Monday, August 31, 2009

Greetings from LA



I've been in Los Angeles for only about a week and it feels like a lifetime. The place in the second photo is the apartment I'm living in. Things here are so different and I'm still making new discoveries about the culture everyday. Do I miss home? Sometimes I do think of jumping on a plane and returning to the life I knew so well, but I wouldn't trade anything for the adventure I'm having here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Blythe, the Love of my Life

Pardon the lame rhyming in the title. I just meant it to convey my newfound obsession with Blythe dolls now. Something about their wide-eyed stare and ethereal beauty just captures me. I think it's because they're so different from other dolls out in the market. They're more like works of art than playthings. Their mesmerizing eyes are also capable of changing colour when they blink. How cool is that?

The things that people manage to do with Blythe astonishes me. They go through a long process of creating exquisite outfits for them, doing their hair in an array of styles and colours, and photographing the finished product in carefully-staged settings. Some apply 'make-up' (paint) and eyelashes on their doll's face or even perform 'plastic surgery'- hair root transplants, alteration of the eye sockets etc. There is an annual Blythe beauty contest in which participants submit their creations based on a theme for public voting. Blythe is truly a cult phenomenon.

Unfortunately, at a few hundred dollars a pop, I can scarcely afford a Blythe doll of my own. Here are some photos of other people's dolls, sourced from Flickr:

'Beluga Babuska'

'Sayuri' (from Memoirs of a Geisha)

Aren't they all amazing? I can only imagine the amount of time and effort that went into them.

This will be my last post before I go to L.A. Hopefully I'll be able to blog about my adventures there very soon. See ya!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Ghostly film


I hope you aren't tired of Luc Tuymans' works yet. I titled this post 'Ghostly film' because these paintings remind me of film photographs with their quotidian subject matter, gritty feel, imperfect lighting and candid angles. The stillness of the scene gives them a poetic quality, and the rawness makes them feel intimate. I think Tuymans is unconventional in his frequent use of small canvas sizes. His success as an artist reveals the fact that paintings do not need grandeur to touch a chord in the viewer.
I finished Life of Pi and my first Haruki Murakami book. I didn't manage to get Kafka on the Shore from the library, so I settled on Sputnik Sweetheart.

I'm reminded of the old adage 'never judge a book by its cover'. The bright colours and cartoony illustration on the cover of Life of Pi gave me the impression of a quirky, delightful book. The synopsis certainly sounded quirky: a 16-year old Indian boy trapped on a lifeboat in open sea after a shipwreck, with the company of a Royal Bengal tiger. The contents were actually quite grotesque with Pi descending to a level of primitive savagery and even cannibalism, all described in a graphic manner. Want a taste of it? Here's an excerpt of Pi slaughtering a sea turtle:

"I took hold of a hatchet and brought it down on the turtle's neck, gashing it. Bright red blood shot out. I grabbed the beaker and collected about three hundred millimetres, a pop can's worth... I took a sip. It tasted warm and animal... I drank the blood to the last drop."

I think what gets me is not only the vivid descriptions but the matter-of-fact tone, as if all these are just routine activities and part-and-parcel of life (which they are for Pi). As passive readers sitting at home, we can't help but shift uncomfortably in our seats. Our sympathy for Pi can only extend to a certain point. The fact is, unless we're in the same predicament ourselves, we can't imagine behaving the same way. I don't think I'll be flipping through Life of Pi much. I'm too weak-hearted to stomach the violence depicted, however necessary it is.

I'm drawn to Murakami's writing, however. I find that it has verisimilitude tinged with edginess. His novels seem to contain dark, surreal elements that add another dimension to the real world. There was one part of Sputnik Sweetheart that struck me particularly- the image of a young woman trapped in a Ferris wheel at night, who looked into her own apartment and saw her doppelganger with a man. To me it's a disturbing, surrealistic touch that reveals the inner fears and desires of an individual, and perhaps offers an insight into human nature as well. I'm sufficiently intrigued to want to read Kafka on the Shore now.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rick Owens


