and one can image how influential this might have been for Kanak Champa Chakma with her use of dynamic colours et al. Her 92
Near the Poetic hill, Kanak Champa Chakma
D'où Venons Nous Que Sommes Nous Où Allons Nous’ (‘Where Do
work can be seen to reinvigorate the idea of a Bangladesh ‘Modernism’, while looking back to Gauguin and examining her ethnic Chakma roots through pictorial forms. Kanak Champa is no outsider looking in, no middle class European filled with romantically poetic notions of the ‘Primitive’, as was Gauguin, but an artist who concerns herself with the plight, history and culture of her people - the Chakma ethnic tribe, who represent the largest of the 45 ethnic minority communities in Bangladesh. Kanak Champa (Chakma), however, is not the first female artist to have brought touches of School of Paris to the Indian subcontinent. The briefly lived Amrita Sher-Gil (1913 - 41), wallowing in Parisian Bohemia, responded to Gauguin’s paintings of the women in Tahiti by painting ‘Self-Portrait as a Tahitian’ (1934), in which the artist sensually appears with a hint of wildness and ‘primitiveness’, in her self-portrait. It is claimed that the half Indian, half Hungarian Amrita Sher-Gil had introduced Modern Art, and thus also knowledge of Paul Gauguin and his style, into India where she returned in 1935 settling, for a while, in Saraya, a village in India’s Gorakhpur district. She died in Lahore, now part of Pakistan. Kanak Champa’s own response to Gauguin was not that of Sher-Gil. 94
o We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?’), Paul Gauguin
Kanak Champa has not adopted an adversarial position towards Gauguin nor, necessarily, has attempted to subvert the male ‘gaze’, supplanting that with another, an opposing a ‘feminist’ one. Instead Kanak Champa imbues her artworks (of tribes people) with the sort of honestly only one uniquely familiar with their culture can portray. Kanak Champa, in her choice to channel Gauguin, differs from that of Sher-Gil. Kanak Champa uses Gauguin to reveal the indigene while presenting, and representing, a mystic ‘otherness’ in her choice of neo-Symbolist imagery. Thus Kanak Champa demonstrates her unique intimacy with her subject, her mastery over the mediums she chooses and her acuteness in presenting both to a beguiled audience. K.G.Subramanyan (in his talk for the 4th Ravishanker Rawal Memorial lecture, on Art & The Matter of Identity, 2007) suggested that…. “…visual art today functions in an indefinite location. Although an artist puts a lot of planning and effort into making an art object, the viewer is relatively a stranger to its message. Even the qualities of its image, in the absence of a common cultural background or the instabilities within the one that is. So in today's world art is becoming more of a commodity and less of a 95
Self-Portrait as a Tahitian, Amrita Sher-Gil
communication, for all the fan-fare and publicity that accompanies the launch or the opening of an exhibition.”
Way of peace, Kanak Champa Chakma
Observing Kanak Champa’s early paintings, such as ‘Way of Peace’ (1998), you may be forgiven for assuming there might be a fondness for a symbolism closer to home - that of India’s Abanindranath Tagore (18711951). He was a pioneer of the ‘Bengal School of Art’ and that ‘renaissance’ Indian Rabindranath Tagor’s nephew. Abanindranath Tagore’s evocative Symbolist paintings such as the ‘Untitled’ watercolour (Maiden) created in the 1920s, or his ‘pastel on board with oil’ portrait of his grandson, ‘Mohanlal Ganguly’ (1926), resonate with the more ‘romantic’ aspects of European Symbolism woven into aspects of ‘traditional’ Indian painting. If you consider Abanindranath Tagore’s work to have some influence over Kanak Champa’s own, you would be incorrect. Kanak Champa’s pictorial ‘task’, as it were, is to wrestle with Subramanyan’s negative imaginings concerning ‘Modernism’ by bringing alive the naturalness of the Chakma (and other) tribal indigenes, without resorting to overdue romanticism, which European Symbolism has a leaning towards, while preserving all the indigenous mystique of her subject matter. It is to her credit that Kanak Champa does this successfully, allowing her audience to see what she sees, at least at one remove, with all the beauty and intrinsic spiritualism of the tribal peoples. This is achieved through her astute choices of colour, form, composition and a textuality 97
Santhal Girl, Ranchi Abanindranath Tagore
which adds physical and psychological depths to her canvases. Though still in tune with a revitalised Gauguin, Kanak Champa has moved on to use impasto and scraping techniques for her canvas’ physical depth, alluring and beguiling her audience(s). She frequently exhibits heightened colour choices, more in tune with ‘The Fauves’ (‘les fauves’ or the wild beasts, 1905 to 1910) who came after Gauguin, with distinct suggestions of a dynamic use of ‘Expressionism’. In her home studio I had seen works which varied from a predominantly duo-tone canvas (roseate and blue) to another where a green had been pushed back so as not to challenge the power of the blue and the female figure before it. I also witnessed a long canvas, worked with yellow which edged towards the golden, where five figures dominated the foreground, and yet another two figures shared the mid and background. Delicate introductions of red and white, dour tones of grey-brown only sought to emphasise that gold/yellow, demonstrating the artist’s familiarity with colour theory. But there again, and naturally as an artist, her work is unique. When I look at my attempts to ‘situate’ Kanak Champa within the framework of Modernist painting, I inevitably fail. I fail because all such attempts must remain futile. No such direct comparisons could possibly exit. I may cite Gauguin, Post-Impressionism, Symbolism, Fauvism and Expressionism only to eventuate in realising that any such combination of styles and forms only highlights the originality of Kanak Champa's work. I use Abanindranath Tagore and Amrita Sher-Gil to ‘localise’ possible stylistic influences, demonstrating that the Indian subcontinent too has produced artists of note in similar vein. Ones who had worked towards an Asian Modernism. Kanak Champa, I have to confess, is an original. In her approach to her art, in her approach to her subject matter and in her choices of revelation, or obturation, she excels in rendering her own narrative and the stories of those frequently marginalised by a mainstream society. 98
Maiden, Abanindranath Tagore
The Monk, Kanak Champa Chakma
Untitled, Kanak Champa Chakma
Untitled, Kanak Champa Chakma
A Strange Experience by Vivek Nath Mishra
I met Silje at a tea shop near Vishnu guest house. This was just like another weekend and I was there with my friend. The cosy place was full of smoking foreigners. The golden lights revealed a little of faces: a little about their dull or happy lives, keeping much to itself. We were sipping our lemon ginger tea when she tapped gently on my right shoulder. “What is this exactly?” She asked narrowing her eyebrows, looking at my glass cup. “This is lemon ginger. They crush a small piece of ginger and squeeze half a lemon into it, simple.” “Can I try, please,” it was the next voice I heard from her after a short pause. I looked into my glass. There was not much left into it. I was still thinking if I should buy her a glass of lemon ginger when she took the cup from my hands and took a sip. She smacked her lips, wiped her mouth with a napkin and gave the cup back to me. It was crazy to drink from a stranger’s glass. “Good, gracious!” She exclaimed. She looked beautiful. I didn’t find many foreigners beautiful. They were not the persons of my eyes, to be honest. I always thought that a European girl looked too thin and a girl with a little flesh looks better but she had a perfect