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My Pets in Watercolour September 17, 2008

Posted by Sun Ran in 2D Works, Writings.
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The one at the top right is my poor hamster Snowie (that’s not the real name anyway), here is how she died:

One fine Sunday morning I was feeling hungry so I cooked a bowl of maggie mee. It was spicy flavoured, hot and steamy and I have to wait for it to cool before I eat it. So I picked Snowie from her cage and put her on my hand and started feeding her sunflower seeds while waiting for the noodles to cool. And my hand was pretty near the bowl of hot noodles, in fact right on top of it.

Snowie sniffed around and jumped right into the bowl of hot noodles, thinking “hmm,… it must be tasty…” and of course that must have been the last thing she ate. (This sounds so sadistic.)

And of course I tried to save her (I am not heartless) so I quickly picked her out of the noodles (and scalded my hand too) and ran her under the cool water tap (even though her most hated hobby is bathing) but she was cooked and burnt and passed away shortly after.

And I buried her under a very young coconut tree/sprout (in a box coffin lined with white tissue and her favourite food – peanuts and sunflower seeds) under my block. Here’s what happened, the coconut tree started dying soon after I buried Snowie underneath. And it died shortly after too… while the rest of the coconut sprouts planted with it are now big coconut trees.

Oh yes, that was 6 years ago -.-”


And the one on the bottom right, which you can only see the head, is Xiao Bai (she looks just like Snowie) and someone gave her to me. More like abandoned. Xiao Bai gave birth to a litter of pups (baby hamsters) and the ex-owner decided to keep 2 of the young hamsters instead and gave her away to me, together with her other hamster baby which no one else wanted. I gave the other hamster baby (called Robin) to my classmate.

And that was 4 years ago.


The big big big pet on the left is my guinea pig Miao Miao! Her initial name wasn’t that, but one day (in year 2006 end) she was sick, so Hanqing and I took her to the vet. And the guinea pig’s name was asked for, and we didn’t know what to put. And the brilliant idea came – name it Miao Miao, after Miao Hanqing, and that’s how Miao Miao’s name came about.

Miao Miao still lives happily and healthily in my house now, with the other guinea pig, Fatball. (:


Sorry if the whole story above has nothing to do with art at all. But I’ll put this post under writings, I wrote a lot ^^


Block Test 2008 (Part 2) September 14, 2008

Posted by Sun Ran in Writings.
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Liu Kang, Seated Model (Figure 2a)
1953, Oil on canvas


Hendra Gunawan Bandung as a Sea of Fire (Figure 2b)
1972, Oil on canvas, 117 x 197.5cm, Collection Ir Ciputra Foundation

(a) Describe the subject matter of these paintings.
In seated model by Liu Kang, the subject matter is a woman wearing a long red skirt and naked from the waist up. She is seated on a black wooden chair, with her right arm resting on the back of the chair, and holding a flower with her left hand.

In Bandung as a Sea of Fire by Hendra Gunwan, the painting is divided into two portions. The foreground and more prominent subject matter are two dead man lying on the ground, covered in blood. In the background, numerous people, some carrying children and big bundles, are running up a hill, seemingly fleeing from the raging fire behind them.

However, the atmosphere of both are drastically different. In Liu Kang’s painting, the woman looks relaxed with her eyes closed. Her hair is combed neatly, and she wears flowers in her hair and earrings. Her surrounding appear calm and peaceful, with trees, flowers and a building. Overall, with the calming and naturalistic colours, the whole painting and the subject matter, the woman, appear calm and composed.

In Hendra Gunawan’s painting however, the people appear shocked and scared. Dark colours and bright reds are used contrastingly, suggesting blood and fire. Overall, the people are aroused and appear nervous, running for their lives and the painting gives a dark atmosphere of life and death and destruction.

(b) Analyse and interpret the artists’ intentions.
Liu Kang is a Singapore pioneer artist. Having been trained and studied in Paris and been under the influence of post-impressionist such as Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, he is also influenced by Chinese Ink Painting. Known for combining Western and Eastern painting techniques, many of his paintings revolve around carefree subject matters such as village life and leisure activities such as ‘Artist and Model’.