Gorgeous close-ups of Rick Owens jackets from his fall collection. The craftsmanship is subtle yet incredible. The fluidity and suppleness of the leather and the way it moulds itself to the body is so unlike the bulky leather jackets I've seen.
I came across an informative article on Owens in The Fashion Spot forums. Here are a few choice excerpts:
'... Owens let his clothes speak for themselves, and people responded to his language of destroyed luxury. His talent for combining elegance with grit manifested itself in washed shrunken-leather jackets with super-slim arms and cashmere T-shirts whose seams were irreverently shredded. This was beauty of another sort, without the fatuous glitter.'
'Owens draws inspiration from different sources - his own life is obviously one of them. Goth culture is reflected heavily in his designs, but also punk and glam rock. Modernist architecture and sculpture are among his other influences. "It's like a little ritual for me - I look at the work of Brancusi, Le Corbusier, Luigi Moretti; all of these clean lines that are in exactly the right places in their work remind me that I don't have to make a lot of changes, I don't have to add some more straps to make it interesting, I don't have to do anything superfluous. And all of their creations fit in perfectly with the environment they are in, and that's what I try to do. Of course my environment is a fantasy." The fantasy that Owens manifests in his clothes is apparent in everything he does - from his fascination with artifice and camp, to the names of the colors he uses for his designs: "milk," "pearl," "dust" and "dark shadow." The only color untouched by a name is black.'
"I love the raw feelings of Rick's clothes, the sharply cut forms and his ability to play with proportion that goes to the extreme without becoming cartoonish," he says. "The clothes are both refined and crude, graceful and gothic - there is a balance between heavy brutalism and grace."
The article offers an insight into the personal history and fascinating psyche of Owens, and also touches on the unconventional business model of his eponymous label. A very interesting read.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Books I want to read:

Life of Pi
The Time-Traveller's Wife
Kafka on the Shore

Has anyone read any of these books and would like to offer an opinion? I'm thinking of buying one of them to bring on my epic 19-hour flight to Los Angeles (with a transit in between of course). Yup, for your information, I'll be heading there this Sunday for college. I really don't know what it's going to be like but I hope to blog about my adventures there.

You may wonder why I'm taking the trouble to travel to a faraway land for my studies. The thing is, I feel that I won't get any closer to the life I want in future by staying here. I don't just mean career-wise, but also the person I aspire to be and my lifestyle as well. By moving away I'll have the chance to try a new way of life, meet different people, challenge my thinking and start being the 'me' that I want. It's hard to change when you are surrounded by familiar things; it's hard to develop creatively when you don't have the freedom you need. I sense that I need to take an initiative in learning to be independent because it won't happen otherwise.

There are so many things I can do there such as cooking new dishes, incorporating exercise in my life, doing creative writing, drawing and getting back in the water because I once loved to swim. I stopped swimming after developing eczema and strangely, it's a different health problem that got me thinking about it again. I have a mild spinal curvature and was recommended by the doctor to pick up swimming. Maybe it's serendipity. With a fresh start I'll finally have the courage to put in action the things I've always thought of doing.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Portrait




The first thing that struck me about Luc Tuymans' portraits is how spare they are. They possess a kind of minimalist elegance that's both poetic and charming. A baby can be represented solely by its head, suggested by a few sensitive lines and two dabs of pale marigold for the eye area. In some portraits the surrounding area is left bare, such that the subject seems to be suspended in a void. This deceptively simple but bold move creates an interesting mood- one of unconsciousness, deep thought or a cathartic state. Instead of framing the face nicely, Tuymans is not afraid to zoom in and crop it at the sides, an artistic decision possibly inspired by photography. His work introduces novel ideas for the treatment of an age-old subject; ideas that work surprisingly well.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Spirituality



I've just been acquainted with Belgian contemporary painter Luc Tuymans. I'm wondering how I could have missed him all this time considering his status as one of Belgium's greatest artists, along with Rubens and Magritte. Possibly the most intriguing aspect of his work is the incorporation of techniques from photography and film, such as cropping, extreme close-ups and desaturation. It's very interesting how his paintings can embody abstract moods and emotions such as melancholy and catharsis. This is partly due to his raw, flat, undemonstrative style of painting, which creates a haziness that obscures the subject.
Because I'm not nearly as knowledgeable nor eloquent as I wish to be, I'd quote the comments by some critics. This was used to describe another work, but I think it fits the above images very well:
"The simplicity of Luc Tuymans's composition alludes to a pure and uninterrupted world order; the ephemeral light, with which the canvas seems to glow, places it as an epic masterpiece of metaphysical and spiritual contemplation. In response to unimaginable horror, Luc Tuymans offers the sublime. A gaping magnitude of impotency, which neither words nor paintings could ever express."
Also:
"Luc Tuymans paints the indescribable. His dark muted scenes seem vaguely familiar, distant, like haunting memories. Drawing his inspiration from grand themes, Luc Tuymans taps into a universal social guilt: from the Holocaust, or imperialism, to child abuse. By minimalising his images, he creates a raw emotion through paint; each painting linking spiritually, somehow instinctively, to the rest."
I feel that his paintings have a sinister undercurrent even if the subject seems quite innocuous initially. In this sense he is akin to Belgian Symbolist artist Leon Spilliaert, one of Tuymans' inspirations. The feeling of anxiety, the lurking sense of menace, and the combination of violence and poetry is classic Symbolism. Formally, Tuymans' washed-out palette seems to have been inherited from Spilliaert as well.
I'll be writing more about Tuymans in the next post, including his influence as a contemporary artist and his treatment of the portrait.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Luxirare