physique. Her skin shone as if she was rubbed with a pinch of gold dust, matching the colour of her hair. Her hair was thick and soft and curly like noodles. It touched the nape of her neck. It wasn’t long enough like a girl's or short enough to come under boy-cut hairstyle. Her hair was diagonally cut across her face and she would take a few strands and tug it behind her ears. I noticed her earrings. I had never seen such earrings before. It was a Venus symbol: a sign of gender for females. She was in a long silky gown. It was light brown in colour and was stuck to her body revealing her shape. Her curves were visible from her clothes. However, more than that what really took my attention was other Indians gathered around her, staring hard at her body, as if she was sitting stark naked. “Are you local?” she asked again after a little while. “Yes. I live just next to Assi ghat. Where are you from?” “Well, I’m from Germany. I’ve been living there for past few years. My parents are from Russia, but when I was very small they got divorced. After this, my mother married a German and we moved to Germany.” “How long are you going to stay here?” “Two weeks, only if I don’t get sick during my stay. I don’t want to disappoint you but Varanasi is very dirty. My friend had come here last year and she caught a severe chest infection. She didn’t want me to stay here. I want to see this Puja that’s going to happen under that Peepul tree at Dandi ghat around midnight. Can you come with me?” “I’m afraid I can not, but we can meet tomorrow. I’ll show you around.” 102
“Great,” she said and we bade each other good night. This would have been a strange encounter in any other part of the world, trusting a stranger so easily but in Varanasi nobody is a stranger. Nothing seems foreign. It takes people nothing to make friends or indulge into a political debate. Silje met me near the Peepul tree at Dandi ghat next morning. It seemed it was her favourite place in Varanasi. She looked fresh as if she had come straight out of shower. Her hair looked wet and dark. I wasn’t expecting this but as she came near me she hugged me tightly. In Varanasi a man holding a man’s hand is a common sight but a man holding a woman’s hand attracts every passer-by's attention. “Thank you for coming,” she said cheerfully, revealing a charming smile. We walked together along the river for an hour or so. The sun was climbing the sky and it was getting warmer with the passing time. There was not the slightest hint of breeze. Trees stood there in a state of utter shock. River looked utterly calm as if it had stopped flowing at all. Silje had her hat over her head but she looked red in her face, hot as a burning vessel. I could sense the heat she was feeling, more than me, of course. I thought whether her heart was pumping all the blood only to her face. We couldn’t walk further down without taking rest for a while. We decided to sit on the step under a huge tree. It was a stairway that ascended up and led to the meandering streets. Crooked streets of Varanasi can help you in forgetting the sense of time and space. It was cool under the shade of this gigantic tree. A crow was cawing incessantly somewhere in the branches, well hidden behind the dense leaves. I tried to locate it but couldn’t. A few macaques were jumping over from one branch to the other, manoeuvring to steal the offering that was made in the temple just next to the tree. It was a small dilapidated temple. The roof seemed like was soon to come down. The priest was sleeping on the floor in front of a small entrance of the temple so that no monkey could get inside. After a little while, I felt a hand on my back. It was Silje caressing my back. I was unsure if she did it mistakenly but then I saw her other hand coming over to my chest. The next moment, she rested her head over my shoulder and started playing with my fingers. I became nervous. I felt the hairs standing on my hands. She smiled as she caressed my chest and back. I was still hesitant if I should touch her when she took my hands and put it over her cheeks. I began to stroke her hair. Her soft skin was as smooth as butter. I had never felt a more evoking touch in my life before. I felt that Silje was looking somewhere else. Instead of looking into my eyes her eyes were fixed on something else. I looked into the direction of her gaze. I saw that the priest had woken up and was staring at us. I felt as if Silje was touching me only to make the priest jealous, as if she was trying to provoke him. The priest was almost bald and a few strands that were left over his head were neatly parted and dyed. I felt embarrassed being touched in front of an old priest but Silje was almost challenging him now. She was laughing to his face and her laughter was mischievous. The priest turned his back towards us after staring hard at us for a few minutes straight and we rose to our feet and moved further. This was something very strange. Silje and I had no emotional attachment. She didn’t know anything about me except that I was a local and could help her in showing around. She never asked for more, 103
nothing about my family or my relations. On the way back she didn’t hold my hands or touched me. She kept the distance between us. It was only for a short time and in front of that priest that she behaved peculiarly. I had never been touched by a girl before. I was young, full of energy but nervous at the same time. After this incident, my heart craved to get physical with her and I thought of her body all the time. I made plans and rehearsed in my mind about how to respond to her touch. I was determined about not missing the chance this time and utilising the opportunity. The next day Silje called me at German café. Spiralling stairs led us to a well lit roof from a dark corridor. The roof was shaded with corrugated tin. There were a few chairs and beds and numerous white people around us. The place was nice and cosy but exorbitant for a middle class Indian. After racking up my brain over an outlandish menu for a few minutes, I figured out that I would simply have orange juice. I had never eaten anything German in my whole life before. The paintings on the walls were indecipherable. An Indian waiter put a bottle of orange pulp squeezed out and a bottle of soda in front of me. I was so nervous that I mixed so much soda in the orange pulp that it tasted only like soda. Finding it tasteless, I asked for a little sugar which I got in two qualities. One was white small crystals that I was quite familiar with and the other looked strange. I dropped a few crystals of sugar to make it drinkable but succeeded in making it cloyingly sweet. An old waiter came to take the order for food. As he stood in front of me, Silje began to touch me again. I wasn’t comfortable about being touched in front of people. In Varanasi you wouldn’t find opposite sexes touching each other in public usually. I shivered terribly as her soft skin made advancements on my chest. However, I forgot to respond and I only looked around me, I was more concerned about people staring at us. I asked Silje about going back to her hotel room together. I was charged and I wanted more of her but I felt nervous in front of public. “But why do you want to go to the hotel room?” “I’m tired but I can’t go home this early. I have to stay somewhere. Let’s sleep in your hotel room till the sun gets down and then we can come to the Ghat again.” I made excuse. I don’t think she understood my intention behind it as she readily agreed. We rushed back to the hotel. I was feeling charged after her tender touch. I wanted to devour her body now. I wanted to explore the untouched corners of her body. I saw her sensual lips and wanted to kiss them. We walked back to her hotel room hurriedly. She turned the key in the lock and pushed open the door. Her room was smelling like lemongrass oil exactly like her body. Her bed looked very comfortable. A soft cotton white sheet was spread out. I had only one thing in my mind and the bed looked as if it was meant for the act of making love only. I felt ashamed that I was there only for sex but then I thought all the men would have felt the same. A heap of clothes was piled up in a corner. I asked her if I could take a shower in her bathroom. She nodded in ascent. I bathed like I’d never bathed before. I took my time and rubbed the soap vigorously. I wanted to smell good. When I came out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel over my waist, Silje was lying in her bed. She was in the same gown I had first met her in. I slipped slowly into her bed and began touching her soft body. I came 104
