You’re at a pitchfork in life and you have only two choices, do you turn to face reality or pretend it never happened. Neither, lessons can be learnt during dark times. Besides, alternatives pathways can be made all the time.
I was around 21, when my blinkers slowly turned off and I found myself immersed in a black cloud of misery. Everything around me was falling apart; my first and toxic love, losing loved ones and my sense of self. In an uber cliche way, it was the darkest period of my but it was life changing too.
I’m the most ‘moi’ when I making or thinking about making art. I never aim for perfection. I lie, perfection is always frustratingly out of reach. Instead, the process is more important than the execution. Ironically, art to the public is about final outcome. If it doesn’t appeal to their visual sensibilities, why would they bother with the ‘why’. ‘My process’ is an integral part of my creative practice; I gather stories, build a substantial collection, and allow the ideas and themes to manifest themselves. This process can be tediously slow. Sometimes it can take a year to collect numerous of stories before a pattern/idea ferments. Then and only then, when it finally present itself, a sense of urgency and need overcomes me, do I then undergo a frenzy of making.
There was a time when I avoided art but it always seem to boomerang back to me. In high school, I tried to be sensible and listened to my mother. Like many first generation immigrants, she wanted me to be a lawyer or a doctor. To please her I thought I’d be a great lawyer. I was good at arguing I thought. What a terrible idea that was.
The year without creativity was like a dried up cactus without water. Shrivel and full of despair. Year 11 for me was like a sad bleeding blur. I didn’t bother with any creative subjects and focused on the smart-high-scoring classes. I knew something was painfully missing and it took me a while before I realised what it was. I missed making. I quickly made a firm decision to go back to visual arts. Not only did I approach the art teacher, Ms Cunnington, I had to persuade the Vice Principal too. With a passionate plea, I succeeded and I went on to make a huge body of work. Year 12 was the best. A joyful feeling of satisfaction comes out when you see the effort of hard work.
My mother was understandably upset when I kept my decision from her. It was a badly kept secret especially when I left obvious clues around me. Like my paint stain fingernails or the lingering aroma of mentholated spirits. Ms Cunnington encouraged me to apply for the state’s exhibition at NGV. I prepared my application but I never submitted it at the end.
Behind the scene was my boyfriend, my first love. Like a bad teen flick, I think of Twilight, where the main female protagonist immersed herself and became lost in love. I really dislike that character because I see parts of me in her. I too, was drowning in love. What I didn’t know that this relationship was the toxic kind. The one where they chip away your inner self. Looking back, he didn’t respect or believe in me. In turn, I betrayed and rejected my ‘self’. I believe he was a major contributor for my failure to deliver the exhibition’s application. This instance was one of many where I chose him over my family, friends, career choices, my life and me. The numerous regret lingers and continues to grow the cloud of my own self-hatred.
Then my brother and my neighbour dies.
The cloud grows even darker.
(to be continued)