Hendra Gunawan, on the other hand, is an Indonesian Artist who has painted political themes and caused controversy and had been jailed. His paintings mostly revolve around darker themes such as death and separation. Compared to Liu Kang’s paintings that depict leisure life and activities, Hendra Gunawan’s paintings are darker and more serious. Seated Model, is another one of Liu Kang’s paintings, perhaps of a Balianse woman, is seated relaxed and casual, holding a flower, and although modeling for the artist, she does not appear to have any deep worries of the moment concerning matters such as life and death. Liu Kang probably only wanted to depict the woman dressed traditionally, seated in her own natural surroundings, appearing carefree and relaxed. He has done a well modeled painting of the woman, having her being the emphasis instead of the background, thus his intention might largely be on doing a proper human figure study.

In ‘Bandung as a Sea of Fire’ by Hendra Gunawan however, the artist does not seem to be concerned about painting realistically nor blending and modeling. He has used warm colours of express blood and fire, suggesting a dangerous and uncomfortable mood for this painting. The fire could well represent threats such as war and conflicts that causes death and destruction among people and villages. They have to flee for their lives. Based on the artist’s background, he might be suggesting the destruction caused by the politics, as well as the hardships suffered by the people.

(c) Discuss the impact the two paintings have on you.
Seated model by Liu Kang gives me a feeling that the traditional way of life is relaxed and happy. It has made me wonder if living in a quiet, natural surrounding is a better way of life than living in the city. It suggests how peace and nature seen in the painting can reflect relaxed people, free from worries and constraints. However, it also reflects that the traditional way of leisure life has disappeared, replaced by the busy city life. The painting impacts and raises awareness of the disappearing surroundings, tradition and culture.

Bandung as a Sea of Fire by Hendra Gunawan depicts the misery of the villagers, living a life of fleeing and anxiety. Certainly, whatever that caused the ‘fire’, be it war and conflict or the government could be helpless against harm and destruction. The painting relfects how destruction can cause death and unhappiness.

While I would have liked to live a relaxed life as depicted in Liu Kang’s painting, I sympathise with the victims in Hendra Gunawan’s painting. It is only through peace that people can be happy and relaxed and enjoy life.

Comparison between Homage to Newton and Big Bird September 7, 2008

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Homage to Newton by Salvador Dali

Big Bird by Botero

(a) Compare the different treatment of form and use of materials in these works
Homage to Newton was cast in bronze with dark patina. The artist, Salvador Dali, was born in the Catalan town of Figueras, Spain, on 11 May, 1904. He belonged to the Surrealist movement. He worked in a range of media and there are usually hidden images anf faces in his paintings, which are of a photographic quality, yet depicts unrealistic images. Big Bird was also cast in bronze and done by the artist Botero. Fernando Botero was born April 19, 1932 in Medellin, Colombia.His work includes still-life and landscapes, but Botero tends to primarily focus on situational portraiture. His paintings and sculptures are, on first examination, noted for their exaggerated proportions and the “fatness” of the human figures and animal figures.
In Homage to Newton, the sculpture is semi abstract, but we can still see that it is a sculpture of a man with a ball falling from its right hand, and it suggests Sir Isaac Newton discovering one of the most fundamental and important physical law. In Big Bird, Botero has “fattened” his bird, like many of his other artworks, and here it signifies the joy of living and the power of optimism.
Like his other surrealist works, Dali has created a sculpture that looks realistic, yet does not depict reality. He has also made people ponder over his artwork. The sculpture appears solid and heavy, yet there are two open voids. The torso of the figure and the head of the figure have been “opened up”. According to the introduction, the suspending heart indicates “open-heartedness” and the open head represents and “open-mind”. These are two necessary qualities for the discovery of natural laws as well as for success of all human endeavors. Although Botero’s Big Bird is unrealistic, for no bird will ever be so fat, one can easily tell that it is a bird. There is a quality of humor in the piece of sculpture. Although the sculpture is appears big and round, like a ball, it appears to be quite light and hollow, perhaps because of the light hearted ideas it represents.

(b) Why have these artists used simpified and abstract forms to express their ideas?
The front of Homage of Newton is a man, besides the two open spaces, it looks rather well modeled and shaped. However, the back of the man is distorted, especially the head. The head looks torn and pieces of irregular or flattened tubes seemed to be coming out from it. The veins of the figure can be seen clearly, and the right foot is separated into 3 parts, with another toe beside it. The distortion of the man causes people to ponder why the man who discovered Gravity is distorted by Dali. Dali may be implying that the living being, Sir Isaac Newton has become a mere name in science, completely stripped of his personality and individuality. To represent this transformation, Dali has pierced the figure with two large holes: one that portrays the absence of Newton’s vital organs, while the other clearly displays the lack of mind. What remains is only symbolic representation.