closer and embraced her but I felt she wasn’t as interested as she seemed when she was out with me. I kissed her eyes and her forehead but she didn’t respond. She was breathing heavily now. Her eyes were open as she wasn’t feeling anything, as if she was utterly numb. I tried to kiss her mouth but she turned her face away from me. I thought it would take time to arouse her. So I slipped my hands into her bodice. I was very charged now. I wanted her to respond but she was resisting me now. “No,” she said, turning into the other direction. “But why? What happened?” “I don’t let any man touch me. I don’t want sex.” “But you were touching me since yesterday. You touched me, didn’t you?” “Yes, but I don’t want. Don’t ask for reasons.” “But I’m curious. What was it exactly that you were doing there in front of the priest and in front of that waiter?” She was again red in her face as if she was out under the sun. Her ears looked steaming red. I could sense that she was very nervous. It seemed she would faint soon. “I wouldn’t touch you. Don’t worry and don’t tell if you don’t feel like.” She sat hunched up in the bed. I could see her watery eyes. I put on my T-shirt back and sat next to her. “I feel traumatic being touched in privacy. I was only thirteen when I was first touched by a man in my room. I cannot forget that night when he came inside my room to kiss me good night. I felt as if he was touching me down there. I was unsure but then slowly I became sure. I got very nervous. I wanted to shout but I couldn’t gather enough power. I had lost the ability to speak. I remember I didn’t speak for days. It took me years to tell this to my mother. However, she forced her hands over my mouth. She didn’t want me to say that. She wanted me to remain shut and forget all that. I told her that it was impossible for me to forget. But she insisted that I should remain shut about it, that it would spoil everything, that it would ruin all her hopes. My mother told me that she had gone through a lot to get a better life. And that now we couldn’t lose all that.” “But why did she say so?” I asked her in a broken voice. “Because this man who touched me was my stepfather.” Silje dropped in the bed and hid her face with her hands. I lied down next to her as I felt drained and had no energy to remain sit. My brain was trying to push out of my head. I felt like I was bitten by a venomous snake. She had had her own inexplicable reasons about not feeling better with a man in a closed room, perhaps some psychological trauma that had developed after such a bitter experience and I didn’t ask her about it. But this was so disgusting that she could tell this only to a stranger.
Vivek Nath Mishra is from Varanasi, India. He is a city flaneur walking through stories. His short stories have appeared in The Hindu, Queen mob's Teahouse, Muse India, Literary Yard, Indian Ruminations, Prachya Review, Indus women writing, and on many other platforms. His latest book is 'Birdsongs of Love & Despair'
Every so often a book appears that reveals and illuminates a project that might otherwise remain largely unknown by the outside world: â€˜Colors of Cambodiaâ€™ is such a book. This is a highly personal and passionate account written by Martin Bradley and illustrated by Pei Yeou Bradley of her encounter with a remarkable art-based project in and around Siem Reap in Cambodia, and how she was drawn into practical involvement with the children for whom the project exists. The book shows how a small NGO run by William Gentry in Siem Reap has been able to reach out to children in local schools, some in areas of great poverty, through the medium of art, and to give them hope for the future in a country that has suffered so much. The children and their families who are drawn into the project prove how art can cross all borders of language and culture. The book also tells of how Malaysian children and their parents have been encouraged to support the project and to become involved with the children and their work.
This is a highly personal and passionate account written by Marti remarkable art-based project in and around Siem Reap in Cambodia, for whom the 106
And there is the additional touch of magic as Pei Yeou and Martin tell of their meeting and of how he too was drawn into the story, and contributes to it, and of how it changed his life. His sensitive words and poetry add another colour to this unique book In a world in which the news is bad more often than not, this inspirational book tells a story of optimism and success, and of how dreams can become true. Richard Noyce, Artist and Writer, Wales, July 2012 contact firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com http://colorsofcambodia.org/
in Bradley and illustrated by Honey Khor of her encounter with a , and how she was drawn into practical involvement with the children project exists. 107
Concept Note… When I look back, at my art journey. It started with realistic art and later it turned in to abstract. Nature has been my inspiration. The change of season brings palette of textures and the lights variants.The naturally occurring sounds, vibrations change too.These observations and changes of nature take me to a different level. I constantly wander in nature to get more ideas and motivations. My constant desire, hunt and experience with nature is my palette of spontaneity. When one stands at the peak of the mountain and experiences the infinite firmament. That is what my paintings are all about. The freedom of strokes is my creativity and ingenuity. I try to transform the nature through my imagination and portray it in my special manner. Nature is a treasure of mystery, secrets and beauty. I constantly try to assimilate things like the size, space, images, texture and colours as they state my thoughts on canvas This unending treasure of nature and me.We always communicate. This dialogue takes me places to deliver new shapes and forms. The seen unseen colours of nature. The surroundings probe me to illustrate. The fresh and pleasant colours in nature motivate me. In abstract paintings colours play an important role. When I start my painting… I first make a communication with the space on canvas, I try to feel the canvas, I observe it. And at spur of moment my inner soul inspires me to a particular colour and that leads me to the discrete statement of art for the day. Colours bring the shapes some time shapes bring the colours on the canvas. The colours run through the canvas. The canvas, the art starts interacting with me and guides me where to stop. I trail with them. I always try to paint, what I have experienced from life. That gives me the joy of connecting to that divine, lucid and uncompromising bliss. It also helps in strengthening my colouration, without the direct imitation of nature, I try to find Soul of nature, at the same time selfrealisation too. A formless nature with the divine feeling…. Shrikant Kadam, Artist, Pune(India)
A Ruffled Mind by Martin Bradley
A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow. The Professor, Charlotte Brontë, 1857.
