I took this simply because I wanted a good shot of the sky. They say UK is all rainy and wet, but when we went there thankfully we managed to see this kind of skies most of the time. I love the way the sky looks so surreal and majestic, while the people are just going around with their daily lives, oblivious to the world above them. It’s like two different universes cut up and stuck together to form an image.

 The design of the glass ceiling is incredible. I saw something similar to this in another musuem in China, but it was only for a small part of the ceiling. It is only when the glass spans across the room, then visitors truly stop. look up. and appreciate the sky above.





This is somewhat like an extension of ‘where’s the art?’ 

A few days back, my Language Arts teacher held yet another discussion in class, but unlike previous sessions, I found my(self) ass perpetually off the chair, hand raised high like the next Hermione Granger.

It was quite a surprise, really, when our teacher walked into class and announced that we would be discussing the question: what is art?

(and here i thought we would never touch on my favourite subject. Last year, in objection to yet another year of expository essays and the complete expulsion of narratives from the curriculum, I asked our teacher what we would be tested on (in the bid to prove that expository essays were not a fair way to test students) 

She replied that we would be tested on our general knowledge (and that’s where I went AHA!)

to which I said, but then that’s not a good way, because what I consider general knowledge would not be what yours is made out of, and since your general knowledge isn’t anything that I a)know b)interested in then how can you call it general knowledge (and therefore test me on it)? your questions would never be on the mona lisa, or jackson pollock and thankfully not: what is an installation?

I’m sad to add that, I think I lost the argument… )

but going back to the point, I was terribly excited and I couldn’t stop grinning from ear to ear. But when it came to the actual discussion it was far from what I expected, mainly because whenever my classmate pinned a criteria that art must have before it could be considered ‘art’ I could recall some vague painting or installation that refuted this statement. for example:

Art must be pretty – One and Three Chairs (it’s just neat, orderly – what’s so pretty about it?)

Art must have meaning/ concept/ cheem thought – portraits? many portraits (like in the Renaissance period had not much thought to it, other than simply capturing the person’s looks, money, status, etc. and was basically a means for artists to earn money

Art must be something special, something that is difficult to do, of a certain technical difficulty (if not everyone could be artists!) (my classmates didn’t say this, but it’s other people’s opinions that I’ve read elsewhere) – Jackson Pollock; tell me, which one of you cannot take a bucket of paint and splash it over canvas? or throw junk onto the canvas and stick it on? in fact isn’t that what kids do best? (wihtout the canvas)

so what is art?

The problem with trying to define art is that it has evolved over past centuries, constantly evolving. New forms or branches of art have developed, each challenging the definition of art.

My personal opinion is that there are many different kinds of art, and therefore each kind would have its own judging criteria. It is hard to create a set of rules and expect all works of art to fall neatly into them. There are so many different art movements, and even then not every art piece follows a movement, so when we judge what is good art or bad art, or whether it can even be considered art, we must take into consideration the background of the artist, the time of the work, and (if there is) the art movement the piece falls in. Only then can we judge the work, and define what it is, based on other previous artists or similar works.

For example I think we can safely say there are two main kinds of art: the decorative kind and the kind with a message to bring across.

In the first kind, the art is just there to be pretty, and is often what we hang in our living rooms. It is still a valid form of art, as it tries to express and capture beauty. Only then, in this kind of art, does the ‘rule’ of art must be beautiful apply, that it has to be of a certain technical standard.

As for the second kind, art is no longer purely for looking at. As the viewer, we have to go one step further to understand what the work is trying to convey. In this category, art becomes a medium through which the artist expresses his thoughts and feelings, it becomes the ‘voice’. It doesn’t even have to be a message like: war is wrong! we should never go to war! rather the artist can be trying to express a sensation, or explore a notion (e.g. what is life?) and there might not necessarily be a resolution where the artist goes: aha! this is what life is.

Art cannot just be about beauty anymore, in fact having the artwork look beautiful could take away the original meaning of the work, especially if it is supposed to have blood and gore. What is and important criteria for this work then, is for it to be accessible. The viewer, the ordinary layman should be able to understand what the work is about, or at least form some idea as to what the message is.