On the other hand, Big Bird is made from shapes that are round and smooth, such as ovals and spheres. It is highly simplified such that only the eyes, beak, body, wings, tail and legs are shown but are easily identified and made of the simplest forms. There are neither feathers nor other complicated details, such as scales at the feet. The feet and tail are oversized while the wings are too small. The bird could clearly never fly as it seems too heavy and disproportional, although it may also represent a balloon with air and thus able to float. This creates a comical look and thus reflects light-heartedness and joy.

Dali has used abstract forms probably because it leads to imagination and to question the viewer if Newton has become a mere name of Science. If he depicted a normal and realistic Newton with a ball hanging from his right hand, it would not induce the viewer to think, but rather, treat the sculpture has a replication of Newton, or a sculpture that simply tells people Newton discovered the physical law.
Similarly, if Botero has made the sculpture a normal bird with normal proportions, viewer may not get the idea of the funny and humorous fat bird, for the simplified fat bird looks almost chubby and happy, thus enabling Botero to enhance and show has idea of joy and light-heartedness. Also, it is Botero’s style to represent objects and figures by “fattening” them. He said “An artist is attracted to certain kinds of form without knowing why. You adopt a position intuitively; only later do you attempt to rationalize or even justify it.”

(c) Asscess how and why you think one sculpture is more effective.
I prefer Botero’s Big Bird to Dali’s Homage to Newton. Botero’s sculpture appeals more to people of my age while Homage to Newton is a bit too serious. I like the way Botero has simplified the bird and it give a comical and fat look. The message behind it is light-hearted and simple as compared to Homage to Newton. Bird Big is also easy to understand and causes optimism and a fair and good mood whereas it may be difficult for people to understand the in-depth idea of Homage to Newton. It also causes people to be reflective about what they thought about Isaac Newton and gives a dark atmosphere and mood. Compared to a dark and pessimistic message from Homage to Newton, I prefer the light-hearted and simple message given by Big Bird.

Although Botero has been effective in conveying its easy and happy message, Homage to Newton by Dali is also pretty successful in inducing people to reflect on their thoughts about Newton. However, Big Bird appeals to viewers of all ages while Homage to Newton is for those older and more in depth in their thinking. Dali, belonging to the surrealist movement, created pieces of work such as The Persistence of Memory and Soft Construction of Boiled Beans and succeeded to make people think about the juxtaposition he has used and why some forms are distorted and Homage to Newton is another one with distorted forms such as why the right foot is separated into three parts.
Botero many other works such as Roman Gladiator and Head were also created using the same style. He is attracted to “fat” forms and has been successful in conveying light-hearted messages since “fat” makes the figures look comical.

Block Test 2008 (Part 1) August 31, 2008

Posted by Sun Ran in Writings.
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1. Montien Boonma, Two Buffaloes

(a) Explain in your own words, the meaning of ‘Installation Art’.
Installation Art is an artwork where different elements are pieced and assembled together to create a visual effect or the idea the artist wishes to express. It can make use of the surrounding and be site specific, or it can involve the assembling of different materials, images and sculptures or both. Installation Art can involve videos, sculptures or an assembly of paintings arranged by an artist in an environment. It is a modern way of expressing art and themes by the artist. Most of the time, each element or item of the installation would be related to each other and interacting with each other to produce a effect or voice and express ideas. Examples of installation art works include Two Buffaloes by Montien Boonma and Bicycle Wheel by Duchamp.

(b) Describe the subject matter by Montien Boonma, highlighting the significance of the materials used.
Montien Boonma is a Thai artist who has gained world recognition. He is interested in expressing the ideas of the spiritual and transcendental, being a devout Buddhist, many of his works explore Buddhist beliefs. He has also been involved in expressing issues regarding the environment and traditions, as it is up to an artist to express his views and raise the issues to others around him.

Two buffaloes is an assembly of found materials. Two rice sacks are placed on top of two four-legged stools. Although the two stools do not taouch each other, the rice sacks appear to be side by side, or connected. A horn protrudes from one rice sack while a bundle of straw resembling another curved horn protrudes from the other sack.