The thing about stress is, you don’t know you are suffering from it, until you are. Andrew Goodchild’s wannabe Buddhist friends would, no doubt, have prescribed something along the lines of three quick sadhus and a nourishing Om Mani Padme Hum, all would then be well, only it would not have been, not really. Andrew was sick and tired. Quite literally sick, and also very tired. Andrew did not get a good night’s sleep for two long, lonely nights. His pounding headache had persisted for one whole day, as did his ponderous tiredness. Both made Andrew feel sick. That row which had begun two nights before had persisted into a third day and had occurred shortly after his precious, but precocious, iMac died, not to be resurrected or reborn. The strife of a dead Mac was enhanced by Andrew’s infamous artist partner, Sugar Khoo. She left the mutual bed and therefore created that equally infamous spare space where no one slept. That insult to Andrew’s injury was only compounded by Sugar sleeping in the next room, leaving Andrew bereft and yet still too blindingly besotted to sleep. Through Sugar’s eyes, the simple truth of the matter was that she could not stand to see a grown man weep, especially when his mourning was over the imagined death of a computer, not even an Apple Mac. It was that, and Andrew’s seemingly desperate caterwauling that had driven her from his bed. Sugar had sought solace in a space where Andrew’s misery was not. From Andrew’s perspective, the absence of his partner was the direct cause of his sleepless nights and his sickness. He found it difficult to sleep without the love of his life – she who was sweetly self-named Sugar, otherwise known as Xiao Ling (little jade tinkling). Mindfulness, apparently, was not quite working for Andrew at this point. Sleeplessness was also the cause of further rowing. The one thing which ensured a row to continue, was for Andrew not to be sleeping with his Sugar. Literally sleeping, that is, not fumbling, spooning or otherwise engaged in carnal delights, but simply sleeping. There was comfort to be gleaned from being next to the woman he loved. Restlessness when not. There was an inevitable escalation of tempers and temperaments, thus causing more stress. Words were said. Not nice words. Pigeons returned to roost, cats emptied from bags and nerves tortuously frayed down to mere molecules. Andrew’s terrible evening of anguish had begun with his re-reading his client’s views on the book that Andrew was both designing, and writing. Mr Goodchild was not a happy bunny. In fact, after observing the ‘suggestions’ made by his client, Andrew had begun to feel more like 120
a filmic boiled bunny, a bunny flayed alive, crucified, hung drawn and eventually quartered, fried and made into Norfolk Rabbit Stew (his father was a Norfolk man). The argument Andrew had with the absent client included an increasing number of rich Anglo Saxon words, designed to make ears curl and spinsters blush. Worse was the knowledge that Andrew really had no choice but to make drastic changes, if he wanted to get paid that was. That was stress factor número uno. Número duo came when Andrew actually began to make the changes. Andrew began the hateful task of amending his most beautiful work, and the more changes that Andrew made the more incredulous he became. He began doubting both the sanity of his client, and of himself. It was then, after a day of reluctant corrections, that Apple made the decision for him. Andrew’s most precious iMac stopped, closed itself down and refused to turn back on. The bunny, who had previously been a bit miffed, was beginning to fume. Hard pressed bunny Andrew became quite inconsolable. All the frustrations of the day converged to call upon every curse Andrew had ever heard. He chided, then cajoled, threatened and eventually pleaded with his reluctant computer, to no avail. It was then, having unsuccessfully solicited his computer to turn itself back on, that Andrew’s previously loving partner, having had enough of his deliberations, decided not to comfort him but, instead, to move into the room next door (to escape Andrew’s wrath). Sugar’s disdain of Andrew’s ludicrous language really did not help Andrew’s situation. Andrew was left with all the frustrations of the dead Mac, the grievous annoyance of the book, and with all the travails of sleeplessness to compound his day’s woes. And, to push this man beyond the pale, all his partner had had to do is move out of their mutual bed. Nights solo-sleeping has been known to breed sleeplessness, discontent and, eventually, a certain resolve. In Andrew’s unreasonableness, hardened battle plans where drawn. And so it was, on the third morning after yet another sleepless night, that Andrew was settling in to his reluctant singledom. Before partnership, Andrew had cooked, cleaned and washed clothes for himself. Now, being in a partnership, Andrew had found that nothing much had changed. Sleeping solo was proving to be the proverbial straw which sent the camel to a chiropractor. At the same time Sugar, long suffering partner to the frequently maniacal Andrew, knew the limits to her patience. When Andrew was letting off steam, and it really didn’t matter about what, Sugar knew that her best course of action was avoidance. Out of sight, out of mind, was a motto she most used on such occasions. Gathering her laptop under her, admittedly shapely, arm she dismissed herself from her partner’s presence giving him some space. Quite a lot of space. It was space in which her partner could bellow unencumbered by her presence. And bellow he did. While calmly seated on her orthopaedic mattress, Sugar wrote emails to dear friends, updated her Facebook pages, her Instagram, WhatsApp and WeChat accounts, and patiently looked for painterly inspiration on the World Wide Web. That morning the thought occurred to the still stressed Andrew, that “wouldn’t it be nice if some loving someone brought him a cup of Earl Grey Tea, in bed, toast too with, perhaps, Tiptree marmalade spread over lashings of real butter, on whole grain bread, and tousled his hair saying there, there, all will be well my darling”. It quickly became a fading 121
fantasy. Back to reality. A quick shower and that modern caveman who Andrew was, armed only with his day-old stubble, day-old shirt, week-old pair of chinos and trainers long past their sell by date, was off to hunt for breakfast. Without too much effort, and within walking distance of the abode he shared with Sugar, Andrew tracked down a spicy Masala Dosa, and what passes for tea in Malaysia (sweet, condensed milk, teh tarik). He considered what action to take next, now that he was, apparently, free as a veritable Beatles’ bird, somewhat a ‘Fool on the Hill’ and something of a ‘Nowhere Man’, being more than middle-aged, and stealthily creeping towards the time when The Beatles would sing ” …will you still need me, will you still feed me….”, Andrew had most of his life behind him. It was therefore time to not waste any more time. It was time to take a non-lysergic trip and clear his mind. But where. There were, of course, the Nonya delights of Malacca and, further south, the streets of Singapore. However Singapore was too expensive, and he knew no one in Malacca. There was always Penang. But Penang was far, and Andrew had no transport of his own to call upon. There was always Ipoh. Ipoh, one hears, is home of the legendary Ipoh Mali (aka Pomelo Girls, or ladies of sufficiently loose morals). There too are the dubious delights of the Disney like Lost World of Tambun, and the more delightful and delicious delicacies of the kopi tiams (original coffee houses), which are sprinkled around the small roads of Ipoh’s old town. Andrew’s previously gloomy face momentarily brightened. Ipoh. Fabled Ipoh, land of silver, (well, tin), and bougainvillea. Andrew dreamed of lounging in some ancient Chinese coffee house, sinking his diminishing amount of teeth into luscious Portuguese (egg) tarts while, perhaps, watching tarts of another persuasion and race in all their siren loveliness. Laid back Ipoh was ideal. A slower pace of life, beautiful mountains and romantically ancient alleyways hence, he argued to himself, equalled less stress. Heaven, he decided, was Ipoh. The two and a half hour Electric Train Service (ETS), journey was largely uneventful, save that is for the refreshment trolley and its two transgendered male dollies.The young men offered, amongst their multiple and varied wares, sausage in a bun. The Dick Emery suggestiveness of which, was entirely in Andrew’s head. But the trolley dollies added a soupçon of spice, lashings of eye make-up (and a cheap nose stud) to the delectation of Andrew’s northern trip. The reality of Ipoh was no idyll. Despite the various films using the very best of Ipoh’s antique and romantic qualities, Ipoh had decided to dress itself in all the wanton garishness of murals. Murals which, incidentally, distracted from the previously mentioned qualities. Andrew’s romantic balloon burst. The Ipoh in Andrew’s romantic remembrances dissolved as reality rebuilt his vision. The previously Majestic Station Hotel, built by British architect A.B. Hubback, was no longer majestic and no longer a hotel. It was a wreck of an eyesore. Due to his now inability to stay a this landmark hotel, and the distinct lack of visible taxis, Andrew walked with his light baggage into lanes of elder Ipoh. He sauntered into the mixed Chinese and Indian areas around the ‘Chennai Potty’ – a Southern Indian store selling everything from new saris to earthenware pots, presumably from Chennai (Madras). 122
