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'TEARS OF MILK'; limited edition print on Art paper

Original artwork was 200 x 200 cm; Mixed media and Acrylic on canvas; ASEAN Art Award Winner, 2002

This painting is an emotional, visual depiction of the visible and not so visible stories that are paraded around the streets of Asia. The dominant features are the ‘hand’, and the face. Each person that goes his or her own way is carrying with them the seeds of the next experience; the heart, life and destiny lines on the palm being but a metaphor. Our constructs are complex. Who we are, and who we are trying to be will be projected onto our associations with people and places, and the choices we make will be governed by our state of self awareness.

We absorb subconsciously even what we think we are not listening to. Random acts of kindness, selfishness, violence; these all transmute themselves onto our world view. Walking through a shortcut in a back street in Asia can transpire into a never forgotten moment of the look on a prostitute’s face, as she stands there, in the doorway, waiting for customers. What would that do to how we view our sexuality? And what to say of the colours around you? Attention grabbing hot reds, bamboo greens, neon blues, tinsel yellow, gaudy pink, gutter blues…….the tacky becomes cheerful. Collisions take place all the time, between the ‘rural’ villagers and the sophisticates of the new flashy world. Indeed, Asia’s palette does not fade easily, even with all the wear and tear.

The painting has many analogies and metaphors in its compositional narrative, e.g. ‘the fish’ swimming across the painting represent the rural people of Asia who feel like fish out of water in the cities. The young girl with the blindfold symbolizes universal inequality that we girls have been conned into. The open book with Krishna’s feet on it depicts eternal knowledge and wisdom. Often, even this spiritual essence is traded for the temporary allure of money or fame. The latter is depicted by MTV, dollar signs, and the ‘American Dream’ spelt wrongly.

Everyday stories continue off the canvas; Birds eat the leftover rice grains that fell off a sack on a food and drink street cart; the sound of bells approaching turns out to be two big horses carrying a carriage with five tourists in it. “Step out of the way, and make sure you don’t trip over your batik sarong” And girls, beware. It is difficult to dodge the motorcycles and scooters and potholes with high heels. Tall buildings twinkle intimidatingly as the tuk-tuk driver gazes upon them, uncomfortable in his makeshift bed. Boundaries between private and public shift all the time. What was not outside your building yesterday now is. And it is here to stay. So you just step over. There is celebration, sadness and movement in this painting.

The tears are real. Salty ones from happiness, or bitter ones from despair.

As a child grows his first pair of teeth, the mother knows that these are milk teeth, soon to fall down and grown again. It all trickles down to the river of life; a river which is ever moving. When there is little water in the body, or when the despair or happiness is not acute enough, we too have milk tears. These spill over, and stain our faces and clothes with invisible but concrete impressions, and in these moments, we age.

And the lines on our palm change ever so slightly……..