The whole assembly of materials is mainly in the shades of browns and earthy tones, giving it a primitive down-to-earth look. The lines and shapres are sinous and natural. Due to the ‘horns’, the assembly can be depicted as two buffaloes, with the four legs of the stools being the legs of the buffaloes, the sack of rice being their body and the ‘horns’, being horns. The materials used are all natural, primitive, found materials assembled together, with no use of metals or technology items, giving the artpiece a primitive and ‘farm’ feel. The materials suggests that the buffaloes are ‘natural’, ‘brown’ and earthy, perhaps the artist is encouraging more awareness of the nature and animals around us.

(c) With reference to another work by the artist, explain why the subject matter appeals to you as an installation, as opposed to a painting.
The subject matter in Two Buffaloes appeals as an installtion as opposed to a painting because it is not painted and done on a mostly flat surface. Two Buffaloes is three-dimensional, much like a sculpture, however, it is constructed with an assembly of items, such as those of Installation Art. The subject matter can be viewed from all angles and directions and each element of the artwork in Two Buffaloes are connected, and only when properly assembled do they resemble buffaloes.

Another work by the artist is Lotus Sound. It is also an assembly of materials, this time, of overturned vessels much like ‘cups’ and ‘containers’ that resemble bells and other materials that construct together to form a lotus. This work is influenced by Buddhism, and like Two Buffoloes, it is also a piece of installation art. It requires the proper assembly of elements to interact and express the artist’s ideas.

Both artworks are not done on flat surfaces like paintings. The artist has not drawn nor applied paint, but mainly assembled different elements together.

Quote from George Simmel June 22, 2008

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“Then deepest problems of modern life derive from the claim of the individual to preserve the autonomy and individuality of his existence in the face of overwhelming social forces.”

The quote suggested that modern man wanted Individualism, to be free and have his own unique identity. Social ideals such as equality, democracy and prosperity were believed, and success and happiness in life can be achieved as a result of hard work, as can be seen in the “rags to riches” stories. However, these ideas have led to people starting to work in white-collar jobs. The fast pace of society has led many of them to work and be part of a group, but loss of identity as an individual. Specialization of man and his work makes one individual incomparable to another, but also dependent upon the supplementary activities of others. Are they really free and special? Will the people be able to “survive” by themselves? From the text, in an ideal society is “where one knows almost everybody one meets and where one has a positive relation to almost everyone” but in reality, we may not even know by sight those who have been our neighbours for years. Metropolitan man is supposed to be “free” in a spiritualized and refined sense, yet “one nowhere feels as lonely and lost as in the metropolitan crowd”. Modern man living in a crowd so big is thus lost and forgotten and could not be thought as a special individual. Many are not known and his own identity is lost as he follows the crowd. A definition of an ideal life was already vaguely defined, and not for the man himself to discover. At the very start, man already has the “life” that he wants or has to follow, and he is no longer free to choose his path in life in this sense. Also, when everyone chooses to follow the same path, is anyone special?

Modern man wanted to preserve his individuality yet, like the many cans in 100 cans by Andy Warhol, each one is just similar to another. As someone goes around buying Campbell soup, one would just take any can from the rack. Each can is just the same as another, hardly anyone will go around finding the difference between the cans or even read what is on the labels. The cans would be like modern man, there is no sense of individuality and uniqueness between each can and each man. Also, the producer produces large amounts of can food each day. Does the producer know who he is selling them to? Much unlike the past, the producer may never see the consumer in his field of vision. Personal relationships are also becoming lost; the population and the place is too large for us to know many people. Man is lost in the new aspects of modern life, such as invention of can food and mass production.

The pace in which man lives becomes faster, causing fast food becoming also increasing known in the post-industrial age, as seen in 100 cans and, I Love You with My Ford by James Rosenquist. I Love You with My Ford is a montage of American values at that time; the automobile, sex and canned spaghetti. Perhaps it represents a narrative of an age of fast cars, the strip, and fast food; vision on the run, fragmented. It may signify how fast the society is going; modern man keeps following, but loses himself in the crowd. Another idea that this artwork represents is how materialistic the Americans were becoming. The society is superficial. Questions asked were “Can money buy happiness?” Indeed, one works and earns money; hard work can mean putting off social life. Man earns, becomes more calculative, more practical, more materialistic. The previous ideas which started the hard work were thus forgotten, for the direction man goes changed. The idealism has led to a different outcome. I Love You with My Ford is a representation of what was in an American’s mind at that time and what they did. Americans wanted to earn money to enjoy life, as depicted in the ford, happiness as depicted in the woman, and in order to do this, they live off fast food, for time cannot be wasted. These were social pressures on them, and what it meant for “happiness”. Is money defined as happiness?

