Mezzotint printing requires a high level of skill and patience. When did you discover your interest and talent for it?
I have always been interested in Western classical and realistic artworks. I studied copperplate engraving while on exchange in Italy and came across a collection of mezzotint prints in the school library; I was deeply drawn to their intricate and well-defined black and white contrasts but didn’t have the skills or tools to learn it then. During my final year at university, I thought it was now or never to learn mezzotint and did so through self-study for my graduation project. I have never stopped learning and doing mezzotint since then and it has become the dedicated medium of my art practice.
You have been to Italy and other places for exchange programmes and artist residencies, how have the experiences inspired your printmaking creations?
The exchange in Italy was the first time I seriously studied printmaking-related courses. The classes I took for intaglio and relief printmaking opened up a completely new world to me and sparked my interest in printmaking art. Since the courses in Italy focused on more traditional and manual printmaking techniques, the prints I created there revolved around classical and mythological themes, and for my final project in relief printmaking I created a series of multicolor prints depicting Greek deities, marking my first exploration of Greek mythology as a creative concept. The exchange in Italy nurtured my interest in classical and traditional art and was a real catalyst for me becoming a printmaking artist.
Then in 2023, I had the opportunity for artist residency in a printmaking studio at an Australian university, mainly for sharing and demonstrating mezzotint techniques and to visit various local printmaking studios, institutions, and exhibitions. I was fortunate enough to see an exhibition showcasing over a hundred copperplate prints by the Baroque master Rembrandt, which gave me so much inspiration on the technical application of printmaking. Interacting with different individuals during the residency expanded my understanding and boundaries of printmaking art and sparked new ideas for my future creations. Stay tuned for what’s to come.
Image courtesy: the Artist
Many of your works draw inspiration from Greek mythology – what special meaning does it have for you? Any mythological story that has left a deep impression on you?
I have loved Greek mythology since I was a child, but back then it was a pure fascination for the magical and mysterious aspects of the deities and heroes in the stories. As I grew older, I started to read and study Greek mythology more seriously – delving into its vast and intricate story system interwoven with rich historical, cultural, and human elements. Greek mythology has a special place in my heart and I see it as the wise sage and storyteller. I am an introverted person, not skilled at verbal expression and not fond of openly expressing my inner feelings. Mythology has become my spokesperson, speaking for me and providing me with the symbols to hide my secrets. It creates space and distance between me and the audience, giving me a sense of security in my creative process.
Among the numerous mythological stories, the one that has left the deepest impression on me is the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice. Orpheus possessed unparalleled musical talent. One day, his beloved wife Eurydice tragically died from a snake bite. Overwhelmed with grief, Orpheus played his seven-stringed lyre and journeyed into the underworld. His music moved the ferryman of the Styx, who made an exception to ferry him across the river. Orpheus then used his music to plead with Hades, the king of the underworld to allow Eurydice to return to the world of the living. Hades agreed to it on one condition: on their way out, Orpheus must not look back, or else Eurydice would be lost to the realm of death forever.
In the final moments of their journey out, unable to resist the longing for his beloved, Orpheus turned his head to look at Eurydice—just that one glance caused Eurydice to vanish back into the depths of the underworld. Heartbroken, Orpheus was later killed by the frenzied followers of Dionysus, the god of wine. Their story has sparked contemplation among later generations, pondering the nature of love and doubt, and the essence of trust. The story’s attraction to me lies not only in the values it explores but also in its multifaceted nature, encompassing themes of love and non-love, with only Orpheus and Eurydice truly knowing the answer.
Your works often feature elaborate and intricate picture frames. How do you select the frames to pair with your artworks? Any method or philosophy behind your selection?
My selection of picture frame depends on the content and emotional expression of the artwork and the series. In the first five series, the colour and complexity of the frames are chosen to reflect fluctuating emotions: gold frames when feeling optimistic and positive, silver frames when a bit sad and melancholic, and highly decorative frames for elevated moods. It set the mode for my subsequent frame selection. Later works have frames which echo aspects of their content and colour – for example, wavy patterned frames to mimic the seashells in the Echo and Narcissus series, and red hues in the frames to echo the dominant colour of the Orpheus & Eurydice series.
Image courtesy: the Artist
Apart from mythology, “cake” seems to be a frequent theme in your early works. Is it symbolic of anything and where does it come from?
Apart from being a symbol of human pursuits and desires, it also represents me. I perceive it as an aesthetic embodiment: the vibrant red, natural strawberries juxtaposed with the pure white, artificially made cream cake creates a visual balance. It is also a universally recognised comfort food – it carries celebratory connotations and brings pleasure to both the eye and the tastebud.
The cakes I create during my different artistic stages reflect different versions of myself. Those in my early works symbolised a me who was pure and idealistic. Over time, the cake transformed into various shapes and took on different meanings, evolving from complete and edible cakes to inedible ones, and even transmuted into different types of pastries such as tarts or the sacred Golden Apple. It represents the different pursuits of the self in its growth, whether it be internal or external.
In my recent works, the emphasis of the cake is on the vibrant red fruits, such as strawberries and cherries – symbolising human love, emotions and desires, as well as being fruits associated with paradise in classical paintings and thus carrying with them some sacred meaning. By moving the emphasis from strawberries to cherries, it is symbolic of a transition to more sublime human contemplation, since the cherry has a comparatively more thoughtful and profound meaning due to its metaphorical importance in many philosophical discussions.
Image courtesy: the Artist