Each and every person that I met brought me to certain points in life that made me as curious as I am today or made me the person that I am continuously trying to be. My parents were certainly among them. My mother, who was a seamstress, would dress my sister and me up quite often when we were growing up. She encouraged experimentation. Meanwhile, my dad, who was an air steward, would always bring home these gorgeous textiles from all around the world. I got to learn first-hand how to appreciate these materials and how you can be crafty with whatever that is available within your space.
So I think it is embedded in me to want to create things and to create possibilities. For example, the most revolutionary thing that I’m diving into right now is rest. It’s just looking at productivity in a way that it does not need to be tangible for others to see. For us artists, the most important thing that we have to work on is ourselves; trying to make sure we honour our energy, mentally, spiritually or whatever it may be. So I’m trying to see rest as work especially being in the social media age and the hustling culture. It’s about time for me to say: “No, I’m going to sit down. I’m going to rest. I’m going to observe for a bit”.
Nonetheless, I don’t believe in artist’s block. I don’t believe that people are without ideas. It’s just the question of whether or not their bodies are in a state where they can move. In my case, I still want to relentlessly create but the only thing that’s keeping me away is my understanding that sometimes you have to look within yourself to respect your boundaries. I can go ahead and create what I want to create but I’m probably going to disrespect my rest—staying up late, missing meals and things like that. So… no. I don’t believe in artist’s block. It’s just the universe telling you to stop for a bit and enjoy life.
Most artists build this world that they feel comfortable in to create and explore. But without them realising, especially when they put their creations online, they are being observed by a bigger crowd, an audience that they tend to forget. I didn’t really notice it until I started getting constant feedbacks from aspiring young artists. It’s a knock on your door that tells you that the world is so much bigger than your room and you have to understand the effect that you have on people. I think what’s terrifying is not knowing what you are going to do with it. Like, you have a certain form of responsibility towards those people.
They say, “with great power comes great responsibility” but I think the correct way to look at it is to not view it as power at all. Like, I have to bring myself back to the time when I first started out and remember what it felt like to be in their shoes. And even though I understand the social responsibility aspect of it all, I need to make sure that people understand that I’m not obligated to follow whatever narratives, hopes or expectations they might have for me because that would only diminish my work. Creating would not be fulfilling to me anymore so there needs to be certain boundaries set in place.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY CHEE WEI
CREATIVE DIRECTION BY IAN LOH
STYLED BY AMELIA TAN
HAIR CKAY LIOW
MAKEUP CAT YONG
This article was first published in the print edition of Grazia Malaysia March 2023.