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ARTIST’S STATEMENT

My paintings put viewers into a trance or altered reality. For the last two decades, I have faced each empty canvas with the inkling that there is a particular painting I am aiming at creating, but is as yet unknown to me. My dissatisfaction with each work has been my compass. I have never let myself to be discouraged, however, since I have learned that the exhaustion and anxiety acquired through the journey is my greatest motive for sorting out what works and what doesn’t. Recently I have finished three paintings that have allowed me to exhale: Crashing my spaceship with hydrogen bombs on board 1 & 2 and Existential trance 1.

Imagining I had already conceived of these two paintings two decades ago when I was grappling over what to paint on my first canvas, I would not have known then that over the years I would never betray my desire. Now upon viewing these paintings as if for the first time, I am impressed that they succeed in putting me into a trance or altered reality like a flying dream. I find that when I close my left eye this happens more quickly, though only partially; nevertheless, it is not as total as using two eyes with a loose focus to achieve altered awareness more slowly. When I perceive this correctly, the image spirals a bit first and then heaves along with my own rhythm of breathing until at some point I feel a distant gentle breeze. These two paintings beckon me to trace my footprints back to my first attempt. Mapping my subconscious mind, I grasp why I have persevered over two decades to paint them.

I have not always clearly understood why I paint my inner visions from a flying perspective. I have often been irritated by the challenge of painting from my internal reality to get the perspective right, especially with past obsessions such as painting a bird’s eye view of hundreds of traditional Asian roofs from all different angles, which was the case with my Shanty Town series. As when entering the first stage of trance, now I grasp that I have been trying to activate my kundalini (area around posterior) through simulating a fear of height to create an immediate experiential reality similar to the vibrational function of a video game. This is anyone’s physical reflex to crisis.

The second more ethereal response is what I now apprehend as why I have gradually been creating my own spiraling vanishing point to replace the conventional one with its flat horizons. My third eye can focus on this new vanishing point that expands consciousness to infinity to create a fainting sensation. The combination of these two perceptual stages manifests into an otherworldly floating experience, the equivalent of anyone’s emotional shock reaction to substantial trauma. While in this state, my thoughts cannot lock into fear recognition mode. Instead, I remain in a detached state, becoming an omniscient outsider or viewer who observes details in the patterns below that transform into real, vivid, heightened 3D effect as I continue gazing.

I have always been aware of my attraction to revisiting my childhood traumas from the first five years of my life when I was a victim of repetitive rape and attempted murders, yet I no longer have the energy to withstand the other extreme of being pushed into out-of-body modes of escapism that have become life long patterns of personal addiction. Instead I have been continuously guiding myself towards creating a zone in which my paintings become so real that, in combination with the uncanny, dark titles of the paintings that act as a perceptual filter, I allow my darkest self to come out of the closet like a self-inflicted exorcism. I have finally accepted this demonic part of myself, having nurtured and honoured him satisfactorily. Next I am flying suspended over the place I have just left, watching my own funeral. Afterwards, a calm sets in that previously I did not know I had been missing. Finally the storm vanishes, and I want to just live my life while painting to bring in the sublime.

One of the painters I admire is Jackson Pollock, especially for his drip paintings. What makes me chuckle is his set up which guarantees success with each painting, since it is based on a compilation of what seem to be mistakes that resemble an unsupervised toddler’s having a ball with paint. Painting without fear of making mistakes is how children colour freely over the outlines of colouring books. It is more important for Child Masters such as I myself was once to uphold the repetitive physical rhythm and freedom of brush or crayon to be in the zone than to achieve definitive realism or accuracy. This instinctive childhood impulse is akin to tribal dances around the fire during which participants are taken away into trance states by the repetitive drumbeats and movements. Over time, by increasingly exhausting myself through the rigorous discipline and precision of painting endless detailed lines to depict Asian roofs and buildings, I see now that I was inadvertently guiding myself towards freedom from such restrictive, self-inflicted agony that in my case stems from my need to fix myself. Now under the umbrella of my newly developed globe-like grid that has become my own original vanishing point, I paint lines freely in self-hypnotizing physical repetitions, knowing and trusting that the crisscrossing of lines that previously might have constituted mistakes transform magically into buildings and worlds.

If I could go back to when I was facing my first empty canvas, I would tell myself, Trust! This is now what I hear as I face empty canvases. It would be super if my paintings have a similar effect on other viewers.

Sok