This one has been making the blogger rounds but still I feel that it's entitled to a post. I'm talking about Luxirare, that genius concoction of a blog. Its name is presumably a combination of the adjectives luxurious and rare, those two elusive qualities we seek in our lives and the things we possess. Rarity is an easier word to define- something that's exclusive, precious or exotic; available in limited supply and possibly difficult to obtain. What about luxury?

Luxury connotates wealth and abundance but as Luxirare shows, this is not necessarily the case. Sure, Luxirare owns an array of spiffy, high-tech and no doubt costly home appliances to assist in her food preparation, and her ingredients are top-grade. I'm certain that she uses high-quality fabric for the garments she creates as well. Still, to me luxury comes not from the cost required to upkeep her lifestyle but from the enjoyment and sense of refinement she creates in her life. Her taste and appreciation for finer things like exquisite flavour in food and beautiful, immaculate construction in clothes separate her from vulgarity, and what you get instead is quiet luxury. If you think about it, having a really good dish where the ingredients are fresh and blend together perfectly is a luxury in itself, especially in modern life whereby mediocre-tasting takeouts or fast food is common. Likewise, the feel of a beautiful garment on your skin is magical, particularly if that garment is the only one in the world (as Luxirare's clothes are).

Enough with me talking and on to the visuals. When visiting the page, one is greeted by this bold header which sums up the essence of her blog. Killer clothes and fine cuisine- an intoxicating mix, if you ask me.


Luxirare likes to reinterpret traditional dishes and put her own twist on them. In the most recent post she makes her own version of potato chips: thin wavy strips of potato with flavourings like cilantro, red peppercorn, prosciutto and vanilla seeds embedded in them. If these names are drawing a blank in you, then you definitely need to check out her blog. You'd emerge better informed about gourmet food.


Compared to some other blogs she doesn't update that frequently, but everytime she does it's a real treat. The stunning photography alone will leave you amazed by the detail in food that you've never noticed before. I think the right word here is pornographic. The process is a work of art in itself and the final product always blows my mind. Besides, Luxirare's work is hardly conventional and often avant-garde. Her past creations include a pyramid-shaped pistachio cake and a jacket embossed with names of Michael Jackson's famous songs as a tribute to the music legend.

Of course, another signature feature of Luxirare is the lovely packaging. She puts a great deal of thought and effort into it and tags everything she makes with her own label, as if to affirm her authorship or ownership or maybe just to finish it off nicely. I don't know if she realizes that this induces a craving in me to own her products.
I think that bloggers like Luxirare are constantly experimenting with the possibilities of the medium in terms of both form and content. The success stories that emerge are changing perceptions of what a blog can and should be. I'm excited to see what crops up next in the blogging world.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Akira

My current designer obsession is Akira Isogawa from Australia. When I think of Australian fashion, words like fun, flirty, and breezy come to mind. I think of cute dresses or separates that one can throw on easily and look effortlessly stylish in. Well, Isogawa's designs possess those qualities and much more. They exemplify the Australian aesthetic of casual chic and romance, infused with traditional Japanese flavour drawn from his background. His Japanese sensibility is evident in the kimono-like jackets, dramatic cuts, long floaty layers, dyed prints and intricate stitching among other features. I noticed that his work also has a refined elegance associated with the traditional Japanese aesthetic. This mix of the East and Down Under makes his garments that much more interesting.