Set in a protective curvature of ancient forested hills, the old tin mining town of Ipoh had tried to resurrect its glory days in so many different ways. One was to promote itself as a town beset with all types of the exquisitely colourful bougainvillea, which, at one point may have been true. Sadly, through lack of upkeep, many of the bougainvillea plants had browned under the equatorial sun, and died. Thos plants had been supplanted by box hedging, which no longer gave the colourful air of gaiety that Ipoh had once dined out on. Another incarnation of the town was mistakenly promoted as a town famous for the manufacturing of shoes. The association with smelly, damp feet, foot rot and verrucas ensured that ‘Shoe City’ did not represent Ipoh for very long. On the other hand, Ipoh barely raises a smile when referred to as the town infamous for pomelos. Pomelos, if you will remember, are those extra large citrus fruits, like grapefruits but the Sumo version. But why, I hear you whisper, should Ipoh not be proud of its juicy fruits. Well, it is rumoured that those shapely, young, smiling girls selling pomelos just outside the Chinese temple (Sam Poh Tong), might be selling a little more than one kind of fruit. It is one reputation Ipoh has been trying to divest itself, unsuccessfully, for decades. Ipoh derived its name from the ‘Ipoh Tree’ (Antiaris toxicaria), which had rendered poisonous sap for the local indigenous peoples to use in their hunting blow-pipes. Not a wholly charming image for the town. The now languorous town had a plentiful, and colourful, history to draw upon. From its abundance of tin riches and wealthy Chinese businessmen, came such colourful, and self explanatory, street names such as ‘Second Mistress Alley’, often more aptly named ‘Concubine Lane’. Many residents puzzled as to why such a vital town, one owning a Tiger Lane, had needed a boost in the first place. But the council, in their doubtful wisdom had kept their own counsel and changed the original British and Chinese street names into Malay, in a puzzling attempt to desperately eradicate the town’s colonial past. For Andrew it was both gladdening, and a little disconcerting, to see that Ipoh, in reality, had changed little in the two years of his absence, except for the murals and the dowdy Station Hotel. He was listening to the Beatle’s ‘Only A Northern Song’ on his Samsung Galaxy smart phone. All five foot eleven of the writer Peter Simon Christian, whose name was entirely apt, was Andrew’s long time friend. He and his smile were waiting to pick Andrew up from outside Chennai Potty. It was all hail fellow well met, and imagined sloppy kisses on Peter’s behalf. Peter had always had high hopes of their relationship, even though Andrew was quite obviously more taken with the opposite sex, but it didn’t keep a guy from trying. Peter, once a pewter designer in Kuala Lumpur, had recently turned his hands to autobiofiction writing, and was becoming reasonably successful. Peter cheerfully transported Andrew to the Old Town Hotel. It was clean, sparse, but largely inexpensive. The young, Indian, male desk clerk saw two men, one Caucasian and one Indian, asking for a deluxe room and was about to jump to conclusions, when Andrew suggested ” Is the bed big enough for the two of us?”. The clerk’s jaw dropped. Quickly, Andrew interjected “only joking, but is the bed big enough for me and three Chinese girls, that’s what I really want to know?” The clerk gave a 123
weak smile and hoped against hope that Andrew was joking for a second time. The clerk looked worried. He had a doubting look as he handed the passport back to Andrew. The clerk lead the two men up the stairs to see the room. Back in the 1970s, there was an interior design fad which insisted that houses and apartments had their interiors painted orange, and be replete with the addition of lava lamps, flared trousers and curiously Mexican moustaches. This had created a style image which Andrew never wished to return to. Andrewâ€™s hotel room was orange. Its singular benefit was that the colour made Mosquitos easier to see and, within minutes of his habitation, Andrew had bagged his first miniature Malaysian vampire, and was able to drop his John Lewis hat, and his singular light baggage and exit for dinner. Andrew and Peter went out in search of sustenance. It was too early for Banana Leaf so they made do with red, singed chicken which, once, had had the honour of being threatened by a tandoor. This curious cuisine was accompanied by a severely rigour mortis garlic naan, and the whole happily washed down with sweet Lassi (an Indian diluted yoghurt drink). In an attempt not to discuss the meal, talk turned to families, the ups and downs of still being alive and, of course, Malaysian literary gossip. Having vented a spleen or three regarding publishers, publishing and literary cliques run by ex-patriates, Peter left Andrew stranded to attend to matters of the church which, obviously, could not have gone on without him. Andrew turned in after a reasonably eventful day. It was 9.30pm, and the earliest Andrew had slept for a very, very long time. It must have been the soberly clean Ipoh air, or the fact that he missed Sugar, badly because he was wide-awake at four thirty in the morning, in an Ipoh hotel room with no beverages, no tea and coffee making facilities, and no flirtatiously comely person by his side. That was not Andrewâ€™s idea of heaven, Ipoh or not. It had been the first night, in his recollection, that he had ever worn socks to bed. By some unimaginable design, the air conditioner only chilled the bottom part of the twin bed. This caused Andrew feet to cramp. Hence the socks. The air con also chilled the large floor tiles directly beneath it, making the floor a cold, no go area. Andrew was awash in chill. He scampered to turn the temperature up (or down), to make the room bearable. It was then, in those chilled restless moments, that Andrew, still missing the candied love of his life, resolved to take the next available train back home, back to his nectarous partner, and to stop all his belligerent buggering about. Having eventually got back to sleep, Andrew awoke in the windowless room, at eight thirty in the Malaysian morning. His dream of a leisurely breakfast disappeared along with the stars of the night. Alarmed at the time, and his lack thereof, Andrew rushed a shower, strode out into the rising heat, and headed back towards Ipoh train station. Taxis were nowhere in evidence. Andrew passed benignly beckoning coffee houses and their siren delights - the very ones he had only recently romanticised about, and sighed a momentous sigh, and stepped wearily on. Andrew trudged back to the main road, and walked towards Ipoh railway station. He was hopeful to get a seat on the 10am train back 124
to Kuala Lumpur Sentral station, and then to head back to his beloved Sugar. It was so true to his luck that the ten o’clock fast train to Kuala Lumpur was full. The next was a slow, three hour, train. Andrew sighed one more momentous sigh and mentally threw his hands up in surrender. He was still dripping from the walk in Malaysia’s rising heat as globules from his body moisture accompanied the cash he reluctantly handed over for his rail ticket. “Are you sure you can’t just squeeze me on to the 10am train, I can stand, I really don’t mind.” He did, but Andrew was desperate. The ticket clerk smiled a lopsided smile, said nothing, and handed Andrew his RM 22 ticket for the 11am slow train. It was at some point, perhaps after availing himself of seating, waiting, totally under-occupied and moist from walking, that a strange resolve took Andrew in its arms, caressed him, and left him no longer stressed. Sitting and waiting the hour-and-a-half for the tortoise train, Andrew became relaxed, thoughtful. A repetitive phrase began to echo through his vacant head, still dripping with moisture. The phrase began….sadhu, sadhu, sadhu, and continued….Om Mani Padme Hum. Upon returning ‘home’, Andrew went straight to the spare bedroom, grasped Sugar’s pillows and placed them next to his own on the Queen sized bed. Next, he folded her duvet and sheet and placed then in the washing basket. ‘Enough,’ he said to no-one.
