A Day To Wake Up To

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 - 

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 not taking our bodies for granted; about both the enduring reality of death and the persistent force of life; and about the God who created all that we seek to understand. 
I completed an artwork made up of seven contiguous A2-sized black and white drawings, and wrote seven accompanying pieces, a mixture of non-fiction and fiction. The drawings formed a landscape set in a nature reserve. Each drawing featured one creature, say an insect or an animal native to our tropical forest, as well as one object that spoke of man’s presence in that landscape, such as a shoe or a playing card or a chainsaw. You could appreciate each drawing on its own, and together, they could be seen as a single narrative – or “mystery”, as I saw it.  You could read each drawing in relation to the respective story, or you need not see any relationship between the drawing and the story or essay.  
I worked on the drawings, essays and short stories between 2012 and 2014. James watched me work at the dining table but kept mostly out of it. When I was done, I passed the project over to him.  I asked him to think about the form they might take if we were to reproduce and share these works with a wider audience.  He mulled over this for a long time – should it be a book, a folio, a series of prints, an exhibition?  He was not satisfied with any of the ideas and I did not press him.  We were busy with our other projects.  Early in 2018, he told me he had finally cracked the brief and needed just a bit more time to finesse his ideas and sketch them out before sharing them with me. Unfortunately, he did not get a chance to. 
At the Singapore Art Book Fair in June 2019, many of our friends came by the ampulets/Neighbourgoods stand to support Issue 2 of Furrie and Shortie. With some friends and acquaintances who did not get a chance to say goodbye to James at his funeral, it felt like they were dropping by to console me.  But there was nothing morose or sombre about these occasions. The Fair has always been good fun this way – community and collegiate vibes define it. During a lull moment at the Fair, the idea of making an illustration relay or an illustration exquisite corpse came to me. 
One artist would make a drawing, and the next artist would make another that is joined to and continues from the previous.  And so on. Altogether, there would be seven artists making one complete artwork composed of seven different but contiguous drawings.  Just as my drawing was a landscape of seven contiguous drawings, and I had passed the baton to James to design the project, and he by default had passed it back to me, this baton could be passed to seven more co-creators, generating seven more contiguous drawings.  
I wasted little time in getting the project going after the Fair.  It felt right –  and I was sure it was going to be fun. After all, one of the reasons why we started Neighbourgoods was to preserve this sense of community amongst people who in the capitalist commercial context would have unavoidably been competitors, the stiffness of competition increased by the smallness of our market. We wanted to make projects with creative people and studios we admired.   

I selected the seven artists or illustrators based on two criteria. First, they were people James had enjoyed working with or being around. Second, their work or their personal lives tell us that they respond sensitively and with love to nature.  Among these seven individuals are plant lovers, cat lovers, a tattooist and a sculptor of flowers, a carver of wood, and advocates of good stewardship of our earth. 
Two months later, Adeline Tan aka MightYellow was the first artist to receive via courier the following: an A2-sized paper for her artwork; the seven essays and stories I had written for this project; as well as a set of instructions. The instructions described the illustration relay process; a reminder about the assigned creature (hers was the first creature, the butterfly Painted Jezebel); and a suggestion to read the assigned essay or story, even though their work need not be a response to the text (hers was the first essay titled “Seeing the Forest”).  

Each artist was given one month to complete their work.  At the end of the month, the next artist would take over, and so on.  Each artist would only receive the artwork by the previous artist. In other words, the third artist would not be able to see the first artist’s work, only the second artist’s. They also do not get to see the seven drawings that I had already made. 
I asked Jon and Stella of Studio Roots if they would like to take up the challenge of putting everything together into some kind of publication or “object”. They were given free rein over the concept and design. They took up the challenge. We met  over several meals, and ate and talked our way through ideas. 
What you have in your hand is the final result of a baton being passed across several hands. It's a relay with no winners or losers, no attempt to set a record, only a journey where all of us arrived at one destination, although none of us walked the whole way.  I described this project to Jon and Stella as a kind of seven by seven by seven by seven; I had read in the Bible that seven was the number of perfection to the Jews, that it represented a kind of infinity, an eternity. 
I give my love, respect and thanks to the artists, my co-creators in this Illustration Relay: Adeline Tan aka Mightyellow and her son Paul; Wai Leng aka Fleecircus; Xinnie aka X Spots the Mark; Minqi aka Twisstii; the Lim family of Claire, Renn, Aira, Pann aka Holycrap; Mary aka Mrydette; and Zixi aka MessyMsxi. I am very grateful to Yeo Wei Wei for editing the text despite her own crazy novel writing and for always speaking her mind, kindly, as a friend.  I am indebted to Jon and Stella of Studio Roots for not asking for anything, but generously giving of their time and creativity in conceptualising and designing this publication and overseeing its production.  
Finally, this project is made with James and I know this project is also realised as an expression of love for James by all the people involved. To James: thank you for walking, running, cheering me on, and patiently cracking this brief till the end for me, because I know you loved me so. 

We did not take many photos together. So this is a very rare couple selfie, taken at the Macritchie Nature Reserve 2014. Our usual poses: J's grumpy face. Me grinning like a monkey. 


editorquinox186 said…
It’s Furrie and Shortie time!!!!!!
(You saw me at SABF2021)
ampulets said…
Hi Ethan, indeed! It’s always Furrie and Shortie time!!!!!!
Thanks for reading ;)
Yampulets JieJie (not auntie)

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