Here is his design philosophy, quoted from the website:

“A garment can transcend, giving it a soul. I translate fabrics into soft and romantic silhouettes, using natural fabrics like silks and cottons, which are kind to the skin. Distressing fabrics and alchemically treating them, gives the feeling of already ‘being loved’, thus evoking emotion. Even one-off fabrics found in flea markets can be given new life.

Richly embellished fabrics echo Eastern influences, and I have great respect for their traditions. Inspiration can be found from the past – re-using vintage textiles and sometimes creating replicas of them, incorporated with specific craftsmanship. The number of hours someone has spent on manual work like this makes it priceless. I see craftsmanship as an implement with which to realise one’s vision. Past, present and future; that slogan continues in almost everything around which my work evolves. Timeless beauty and femininity in my design is profound, in a way for the wearer to express their inner soul.”

Two of my favourite looks from his S/S 09 collection:


I must credit my discovery of Akira to fashion blogger Brigadeiro. She religiously wears clothes from Akira and Dries van Noten (one of my favourite labels) with aplomb. Even her wedding dress is from Akira- it's absolutely beautiful and refreshingly different from conventional bridal designs. Here it is pictured below:


Isn't the soft, flowy silhouette and the applique detail just lovely? Too often bridal gowns make the wearer look fussy and uncomfortable, whereas this one is unrestrained and natural. I also love the flash of red at the bottom which adds drama and romance. In my opinion, it looks even better on Brigadeiro. The red dresses of her bridesmaids accentuated the colour of the hem nicely.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Love Shuffle

I just finished watching a Japanese drama serial called Love Shuffle (ラブシャッフル). I normally don't fancy romance-centered dramas because they tend to be formulaic and cliche, but this one succeeds in being fresh with sufficient twists to keep you riveted. The concept is quite novel- four young working adults, slightly jaded with their love lives, decide to try swapping partners with one another i.e. a 'love shuffle'. This experiment tests whether there is truly a sole fated partner for every individual, with very interesting results.


Some of my favourite aspects of the show:

The pajama party that the central characters (who live on the same floor of an apartment) have almost every night in the common area outside their units.

The indoor swimming pool. With its modern fittings and panoramic night view, it's simply SURREAL.

Yukichi + Usami. Yukichi's surveillance habits and Usami's facial expressions are hilarious. They are even funnier as a duo and their friendship is really sweet.


Usami + Airu. What can I say, they're really cute together.

Yukichi's dress sense! The combination of his geek glasses with velvet jackets, funky-coloured pocket hankies, striped bow ties etc. is deliciously wacky.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Saturday, August 8, 2009

"I've crossed the deserts for miles
Swam water for time
Searching places to find
A piece of something to call mine...'

--- Lyrics of Pure Shores by All Saints


I've been listening to Pure Shores and Moby's Porcelain from the movie soundtrack of The Beach recently. The funny thing is that I'd liked these two songs before I found out they were both part of the soundtrack. I like ambient forms of music hence my appreciation for jazz, lounge, and songs like Coldplay's Clocks and Spandeau Ballet's True.

I must say, The Beach has grown on me with each reading and it's one of my favourite books now. Though edgier than what I normally read, it has opened my eyes to a new literary genre. I like how one critic described it as 'imaginative travel writing'.

I've always known that I'd write a novel sometime in my life. It may sound presumptuous, but I often have a strong instinct for things which I find hard to explain to others. Writing a novel sounds easier than what it really is, though. I've filed away numerous story ideas, but everytime I try to realize one of them I get stuck. I guess in any creative endeavour there's always the fear and dread of the 'block'. Besides, I can't stand any distraction when I'm writing so I think I'd have to escape to an island in Greece one day to write my book.

The reason I'm saying this is that yesterday, a new idea for a plot occurred to me as I was daydreaming in bed. Hopefully something substantial comes out of it this time.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Kenzo Ad Campaign




The sumptuous fabrics and colours lend these ads a rich quality reminiscent of the Japanese painting above. A great way to showcase Kenzo's prints which are the brand's signature.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I went swimming last Sunday evening for the first time in almost two years.

It was only when I slipped into the water did I realize how much I'd missed the sensation. As a young girl, I used to swim every week until I was hit with a serious bout of eczema. The water was torturous on my raw, weeping skin so I had to give it up. It was never the same after that. Even when my eczema went away, I found it hard to get back in the water. Somehow you develop a block to things you've stopped doing for a long time.