Acutely observed, wry and playful, her debut collection celebrates people who are torn between cultures and juggling a fragmented sense of self. Five writers form a writing support group but the dynamics shift when a young, handsome Asian writer joins them; three Singaporean daughters welcome their mother on her first visit to London and quarrel over steamboat; a Chinese woman raps about being a Tiger Mother; an elderly Chinese woman recognises that it isnâ€™t the race that estranges, but the inability to tell the truth; an ethnic writer takes on Eastern mythology in a metaphoric quest to understand the anxiety of Western literary influence. Filled with humorous and heartening short stories, this anthology is a time capsule of how identities evolve and change with the times and places. Elaine Chiew is a fiction writer and visual arts researcher. She is a two-time winner of The Bridport Prize, amidst other prizes and shortlistings. Her debut short story collection, The Heartsick Diaspora, will be coming out with Myriad Editions (U.K.) and Penguin South East Asia. She is also the compiler and editor of Cooked Up: Food Fiction From Around the World (New Internationalist, 2015), and has had numerous stories in anthologies and journals. She also writes flash fiction (Best Small Fictions 2019, Wigleaf Top 50, Pushcart nominations). In October 2017, she was the Writerin-Residence at Singapore's premier School of the Arts. She received an M.A. in Asian Art Histories from Goldsmiths, University of London in 2017. In addition to writing freelance on Asian visual arts for magazines like ArtReview Asia, she also blogs aboutcontemporary Asian writers at AsianBooksBlog and the visual arts on her blog, Invisible Flaneuse.
Tomomi Sato was born in Saitama, Japan, in 1970. SheÂ spent her childhood in Fukuoka, Nagoya, Yokohama. She was a quiet child whoÂ liked reading books and drawing pictures. She got influenced by Munch during puberty. In 1988, she entered the department of oil painting at Musashino Art University. She looked for the core of art production and read various books such as philosophy, literature and psychology at the library. She could not accept traditional oil painting classical techniques, She also thought about the necessity of human experience as an artist, after graduating from college She got a job at an advertising production company as a graphic designer. Working as a designer, She learned MAC and graphic software operating techniques. In 2000, She became an independent freelance graphic designer. Beginning with design work, writing novels and illustration production, starting production of digital art from 2005. She currently has exhibitions in Japan and abroad.
All her works are Giclee prints. At first she prepares a drawing painted with a coloured pencil or pastel colour or a canvas painted with acrylic paint. Combine them on a PC, make it into a digital file, then she draws the detail with a pen tablet and finish it. No matter how the times change and people evolve, she hope to feel the connection with people living in the same era, and people who lived long ago.
doing it for themselves
Right, A Storyscape in dance, Sor Sophany
Sor Sophany playing vina or harp
Sor Sophany and Sor Sophanin are twin Khmer (Cambodian) sisters (kaunophloh dauchaknea), born 1989, and are now thirty. They were born in, and live in, the northern town of Siem Reap, in Cambodia. Since a very early age the sisters have had an acute interest in creativity, sometimes it has spilled over to the kind of physical activity found in martial arts, in their case ‘Bokator’ - an ancient Khmer for of both offence and defence, or performing with traditional Khmer instruments, and frequently experimenting with painting. On this day, in Siem Reap, it had rained. Small pools of water in the fields had been growing larger as we descended towards Siem Reap International Airport. The shudder of touch-down invigorated the usual clamour to disembark, the rush to obtain visas, clear immigration/customs and to finally greet various drivers, friend, relatives or representatives of various lodgings. I was alone, at Ellen’s Cafe (Samdech Tep Vong Road Mondul 1 Village), and had just read, online, an article in the Phnom Penh Post revealing Phany and Phanin’s passionate interests in art, and martial arts. The article ‘The twins aspiring to empower kids, women through art, fighting’, by Pann Rethea, spoke of female empowerment, and aspects of confidence boosting in a male dominated Khmer society. The Khmer twins (Sor Sophany and Sor Sophanin) have chosen art and Khmer culture, as standpoints. Phany and Phanin, together, have grown into a profound love for art. Phany has risen too become manager of one art charity - Colors of Cambodia, where she and her sister studied, while her sister Phanin has been a manager at Artisans Angkor, a Cambodian social business reviving traditional Khmer craftsmanship, in Siem Reap. This love of art and culture has been facilitated by Khmer art teachers who, themselves, were taught in Cambodia’s northern town, Battambang, at Phare Ponleu Selpak, a non-profit Cambodian association improving the lives of children, young adults, and their families through art. In Siem Reap, aid towards Colors of Cambodia has materialised from as far afield as the US of A, with artists like Michigan born Julia Haw, also from Singapore with Foo Kwee Horng and Malaysia with Honey Khor enabling and empowering young Khmer artists. Over time, the Cambodian twin sisters (Phany and Phanin) have become prominent in a freshly emerging Cambodian Surrealist art scene. The sisters blend their knowledge of Cambodian culture with Western painting techniques, including oil, acrylic and water colours as well as the use of coloured pencils, or pastels, to produce stunningly original works of art. The twins’ distinct artworks have spoken of an emerging Khmer feminism, of female empowerment and of their happy/sad lives as identical twin sisters in a Cambodia still reaching towards modernity, especially within the realms of gender relations. ‘A Storyscape in Dance’ is a predominately yellow and blue painting by Phany. In Cambodia, yellow is a symbol of happiness, of friendship, of enthusiasm, of luxury, of success, and of pride. Two figures, in yellow, dominate the picture. The two figures are standing amidst a washed out blue (the colour of royalty, of freedom) and are practically identical. Their hands are attached, left hand to right hand as they face inwards, into the painting, perhaps divining their futures. Similar to many other paintings created by either one of the twins, the concept of their togetherness, of the special pride they hold for their nature as twins, often dominates. 141
