Sharing My Creative Journey
With Creative Traveller Enterprises my goal is to share my reflections of the places I've travelled to, the people I meet and the people whio inspired me and share my life's experiences and inner creative journey in everyday life through storytelling and my original artwork.
The Mystery of My Father Lau Joong
NOVEMBER 25, 2014
My father was a bit of mystery. We know some fragments of his life which were shared through the stories and translations of my mother, an Australian-born Chinese woman.
My mother was bilingual in Cantonese and English learning the language from her father and working with him in their Chinese café in Elizabeth St, Sydney when she was a young girl.
I was about 25 years old when my father died. Before he died I can remember spending many interesting times with him eagerly sharing his foreign coin collection and memorabilia from his time in the American Airforce and his life as a cook before he married my mother and settling in Australia in1946.
He left the Airforce to marry my mother who was reluctant to leave Sydney and go to Fresno, California in the States to the Airfirce base. Some glimpses of his past life were revealed in the details found in his deployment documents he kept safely in a solid metal safe with a heavy big handle.
This is how I found out about his parents-their names and their occupation as ‘fisherman’ in a small village in Guangzhou Province in China.
He used to tried to speak in English, but relied very much on my Mum. He often spoke in pidgeon English even up until the day he died, despite having lived in Australia for over 60 years or more.
I remember his cheeky and wicked sense of humour and teaching me the odd domestic household words in Cantonese language. These are the remnants I have of his mother tongue and his life and culture.
This digital artwork was inspired by a bushwalk near my home and through a contemplation I had about his life in Australia. To produce this work I used pages from his English language books with dialogues suitable for a migrant green grocer or Chinese restaurant waiter.
No, I am not Hokusai
MARCH 26, 2017
Cultural assumptions and perceptions is something I have been challenged by many times in my life. Some live in the romanticism that people of a different culture have certain attributes or a stereotype that fit someone’s construct of a particular culture or person.
One reflection I have is when I decided to go to art school in the 80’s I had a big desire and dream to learn to be a professional potter and a printmaker. I went to an art school that may have been considered avant grade at the time encouraging conceptual art and thinking.
One of my fondest memories at art school I remember is being initiated through a physical workshop exercise of being asked to pretend to be a ball of clay and rolling around on the cold concrete floor of the warehouse classroom for a couple of hours or walking as slowly as you can across a room in Japanese Butoh theatre style.
This often amused my male friends when socialising on Saturday night and sharing our weekly highlights at university.It was even more amusing since they were studying economics and medicine and the cusp of understanding the arts and creative practice was a far and wide chasm but isn’t that what art students do?
The transition to art school was a cultural leap forward for a 17 year old high school student who was totally unprepared for the artistic and cultural challenges and assumptions ahead. I still am surprised about the stories I hear about the dominance of Western art and the attraction to the `Asian exotica’ that still sometimes prevails in art teaching and educational institutions.
In high school my cultural reference point was learning the canons of Western art history chapter by chapter from the large, thick gold colour covered art bible, Gardiners Art Through Ages, first written in 1926.
But then in first year art school I quickly advanced and took another cultural leap to studying the art gurus of John Berger and his seminal book, Ways of Seeing
and Susan Sontag’s book, On Photography
All I know is that I never saw the world the same way again!
My first real encounter I recall was when I was so excited on commencing a new printmaking class at the beginning of the semester. Only to be leaving the class in artistic and cultural confusion. Why ?
Because when the printmaking lecturer presented me with a reproduction poster of the famous Japanese printmaker, Hokusai and asked me if I could produce screenprints like this!
There are a couple of reasons why I was more than bewildered. Firstly, I was Chinese and an Australian born Chinese (often referred to as an ABC to distinguish between overseas Chinese)and secondly Hokusai was a Japanese woodblock printer! I felt the stress and pressure of being at art school and inside of me overwhelmed by the cultural complexity of my own identity.
I also was born in the inner city of Sydney, exploring visually the design and architecture of old buildings, however this even became problematic.
The expectation that I was to produce artwork of subject matter that was expected by others on the assumption based on my physical appearance.This was very confusing.
As a result of my reaction to these series of assumptions I also had a breakthrough that I needed take matters in my own hands and I was operating on some parallel world.
After I was told that two certain colours didn’t go together I thought well in Chinese culture they do. So the next opportunity I ventured into independent research of writing my colour theory paper inspired by the famous Chinese colour theorist, Lin Yutang and presented it to my class.
This was the revelation and insight for the need for educators and educational institutions to embrace many different cultural perspectives and beware of their cultural biases.
It should not be underestimated the important need to ensure that cultural inclusivity is embedded in all facets of our community and to embrace the fluidity and complexity of our identities.