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"Immoral Daughter" 2020

Size:80x65cm

Acrylic, oil, mix mediums on canvas

 Relocation to London as a spiritual awakening process intertwined with the dilemmas of Camus' protagonist in Stranger (1942), attempting to approach my fragile self-awareness amid the turmoil of existence within my work. The Chinese proverb "A peaceful family prospers" (jiahe wanshi xing) is deeply rooted in our cultural conception of family, and family is heavily influenced by Confucian ideas. In China, family reputation is commonly referred to as 'face,' paralyzing the facade of 'harmony,' whereas I am acknowledging that my self-identity is repressed by the traditional Chinese family structure. As a result, I intended to use painting to manifest the distinction between self-identity and family identity. Lacking representative photos from childhood, instead, I changed my methodology as within my past practice the photo sources come from old family photos, while this time I referred to a screenshot of the movie, The Squid and the Whale (2005), a story about the conflicts of a middle-class family in New York. Despite the fact that I was creating the work in a western context, I was intensely aware of the threat posed by my past cultural understanding of the family. In a sense, I feel like I'm adding stigma to my family by bringing the facade of "harmony" public through the artwork. 

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Screenshot from "The Squid and the Whale"(2005)

Unintentionally my painting resulted in a strange effect, where I, an Asian, painted my own face with a Western-like facial structure. I find the ambiguous doubt in this image slightly disturbing. It is as if the childhood me is reflecting on me as an adult, representing them with a western visual identity

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"Immoral Daughter" 2020

Size:105X120cm

Acrylic, oil, mix mediums on canvas

This painting is based on an anniversary photograph of my parents. The photo was cut when I found it. In a strange way that cut around my dad's head, it had been rejoined with transparent tape on the back of the photo. I remain unsure of the reason why it was damaged but I presume that my mum was responsible.  In the painting, I chose to use embroidery to stitch across the cut. Though the embroidery is usually an act of love and care, reminding me of affectionate motherhood, here in my work, it becomes the very opposite - evoking violence and rebellion.  Stitching simultaneously becomes a creative and personal tool for me as an artist and also the offspring of my parents. It also speaks of my strong link to my Asian cultural background.

 

The repetitive stitching on the canvas is a brutal dialogue of a unified relationship between my parents and my memory. Similarly, the transparent tape on the back of the photo infers that my parent's generation would choose to stay in the marriage for the kid's benefit, representing the real repaired relationship. It is nothing to do with conformity; it is more like a subversion to subvert my memory of them. The past memory within the family sphere is private and personal. At the same time, my role is complicated.  I saw this invisible crack and pain between them and my past memory. According to Rosika Parker, 'the art/craft hierarchy suggests that art made with thread and art made with paint are intrinsically unequal: that the former is artistically less significant. But the real differences between the two are in terms of where they are made and who makes them.’ On an emotional as well as a practical level, it has been an obligation for me to rehabilitate the relationship between painting and stitching and family relationships, with a sort of emotional 'reparation' that acts in a 'transformational' capacity. To my mind, it is also about aggression and destruction. In retrospect, I was unwittingly covering my father's gaze in the painting when reevaluating the familial relationship through painting, which was highly influenced by the authoritative patriarchal structure established by Confucian orthodoxy in China. 


 

However, while making this work, I felt a sense of moral uneasiness. The subject within the family sphere is so private and personal, while the artifact is open and provocative. This work returns to my intentions of Immoral Daughter (2020). Does becoming a grown-up give me the right to judge my parent's marital relationship? This thought is sinful in the Chinese traditional culture, but I came up with the idea in Britain, am I thinking like a Westerner now? Yet at the same time, Immoral Daughter is a confessional work and a salute to my memory of my parents.