Of course, not everyone can understand what the work is trying to say, but I think for the artist, as long as someone can appreciate it, that would be great. ^^ (or is it just me hoping someone can understand my coursework? haha)


well anyway for the discussion, our teacher concluded that for something to be an artwork it must be innovative, creative, or at least be the first of it’s kind.. once again like pollock, anyone can splash paint on a surface, but he was the first one who thought of it, and proceeded to do it.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but it’s pretty weird to have to have this post… anyway for convenience:

Links to my comments:

for anning: 1,2

jingying: 1

jiayu: 1, 2

yiran: 1, 2  

wn: 1, 2

xinyan: 1

theresa: 1

trixie: 1

zhengyan: 1, 2, 3

suhuan: 1

xiaoxiao: 1

… what I could find, I totally forgot about keeping track of them

MR L! DON’T LOOK! turn away! begone ! shoo!!

*coughs* anyway –

I love making things, sometime even more than photocopying images. and this is the product of one of those times where i stuck my nose in and insisted that i help to create whatever they where doing..

so this is a joint project. me+suan+gail

photos courtesy of suhuan ^^

 <- classical arrow-through-heart 

I just love making cards. They’re one of the few things that I can make and give to other people, without feeling sad – probably because when I make them I know I’m not going to keep it. The saddest thing would be finding out the card wasn’t appreciated.

I really started learning pop-ups from a book I bought from Kinokuniya several years back. What I liked about the book was that it covered many different techniques, but what I couldn’t stand was that they had little photographs of master-artists’ own pop-up cards, which were simply exquisite and made me want to make something just like that too! — but they would never say how they did it.. ><

Pop-ups also interest me because other than being creative, at the same time it’s mechanical and technical. After I’ve read the book from cover to cover 10 times over, I pretty much know most of the content, so what keeps me still flipping the book open occasionally is figuring out how the lil’ cards work, the concept behind them, and from there I can create my own (very simple) desgins.

heh, I’m posting this because I keep losing it and finding it and then losing it again..


“The deepest problems of modern living derive from the claim of the individual to preserve the autonomy and individuality of his existence in the face of overwhelming social forces.” – George Simmel, The Metropolis and Mental Life, 1902-3

In the above quote, George Simmel is addressing the problems in modern life, in particular the loss of self-government (autonomy) and individuality, and their causes. I will be discussing these ‘overwhelming social forces’ as well as the problems, with reference to two art works 100 Cans by Andy Warhol and I Love You with my Ford by James Rosenquist.

In the text, ‘overwhelming social forces’ refer to influences that affect modern life. They come about due to industrialization in which products are now being produced at a faster and cheaper rate which in turn created the rise of consumerism. Quoting from Juliet B. Schor, The Overworked American, “We live in what may be the most consumer-oriented society in history. . . .Once a purely utilitarian chore, shopping has been elevated to the status of a national passion.” The increase in consumerism also raised the demand for commercializing and marketing the product.

Autonomy is lost as well. As stated by George Simmel, ‘Man’s nature should develop unhindered’, however due to industrialization lifestyle has been changed to a ‘functional specialization of man and his work; this specialization makes one individual incomparable to another, and each of them indispensable to the highest possible extent’. The specialization sets a boundary for the individual’s freedom of choice and what his actions.

In a way media, a social force, also restricts the individual’s freedom of choice. The individual will only choose to buy consumer items that have been well-advertised and is in vogue.

For example Andy Warhol’s 100 cans, 1962 shows us this power of commercialization. In this artwork, Warhol repeatedly paints Campbell’s canned soup, each identical to the other. In the image, Warhol uses small yellow circle in place of Campbell’s medallion. Yet we still can recognize that the can of soup belongs to Campbell. This ability to recognize a product even if not properly depicted highlights the use of commercialization, primarily referring to advertising. Campbell has been very well advertised and marketed such that even now on average, consumers purchase more than 100 cans of Campbell’s Soup every second of every day of the year.