Though fiercely proud of their Khmer heritage, the twins are equally proud of their uniqueness as twins. In her painting ‘Massive Dream Girls’, Phany has drawn from the energy of an organic Surrealism otherwise seen in the British Surrealist Desmond Morris and the Catalan Surrealist Juan Miro’s works. In that painting Phany has taken her dreamlike imagination to its limit. She metamorphoses herself and her sister into a quasi erotic synthesis of potent, yet unidentifiable, organic forms resembling a fluidity of droplets and globular forms. Other paintings ease the more surreal elements into the background, while bringing reflections of Khmer culture to the fore. This can be witnessed in Phany’s painting ‘Kenor’*. In ‘Kenor’ the female figure is an ‘Apsara’** like being. Phany explains that Khmer Apsaras cannot fly, unlike Indian apsaras who are messengers of the gods. Phany’s Khmer Kenor is a demigod-like mythical being with an ornamental crown of gold. The Khmer people believe that the Kenor (Neang Kenor) are halfwomen, half-bird deities living in the heavens. In modernity, Kenor are frequently represented through Khmer dance, as are Apsaras. A Kenor also features in her sister Phanin’s painting, where a Kenor is trying to help an angel who has been chained to a block. A radiant sun shines on the empathy the Kenor shares with the trapped angel. Angles, Apsara and Kenor are metaphorically ‘sisters’ within Khmer mythos, thus symbolically emphasising the closeness shared by the Khmer twins. Another image (by Phanin) has a Kenor embracing a naked Angel. They sit, the Angel is resigned to the comfort her ‘sister’ mystical being exudes. The Kenor smiles a peaceful smile. In the upstairs art room of one Cambodian art charity, next to twin wall-mounted Khmer Trou Ou (musical instruments-often played by Phany and her sister) hangs another painting by Phany. This canvas features stone steps, a ladder in perspective and before it a representation of the twins, as Apsaras. The twin on the right ((dressed in pink) faces the ladder, on her long black hair is an apsara crown. She has her arm entangled with her sister (in green) who faces the onlooker with a paper mask over her face. The female figures are framed in the foreground by large standing pillars. The two women, one looking forward, but masked, and the other looking towards the ladder, reveal a dichotomy besides their being identical twins, the individuality of their characters and the obverse and reverse nature of the painting’s figures. Two ladders are traditionally used to enter Khmer houses, for only the solidity of temples had stone steps. Houses were raised to be away from annual flood waters (May to November). Can the sisters climb the ladder while one is held in thrall by those who view. Can they disentangle themselves to lead separate lives. It is a dilemma. Phanin’s surreal painting of Cambodian flowers dominates the wall opposite. In more recent paintings, Phany experiments with a change of style. Gone is the blended smoothness of the earlier surreal work. This is ejected in favour of a more textual approach to her painting. Phany’s background subject matter becomes reminiscent of the Italian proto-surrealist Giorgio de Chirico, but with a more highly textured foreground, as if revealing the angst of her subject within the depth of the paint, as well as in the painting itself. Gradually Phany moves towards a painterly magical realism. She maintains colours from previous paintings but, in places, interjects this 142
A little peace, Sor Sophany
Angel and Kenor, Sor Sophanin
Kenor, Angel, Sor Sophanin
Untitled, Sor Sophanin
Endless hope, Sor Sophany
with a stark expressionism. One such oil painting, her latest - ‘Endless hope’, is dominated by her surreal colouration in the mid and background, but the foreground features a highly textured, practically expressionistic, figure of a young man drinking from a bottle of water. He stands next to a school bench. Phany explains that this is a scene she witnessed when she was younger. The water-bottle is old, the water brackish. The young, poor, student is ashamed of his ageing water bottle and hides it from view when he can. He grows, remembering his poverty. It is a human reenactment of the story of the lotus. The lotus, revered in Cambodian Buddhism, emerges from its humble beginnings in a lake’s mud. It strives and reaches into the sunlight, then blossoms. Many varieties of lotus are both wild, and cultivated, across Cambodia. One exuberant painting, titled ‘A Little Peace’ sees Phany furthering her new style. A jewel faceted head, in purple, sits on a body half blue and half pink, as if the notion of ‘twin’ becomes merged into one being. A Buddha -like figure demonstrates a ‘Mudah’ or significant Buddhist hand gesture. Perhaps a blessing or protection (Abhaya). In the painting elements of Expressionism meet fragments of Cubism and organic Surrealism in a canvas dedicated to peace, with intimations of former horrors. This is achieved, subtly, through her stylistic mélange which surprises and delights at one and the same time. Phany’s sister Phanin has also experimented with Expressionism and a fantasy based Surrealism. ‘The hurt want what want’ reflects all the angst of Norwegian Edvard Much’s ‘The scream’. Phanin’s tortured figure is in red, while the background is a moody blue. While we marvel at Cambodia’s painting twins Phany and Phanin, there are twin sisters painting in Britain too. The British Singh Twins (Amrit Kaur Singh and Rabindra Kaur Singh), who were born in London of Indian decent, use traditional techniques seen in Indian miniature painting, but in a contemporary way. Their vibrant works have been seen in galleries across the world, and one can only hope that the same fate awaits the Khmer twins Phany and Phanin. *A Kenor is a mythical female dancer with a body half-human and halfbird. **According to the Oxford Dictionary - An Apsara is a type of female spirit of the clouds and waters in Hindu and Buddhist culture. They figure prominently in the sculpture, dance, literature and painting of many South Asian and Southeast Asian cultures. 149
Time, Stand Still! A critique Time is an invisible presence in Aradhna Tandon's paintings. Quietly it surveys all that is around, people, situations, night and day and an even entire city. It studies the map of emotions flitting across the faces and stances of the people inhabiting her canvases who also seem to be distilled in time. Aradhna is a self-taught artist from Chandigarh, which is just as well. The soft honesty is best saved from the dictates and rigour of art school. No surprise, therefore, that she paints her immediate environment with unhesitating soulfulness. She has seen life as it unfolded around her with keen pathos at one level and yet a philosophical dispassion at another. So that she relates to all humanity as an extension of her own self. Tandon's iconography is unhesitant and unpretentious, broad faces and figures of Punjab with big - boned features. Sometimes, one may chance upon a deliberately ugly figure, as if the artist is exorcizing something from the past Yet, a slow, ruminating quality pervades all her imagery, people, buildings, landscapes, mindscapes. The sweep of Tandon's canvas often encompasses the city, as a whole, or, in parts. It is a thickly built and yet subtly empty city, most often; and no, it cannot be interpreted as a town or a neighbourhood! The emptiness, despite the presence of people, is sometimes imbued with a eerie quality now suffused with the hot red hues of an imaginary afternoon and now with the blue-blacks of the night. Gardens also make an appearance often, they retain a context against city life yet, or may be an expression of a longing for a far-away place. The inhabitants, when they make an appearance, are quiet, introverted faces going about and doing their own thing without being bothered by the viewers' presence. The artist often finds herself juxtaposed against her city, now subsumed in it and now becoming the city herself. The female protagonist in Tandon's canvases immerses herself with her many experiences with an ardent but quiet grace, interacting now with a cherub floating above clouds in one canvas, now with a humanfaced animal, and now again with another human being queerly held in her hand. She burrows her face in a dream of green paradise, broods against a glass of wine or immerses herself in a wine-vat with a ready willingness. It is this quality in the an: of Aradhna Tandon, one may say, of a willing acceptance and embracing warmth towards the moves of the game of life that arrests the viewers' attention. Her artworks subtly manifest the power of time, questions the unbidden and invites time to stand still. Gargi Seth Republished from the Aradhna Tandon's catalogue