No doubt my swimming skills have become rusty, but I still enjoy the calming effect that water has on me. I love to float on my back and close my eyes. That swim allowed me to release all the stress I've been feeling lately and the coolness was delightful in the hot weather. I found myself thinking, "I should do this again sometime." The subsequent soak in the jacuzzi was great as I'd never been in one before. As I rested my head on the edge of the jacuzzi, I could see the newly-risen moon through the bushes. I thought about my life.

It's strange that there's stress in my life now. When I was schooling, stress was of a different nature, and somehow good. Stress came from rushing to obtain good grades and meet deadlines, and that was fulfilling in a way as it prompted me to work hard and produce results. Now, stress comes from the anxieties I feel about going to college, which are often caused by what others say. I'm constantly overwhelmed by the negativity of my mother, who doesn't seem to have a single positive thing to say about me going to college. The problem in our relationship is a lack of balance. She doles out critiscism but doesn't give praise. I often think to myself, "You're hardly even home to talk to us and this is what you choose to say?" This is invariably something negative.

This situation is nothing compared to what has happened between me and my aunt. I'm shocked at the extent to which prejudice can blind people. It's not as if I'm a total stranger to her. Honestly, I'm not so much angry as hurt at her judgement of my character. I can forgive, but I don't think I can ever forget her words. I don't think I can ever talk to her again, knowing what she has said behind my back.

You know what they say about not letting yourself be surrounded by people who make you feel inferior? But what happens if those people are your family or relatives?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Whimsy



These two paintings by Aya Takano have a whimsical flair that I enjoy, featuring dangling beanpole-like girls set against quintessentially Japanese city or suburban backdrops. The cartoon-ish air is characteristic of the Superflat style to which Takano subscribes.
Superflat is a Japanese art movement founded by Takashi Murakami. In an unlikely marriage of classical taste and kitschy pop culture, Murakami's brightly-coloured, cutesy characters have been emblazoned on the famous Louis Vuitton monogrammed handbag. The term 'superflat' is no doubt a reference to the influence of graphic or 'flattened' forms in Japanese anime and manga on the art produced by members of the movement. It is often treated as a metaphor for the shallowness of Japanese consumer culture as well. Other than Murakami and Takano, Yoshitomo Nara, whom I've written about before, is a prominent artist of the movement.
Superflat goes beyond defining a common artistic style to uniting themes such as infantilism and repressed sexuality; the undercurrents of modern Japanese society. Superflat images might seem sweetly childish initially, but their outward appearance belies the underlying anxieties present. Sometimes the images are obviously grotesque or highly sexual in nature. The creation of the Superflat movement also poses an interesting study as a successful effort to market Japanese contemporary art to Western audiences.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Thank you to all who've left nice comments on this blog. It feels great to receive support and encouragement from people I've never met. I know that I'm not as rich or pretty as others may be. I'm the fourth child in a middle-class family hence I can't afford expensive clothes. I've struggled with acne and other skin problems for the past nine years, which has affected my appearance and self-confidence. Mine is not an 'outfit photo' blog because I don't look perfect everyday. What I do possess is intellect and talent. These gifts can't be bought with money, so I'm going to treasure them and use them well to enrich my life and the lives of others. Beauty may fade, but I like to think that I'd still have a brilliant mind and a creative spirit in my old age.
Visited the Page One bookstore in VivoCity today for the first time. It's much more spacious than I expected yet has a cosy feel. Maybe it's all that brown wood. I loved it the moment I walked in, when I caught a whiff of the distinctive smell of book paper. The selection of books on fashion, art and design is brilliant. Now I'm kicking myself for not visiting it earlier. I wore the high-waisted checked skirt pictured above that looks even fuller in person. It's seriously very cute.

Monday, August 3, 2009

This is ANREAL(AGE)

The Fashion Spot

Anrealage is a Japanese label established in 2003 by a graduate of Waseda University. His F/W 09 collection pictured above, named '凹 凸' (which means concave and convex respectively), is conceptual yet surprisingly wearable. Each piece of clothing can be stretched to fit a certain configuration of rectangular shapes. When removed and placed on a human form, the excess volume drapes nicely to create a new silhouette. What an ingenious idea.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I've been busy learning to create garment flats on Adobe Illustrator lately so I haven't had much time for drawing. This is something I did a while ago. I'm not entirely happy with it, but I do like the candylicious colours which are evocative of the spirit of summer for me.