Warhol’s 100 Cans also fills up all the space on the canvas making it look as if it can stand as an advertisement for Campbell soup on its own. Thus at the same time reflecting the theme of advertisement.

Like Campbell soup, the individual often lives on a product if well marketed. Thus commercializing influences and restricts the individual’s freedom in terms of consumerism.

Similarly, in James Rosenquist’s I Love You with my Ford, 1961 the artist divides the painting into three sections, each depicting a particular ‘favourite’ of Americans during that time, the Ford, black and white movies and instant spahghetti, which were very popular at that time.

The Ford is particularly symbolic as its popularity gave it the term ‘the car that saved an empire’. It prevented Ford Motor Company from financial trouble, and earned Ford an astounding $177 million profit that year.

Black and white movies also tend to hinder the modern man’s decision-making as the lifestyle shown on the screen becomes the lifestyle the modern man wants to achieve.

The painting emphasizes the impact of commercialization. It had become so powerful that it had influenced main aspects of the individual’s life: his job, his recreation, what he ate and from the title, even the emotional aspect of life.

The increase of consumerism, as well as the change from ‘proprietary capitalism to corporate capitalism, mass-marketing, … the subsequent explosion in advertising’ as stated by Tom Pendergast, Creating the Modern Man has resulted in the loss of the modern man’s individuality. Individuality in the sense that the modern man now lives in the same style with the same material goods as his neighbour.


This problem is also addressed in both paintings. In Warhol’s artwork the rigid repetition of Campbell symbolizes two things: the rigid lifestyle the individual in modern life experiences and the lifestyle of the people as a whole.

The painting could represent the modern man’s life, with every can representing one part of his life. Every can is depicted in exactly the same way, regardless of colour, shape or size. This shows us that throughout the modern man’s life, there is the presence of rigidity or lack of experimentation due to jobs being more specified. In fact the artist himself expressed this rigidity. Warhol was once quoted as saying (when asked as to why he chose to depict Campbell soup), “I used to drink it. I used to have the same lunch everyday for twenty years.”

The image itself is also symmetrical, this is symbolic as it also emphasizes that in modern life, not only was your life rigid and structured, the life of any stranger you meet on the street was the same as yours. Like in the painting, every can was reflected exactly the same as the other. Furthermore the bottom row of cans is cut off, which suggest that the stacks of cans are endless. Similarly, the loss of individuality is on a huge scale. It is not just one or two people who live like you, but hundreds and thousands of them.

100 Cans was also one of the last images Warhol painted by hand. This means that while as a whole the cans look identical, in reality they differed from each other slightly. This is important as it shows modern life has brought unique individuals together to work for ‘the greater good’. However while they may specialize in different things, they come together to work as one body; they are no longer seen as individuals.

In James Rosenquist’s painting the title itself addresses the causes of the problems, in this case money or material goods. The line ‘I love you with my Ford’ is a gibe at the famous line ‘I love you with all my heart’. The increase in value of material riches is now used to represent or even take over emotions. This shows us that values of the modern man have changed, causing him to become more materialistic and superficial.

The section at the bottom of the painting depicts instant spaghetti. Instant spaghetti was a hit as it was not only easy to use but also very cheap, due to mass production. Mass production is another factor that influences the modern man. Mass production allowed products to be produced at a low and face rate, which in turn helped give birth to supermarkets and shopping centers. This means that the individual buys the same product as other people around him as they go to the same place to purchase that product. In these terms, individuality is now lost.

Similarly, when related back to the black and white movies individuality is lost as everyone now shares the same dream and ambition as all of them watch the same movies.

In conclusion, Simmel’s ‘overwhelming social forces’ refer to the in particular the influence of commercialization, advertising, and the phenomenon of mass-production which create the loss of autonomy and individualization. In fact autonomy and individuality are very closely related in the post-industrial age as it is not only one individual who loses his autonomy but countries of them, resulting in a loss of individuality.


March 2018
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