Arthongkong.net meets Oychir : an open book


"These lines and waves are my way of visualizing music and the wind.  As a result they also take on a character within each piece."

Arthongkong.net meets Oychir : an open book

by MYJade

As I think about this interview and turn conversation into prose… I cannot take my mind off the subject of first impressions.  It is said these happen within the 1st 1/10th of a second of meeting someone new.  Sometimes really accurate – other times far from reality.  All kinds of biases (gender, age, race etc) add noise to the process, and most people wear masks (perhaps less so in the younger generations?).  Oychir (two syllables, “oy-sher”) stood out immediately – for me here was a young lady who was as close to an open book as you could get.  And as I arrived at the Gallery Livi having already seen her work, I could also see her persona in her work, in a most literal way.  At the end of the conversation - my first impressions still held true, though only time can tell if she can remain free of the vicissitudes and vagaries of adulthood.  

What’s your background, and did you always like art?

After secondary school, I went on to obtain a diploma in Design.  As for my illustrations, I’m self-taught.  I didn’t do well in primary or most of secondary school – studying was most difficult and a frustration for me hence I was unhappy most of the time, isolated from classmates as I shrunk into myself.  My teachers thought I wasn’t trying, no matter how much effort I had put in. Years later I was diagnosed as having dyslexia.  So there was a reason!  Growing up my parents wanted their children to learn an artistic skill.  I saw my brother spend much too long learning and practicing the piano.  My cousin – she took ballet lessons but broke a toenail one time standing on her toes… so those two were off the list.  I always liked to doodle – and kept it up; I suppose over the years it developed into this art.  But a few years ago, I decided I needed to learn ballet – I wanted to overcome my lack of achievement in my childhood.  My classmates were half my height, I wasn’t as pliable, and it was embarrassing when we had to do productions.  But I did it.  I’m proud of myself!   
I understand that shortly after you completed your studies, a company offered to publish your first works, a very good start to your career!  How did you come up with the central characters in that book?   

Oh, this character is me and a friend.  Actually the book also has reproductions of my drawings when was I was very young – my parents kept them!  But the scenes that convey the sense of isolation, struggle, escape, were inspired by something I saw in my early years.  A charity published pictures of a village in China – one picture showed a young child diligently at studying at school, oblivious to the camera, in bare surroundings.  I felt the child’s absorption in his book, and it was as though he escaped to another world in his mind and it really didn’t matter that his surroundings were so poor.  That image was moving for me, I’ve kept it in mind it all these years. 
Let’s talk about your creative process, using this piece in front of us as example:  do you plan ahead and map out the central subjects on your paper first or is it free-flow, starting at a certain point and radiating out from there?

Oh, I don’t plan my work to that level.  I work on the first subject – what it is and where it should be on the paper and then the next and so on.  Then the lines, and waves, drawing those that I think about first wherever on the paper I may think appropriate.  So there is a layering aspect to the process, a gradual buildup each time I work on it and the picture gradually gets denser until the final product!  I also tend to work on a few at a time.

Your work is extremely intricate – the central subjects are surrounded by secondary objects, characters, not to mention lines and waves that for me, you seem to handle exceedingly well.   What do those represent to you?
When I was young and didn’t know about my condition, I loved music.  And later on when I learned to read (with the proper educational methods) I read a book (齊物論) by a Chinese philosopher Zhong Zi (莊子).  In it he taught his students that wind makes different sounds – if it blows through a branch, or blows over trees, or blows along a river.  It can be gentle, loud, silent.  These lines and waves are my way of visualizing music and the wind.  As a result they also take on a character within each piece.

Do you live your art 24/7?  

You can say so…  I don’t have a daily schedule, I draw when inspired.  I draw all hours.  I really don’t think about when I should or shouldn’t.  
What does your creative space look like?

I listen to music when I draw.  Also, it’s a little like the paintings you see, hee hee!! There are many many objects around me in my room, that are meaningful to me, that I take inspiration from.  I also have candles on a shelf above my desk.  The effect on the atmosphere is that it becomes much like medieval monks: Scribes who used to draw the pictures in bibles and other monks who are literate and write scripture?  Oh I would love to experience life in that monastic age!!!   
What are your next projects?

Well, these are just dreams and hopes yeah, I don’t know if I will be given opportunity to do so.  I’d like to do animation, write a book.  Have you read Persepolis?  Yeah, that’s a great film and very inspiring for me.
Ah, I’ve seen the movie, though I’m sure if I see it again or read the book it will leave different impressions.  But which part of animation process interests you?  Is it the experience of handling a new medium or is it more drawing for animation?    

Oh I don’t know the process of capturing the images or turning it into film, so for me I would still focus on the drawing and editing.  I would definitely welcome collaboration with interested parties.
Gallery Livi is a relative newcomer (2011) located on the ground floor of a low-rise apartment block in Sheung Wan.  The Director Samantha Wong is an energetic, thoughtful young lady who is going against the grain in effort to achieve her dreams of contributing to the Hong Kong art scene, through her selection of young Hong Kong artists that may not be viewed as mainstream.  Arthongkong.net is informed that this current exhibition “Drifting” by Oychir took 9 months to prepare for, and all the artwork (in medieval setting) is new.    
Persepolis (Marjane Sratapi’s autobiography, animated film adaptation (2007) of same name by Marjane Sratapi and  Vincent Parronnaud) is about a young girl’s (Marji) journey as she comes of age – leaving family behind in war-torn Iran to go to a foreign country and overcoming social discrimination, cultural friction and bias, betrayal.  It is about identity and strength of character:  staying true to oneself, determination and fortitude.  Against that central theme the animated film has an added nuance: the black and white nature was intended to remove geographical variables, to show that another country could just as easily turn into Iran.