Georges French Restaurant Siem Reap is a must try French restaurant. Our unique take on French Creole is inspired by Georgesâ€™ multicultural background. The flavours of his home on Reunion Island combine with French and Asian influences to create new twists on classic dishes, while remaining an authentic expression of Creole fusion cuisine. Featuring a stylish, air-conditioned, indoor restaurant and a beautiful terrace garden. Georges restaurant in Siem Reap offers a casual, yet elegant, dining experience hidden just outside the boisterous city centre of Siem Reap. The family believe a passion for food and excellence in customer service are key to the happiness of our guests. To this end, Georgesâ€™ kitchen is hard every day crafting infused rum, jams, chilies, chutneys, sausages, foie gras and much more. We invite you to share that passion, and you may fall in love with Creole cuisine too! Georges restaurant in Siem Reap offers a gastronomic dining experience. The chefs and staff are well trained to deliver quality cuisine. It is a highly recommended restaurant due to its unique take on French Asian fusion cuisine. 158
Hand crafted rums from the Rhumerie
The flavours of Georges home from Reunion Island combined with French and Asian influences create new twists on classic dishes, while remaining an authentic expression of Creole fusion cuisine. Featuring a stylish, air-conditioned, indoor restaurant and a beautiful terrace garden, Georgesâ€™ restaurant in siem reap offers a casual dining experience, hidden just outside the boisterous and noisy city centre of Siem Reap. We invite you to share our passion for food, which could make you fall in love with creole and french cuisine! Our family believes that our passion for food and Excellence in customer service are keys to the happiness of our guests. To this end, Georgesâ€™ kitchen works hard every day, crafting infused rums, jams, chilies, chutneys, sausages, foie gras and much more to discover. Georges restaurant in Angkor offers a unique dining experience. The chefs and staff are well trained to deliver a high quality cuisine. It is a highly recommended restaurant in siem reap due to its unique take on french and Asian fusion.
Left, one of a series of exciting chutneys
Beef fillet wok
Georges French Res
Georges Lane, Siem
Call +855 9
staurant Siem Reap
m Reap, Cambodia
96 861 7448
A selection of Georges' hand crafted rums
Dusun Publications The Blue Lotus Publications
Books by Martin
coming soon...... An exciting new book about Bangladesh artist Farida Zaman, charting her successes from her childhood in rural Bangladesh, to her training at three of South Asia's top art schools (Baroda, Dhaka and Santiniketan in Bengal). Early in 2019 Martin Bradley spent time in Dhaka getting to know the artist, observing her life, becoming familiar with the local culture and, of course, getting to know Zaman's exhilarating paintings. At 100 pages, this fresh look at Farida Zaman's works can only be a snap shot, but a snap shot filled with information about the artist's life, her background as a female painter in Bangladesh and a Professor at Dhaka's most prestigious art school.
by Martin Bradley
Books By Ma
Luo Qi and Calligraphyism (2019) China Academy of Art China One of a series of biographies concerning the Chinese artist Luo Qi, and his contemporary blend of the ancient art of Chinese calligraphy and Western concerns with 'Modernism' in art.
The Journey and Beyo (2014) Caring Pharmacy Malaysia
A brief pictorial look at history of 'Community Ph in Malaysia, charting the community pharmacies an roots in Singapore and M
t the harmacy' rise of nd their Malaysia.
Uniquely Toro (2013) Walters Publishing House The Philippines A 'Retrospective' concerning 'Toro' an enigmatic artist from Manila in The Philippines, whose dynamic Pollack like paintings have captured the Asian imagination
Books By Ma
Remembering Whiteness & Other Poems (2012) Bougainvillea Press (digital) Malaysia Martin's first collection of poetry concerning his life in South East Asia. Many in this collection have been read in performance across Asia and Europe.
A Story of Colo (201 Everday Art Stu Mala
This is the jo Malaysian artist into working wit children's char and joy of giv and eventually education of Khm book is about the of learning alo volunte Profusely illust Honey Khor (K
ors of Cambodia 12) udio & Educare aysia
Buffalo & Breadfruit (2012) Monsoon Books (digital) Malaysia
ourney of one t (Honey Khor) th a Cambodian rity, the beauty ving, teaching sponsoring the mer children. This e ups and downs ong the way to eering. trated by artist Khor Pei Yeou).
Martin unwittingly discovers, that there is nothing quite like uprooting yourself from your home of fifty-four years in suburban, temperate England and transplanting yourself into rural, equatorial Malaysia. with its trial and tribulations.
The Best of Asian Short Stories (2018) Kitaab Singapore
Best of Southeast Asian Erotica (2010) Monsoon Books Singapore
New Malaysian Essays 2 (2009) Matahari Books Malaysia
Story - Bougainvillea
Story - Awakening
Story - Colourful Language
A sequel to Martin's 'The Good Lieutenant". Reggie Gold's younger son, John, pays his respects and discovers more than he bargained for in the process. It is a journey into John's past. A journey from John's comfort zone of Blicton-on-Sea, to equatorial Ipoh, and to emotions and cultures he did not know he was ready for.
In the heated atmosphere of an Indian Malaysian 'roti' shop, pubescent passions become inflamed. It is the awakening of young, innocent, desire and the complications which arise.
Not so much a story, as a light hearted essay about the difference between American English and British English, the notion of Malaysia's continuing Colonisation of the mind, and the effect of the West's materialism on Malaysian young minds.
Urban Odysseys KL Stories (2009) MPH Publishing Malaysia
Silverfish New Writing 7 (2008) Silverfish Books Malaysia
Silverfish New Writing 5 (2005) Silverfish Books Malaysia
Story - Mat Rempit
Story - The Good Lieutenant
Story - The Orchid Wife
A Mat Rempit is a Malaysian term for "an individual who participates in immoral activities and public disturbance with a motorcycle as their main transport", usually involving underbone motorcycles. This is the story of one wannbe Mat Rempit, 'Abangah', and what happens to him in Kuala Lumpur.
The story of British Lieutenant Reggie Gold, working for the Federation of Malaya Police, and his family in England, during the days of Malaysia's 'Emergency'. This story underlines the sacrifices undertaken by British soldiers, in Perak, Malaya, during a very difficult time for Malaya.
This is, ultimately, the story of an Indian Malaysian couple, Devi and Chandran, living in Butterworth, near Penang. It is a story of the cruelties and abuses within marriage and how they become resolved.
WITH MARTIN BRADLEY
The Blue Lotus Arts and Culture magazine specialises in Modern and Contemporary Asian art, poetry and literature, and is published four time...
Published on Aug 24, 2019
The Blue Lotus Arts and Culture magazine specialises in Modern and Contemporary Asian art, poetry and literature, and is published four time...