Posts

seek ye first

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Yesterday at the market beside my new flat (hehe I couldn’t resist taking my mom to check out the reno in progress! And it is looking so fabulous!!!!), I saw these chrysanthemums still wrapped in gauze and knew immediately they would be large but not crass in their beauty. Brown flowers! How cool is that! Look closely and you can see that the colours are actually composed from strands of yellow and orange and peach and burnt earth.     You know how there is that famous Bible verse where Jesus chides people for worrying. He points out that God made the wild lilies more beautiful than the most exquisite robe King Solomon would have, to illustrate that the provisions of a mighty God are immense and beyond our human comprehension and human effort. Well, I realised that the next verse, also a famous one but seldom linked, is perhaps the lesson for me.     In the past few days I was hearing this: If indeed the maker of so much beauty is your God, it is not just “do not worry” (hard enough as

The Smartest, The Greatest, The Best

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The relationship between word and image is one that has interested me since young. I wrote and drew stories, made them into books....oooh, for a long time. In my teenage years, they were typed and painted books, and brought to the neighbourhood photocopy shops to bind. With a computer and learning later how to bind my own books, I could make editions.  As part of packing up my house, I found a few that were made in the 1990s.  This book was made in 1993/94, perhaps during the long summer break in the first year of university. There was an earlier version draft with colour, but I decided in the end to keep the covers coloured but the inside pages in B/W.  The cover is this velvet textured paper I found in the "fancy paper" shop at Bras Basah and the pages are printed on "Conqueror" paper. I had laid out the text on Word (maybe then I used the software called "Word Star" or "Word Perfect"....remember those?), printed them out, and drew directly on

On making decisions

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I have never really "moved house" before. I did move my things to live with J 15 years ago. But it was a flat he was already living in. I simply carted my clothes and books over. After he died, so many friends have hinted that I should move. But when I finally did sell my flat and when I bought a new one, I had these two questions from friends - One: "Oh, why did you decide to move - I thought you were not going to? Can you bear leaving the flat?" Two: "How come you can decide so quickly - and then sell and buy a new flat so fast?" My answer to the second question is simple. Where I am moving to was a place J and I had always looked at as a possibility. I know what I like. I don’t have grey zones when it comes to things or people I like.  My answer to the first question is just as simple, but it takes the more amusing form of a dream. I had just woken up from an afternoon nap. My room was filled with light. The flat has white walls and cupboards, so light

A Day To Wake Up To

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I reproduce in full the introduction of the art book A Day To Wake Up To . It says all there is about this project - the project's genesis and process. (  To see more of its design or to order, go to >> www.neighbourgoods.sg  ) The introduction also explains why this project had a second birth at the Singapore Art Book Fair in 2019, and for this reason, I am very grateful to Fair director Renee Ting for agreeing to my greedy request for a space of 5tables to launch this project at the 2021 fair and display all the actual drawings. A Day to Wake Up to  -  Introduction This is a project James and I have been working on since 2012, inspired by our time in the MacRitchie Nature Reserve, and now, made complete with the love and work of friends.     We enjoyed every moment of our time together, walking or running along the trails. These visits taught us much about ourselves and nature. The lessons never grew old. They were about stopping to appreciate the beauty around us; about no

On new old things

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I think this is a Pachypodium brevicaule when alive. It is now wrinkled and hollow, but its form is still beautiful. If you visit me and see dried arrangements of flowers or random leaves and twigs, chances are they were preserved by J. In the last two years, with J gone and then with the time spent working from home during COVID, I discovered two things: One, there really was a whole lot of dried bits of plant all over the house! I didn't notice them the same way before. Even though my housekeeping task was wiping the surfaces of the shelves and cabinets, I saw but never gave much attention to these little creations and actions of his - a leaf tucked between two books, an arrangement of dried leaves and flowers in a small bottle, an entire branch held to a magazine or a shelf by some clever clip... Two, these bits and bobs of dried plant reflect J's love for his plants. If you care for something, you care for all of it - even its remains, what it sheds...you remain somewhat fa

Fat Frog Skinny Frog

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  While packing up the flat in preparation for the move, I found this butterfly specimen from my Nabokov-obsessed days. I also found a stack of short stories. Here's one. It's a sad, somewhat indulgent but romantic little story "Fat Frog Skinny Frog", the kind that that young people at 25 would write. ---- Frogs appeared on earth almost 180 million years ago. They therefore deserve some of our attention. We might talk about the weather, the meal we are going to have, that boy or that girl so and so is going to marry, and how our hair grow long - but frogs with their 180 million years of existence do not appear much in our conversations.  The fact that we do not speak of them does not mean they do not exist. They live in ponds, on trees, underground, and once, not too long ago, there lived two frogs in a well. This story is about these two frogs in the well: Fat Frog and Skinny Frog. It is not clear how they got there. In the history of the world, it was once said God

On Walking

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Image by J of a cat - his spirit animal. He took this 7 Jan 2019, and published it with the caption "Be still, and know that I am God..." Walking is grounding.  When you are walking, some part of your body is always in touch with the ground.  Walking together with J was something we did everyday. It was J's preferred mode of transport. And wherever he walked, he was very observant of the world around him. He saw faces, shapes, light and shadows - stories in things and places most people would overlook. I enjoyed walking with J because of this, and because I liked to hold his hand. It was a way of grounding for me.  Image taken on one of the COVID walks, Walking is motion.  At the start of the COVID restrictions, taking a post-dinner walk was my daily routine. Those months there was also an outbreak of dengue all over the island, hence I walked only after the sun has set and the Aedes mosquito was less likely to bite. My typical route was a 45min leisurely stroll around th

arts and crafty

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Even though the Furrie and Shortie comics are my crudely drawn images, the actual design and production quality of Issue 1 were anything but crude - J’s meticulous and fastidious work. Issue 1 was printed on sustainable and textured paper from RJ, thread sewn with an exposed bind, and shrink wrapped with a hard board.  The designers for Issue 2 and 3 (thank you Sean Tiang and Koh Wei Ting, respectively) continued in the same vein. For Issue 3, we decided to push it further with a full-colour print for the whole book, plus 3 fold-out spreads. I wanted this series to end in a manner that was respectful of its balck-and-white minimalism, but also different. Why shouldn't it end in full colour Unlike J, I am very lo-fi. He called me “arts and craft” (it wasn’t meant to be a compliment). While our tastes are similar, we differed in our sensibilities. The designer in him considered and wanted absolute control over everything. I am happy to let the process play out with all its quirks sin

Be with me, be with you?