Modern man wanted Individualism, they each wanted to be special and independent and free. They have set their own goals and a particular idealism was followed. However, man went a different path from the “ideal life” unknowingly, resulted by several issues. As the society progressed very fast, man had to rely on “fast food and cars”, and in order to be successful, live fast. The more time spent on work resulted in poor social relations, and man seemed cold to even those who are around them everyday, because lack of time was spent on knowing them. There were jobs that were considered ideal, but too many people took the same job, in the end everyone seemed to remain the same and do the same things, resulting in lack of identity and Individualism seemed to become Collectivism. The mind set for achieving success has also caused man to be more materialistic and have an unclear illusion of what they really want. The seeking for happiness though hard work changed to seek for money. Man lived, unknowing of the real path they want in live, lost and alone in the many social pressures in the big metropolitan crowd.

AH439FINAL – Rosenquist/I love you w/my Ford, http://www.csulb.edu/~karenk/20thcwebsite/439final/ah439fin-Info.00003.html , Accessed on 1st May 2007
http://www.moma.org/exhibitions/1996/johns/pages/johns.flag.html , Accessed on 1st May 2007
http://www.fotos.org/galeria/data/518/medium/3Andy-Warhol-100-Cans.jpg , Accessed on 1st May 2007
Kevin Cannon, The Meaning behind I love you with my Ford,
http://www.bigtimeattic.com/blog/2006/08/meaning-behind-i-love-you-with-my-ford.html , Accessed on 2nd May 2007

Jasper Johns, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jasper_Johns , Accessed on 2nd May 2007

Campbell’s Soup Cans, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campbell’s_Soup_Cans , Accessed on 2nd May 2007

Pleasantville (1998) February 18, 2008

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What are the immediate differences that strike David and Jennifer betweeen their lives in the contemporary American suburbia and the idyllic American life in the 1950s as portrayed in the TV soap Pleasantville?

When David and Jennifer went to Pleasantville, the first things that struck them was that Pleasantville is in black and white. There are no colours. They are also dressed in sweaters and shirts, those those that people wear in 1950s. The have a 1950s hairdo,and they are assumed to be Bud and Mary Sue, with parents Betty and George.
In the 1990s, where the original story started, David and Jennifer had divoiced parents. The live with their mum, and on the night when the movie begins, their mum was going out of town. In Pleasantville, Betty is a stay at home mum who does all the household chores and rarely goes out. George says very idealistically “Honey, I’m home” whenever he reaches home. Betty would be at home, with dinner all ready on the table. I doubt their mum in the 1990s prepares dinner for Bud and Jennifer.
After Bud and Jennifer realises that they are in Plesantville, their parents calls them for breakfast. Jennifer is given a lot of food, such as bacon, eggs, waffle, pancakes, sausage, honey and ham. Jennifer is disgusted at the thought of eating so much and growing fat.

Pleasantville is a place where everyone is pleasant and civilised. As they walk to school, their neighbours greet them, asking them about their father’s new car. In the 1990s, people would say “cool”, but in 1950s, they replace it with “swell”. So when asked how the new car was, they replied, “swell”.

David and Jennifer noticed that the people around them are different. Jennifer, now Mary Sue, has a new group of friends and a new boyfriend. She brought about the first changes in Pleasantville. Jennifer realised that the people in Pleasantville have different way of thinking. They are happy where they are.
In the 1990s, we were shown how some lessons were conducted, about Global warming and all, but we were taken into a Geography lesson with Mary Sue. The teacher was telling them about the geography of Main Street and Elm street. Main street leads back to Main Street. There is no other world outside of Pleasantville.

Later, Jennifer/Mary Sue got lost in the school and went to the library. In the books, there was no words. The books all had empty pages. The firemen rescused cats in Pleasantville because nothing burns in there, and fires don’t exist. They did not know how to use the hose. A date meant differently to Jennifer than to Skip. She brought about the first changes in Pleasantville.

David and Jennifer changed Pleasantville, but Pleasantville changed them in the end as well. David was able to stand up for himself and talk to the Mayor and express his views. Jennifer decides to stay in Pleasantville (for the time being) and go to college.

However, I feel that the ending is very unclear. Is Betty with George or Bob in the end? How will jennifer return to the 1990s if David took the remote control with him?