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In Issue 3, Furrie and Shortie accomplish the IMPOSSIBLE - or at least what has become impossible for everyone during a pandemic - they go on a trip overseas! Issue 3 "Be with me" sees them travelling to another island, make new friends...and fall in love all over again with life and living. This is the final and last issue of Furrie and Shortie, and it is in colour!  First 50 orders of the bundles with the Furoshiki/Scarf/Bandana will receive a special gift of a Furrie & Shortie hankie. This being the last issue, you definitely will need a hankie to cry your goodbyes!  Simply email your order to info@ampulets.com (1) Issue 3: "Be with Me / 生活的点点滴滴 " Pre-order $28 (retail $30)  Issues 2  " A Time for Everything /   明天会更好"and  Issue  1  "Be the most wonderful you /  做最美好的自己"   are also still available as individual orders. (2) "Wrap Around my Heart" Furoshiki/Scarf/Bandana, 70x70cm, Slubbed Polyester  $28 (3) "Half and Half"

time

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I stopped wearing a watch soon after J died. It wasn't conscious at first. I thought I could wear one of his, but it didn't feel right. I have since given all of his nice watches away except for a $25 Casio and a GShock Frogman he bought soon after we got together.  Before he died, I would refuse to wear a watch on weekends. It was a sign that I was "off" from work - my time was mine - and his.  What is your relationship to time? Some of us are horrible at keeping time. We are constantly late. Some of us pack too much into a day, and we fail to understand how much time is needed for most of living. Some of us just work away - giving ourselves to whatever it is that demanded our attention at the present. Some of us live in a kind of diseased nostalgia, unhappy with our present and not seeing much of a future. And some of us are always making plans. And if we are not making plans, we are dreaming, constantly dreaming of something that is not yet here, may never be. I re

nurture

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The word “nurture” is often used as the antithesis of “nature”, as if it is artificial, a forceful intervention. This weekend, I watched two of my couple friends, one with their 3-month old baby and the other with a 2 year old toddler, care for their child. I think of “nurture” instead as “care”. To nurture is to care, and vice versa. It is to give labour to looking after the welfare of another, to give attention to what will best help or serve another. It is not artifice. It is not the imposition of your own will. Because we often cannot determine the outcome of our “nurture” and “care”.   It is now midnight and I have just spent the last hour watering several sets of plants, and changing the water for some cut leaves and flowers. I remember J sometimes “complaining” to me how much work is involved in looking after his plants - a complaint I mostly ignore because “Eh, you asked for it what.”. I empathise more fully with him now. It is a lot of work indeed - not that it takes up large

15th of the 7th month

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T his guy waxes and wanes. He represents your heart, my heart or nothing.     This is one of those days I wonder how at 45 I still have this surfeit of emotion? Surely it must be spent by now.     On my walk tonight I see hell money strewn about the pavement; I imagine diabetic ghosts imbibing rows of Yakult, Ribena and those carb-heavy offerings the PM would nag about in his National Day address; I think what inconsiderate and frankly filthy habits disguise themselves as tradition and worship - I admit, no amount of romanticizing Toa Payoh tonight will take away this realization that, no it is not hell but yes, it looks like a freakin’ ghetto. This is not righteousness. It is just defeat.   At 45 surely I cannot still feel as when I was 25. So I try to keep my eyes looking up instead. And there is that moon. That guy waxes and wanes. He represents your heart, my heart or nothing.

because

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Because we needed a distraction, a friend suggested that we exchange short written reflections on beauty, titled "Because Beauty". She wrote 2 and I wrote 2 too. Then COVID happened and we stopped. Other things took over to distract. Because it started to rain just as I was about to go for my post-dinner walk, I sat down before my laptop and saw this folder "Because Beauty". So let me share the 2 short pieces I wrote from that time instead - BECAUSE BEAUTY Dec 2019 I cut my hair a month ago, and realised this meant you can see the scar from the surgery in Oct18. A couple of surgeons / doctors who have seen the large bur faint scar have praised the skill of my neurosurgeon - in a professional sense they may have described his handiwork as beautiful!  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be lig

moving on

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Portrait of Pa J in his 20s The last 10 years of suave-looking Pa J‘s life without Ma J were unhappy ones. His health deteriorated until he was mostly bedridden the last year. Ma J‘s death hit him hard., He seemed to have some regrets over her last days. They were married for over 50 years and were never apart. She bore 7 children, scolded them into adulthood, cooked amazingly delicious food and looked after all his needs. In turn he cared for her and did everything to provide for his family. After she died, laughter went from the otherwise jovial Teo family.       Caring for Pa J really bothered J. He saw the flaws of his father and his physical deterioration as a mirror of his own future. The tensions among his siblings (typical of large families) added to his feeling upset. He used to joke that Pa J’s flat was “Sadville”.     Pa J didn’t know that J had died. This weighed on my mind. It was sad that this old man, who was so lonely and disappointed with his kids, should think that hi