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Poetry and Reality

Pusan Beach Korea by Wang - Chen Cheng Mei

Above: Pusan Beach Korea by Wang-Chen Cheng Mei

Second Generation Singapore artist, Chen Cheng Mei, also known as Wang-Chen Cheng Mei ( 陈城梅 ) has kept this piece of writing in her heart through the years of painting and printmaking.

Her artworks can be found at Tzen Gallery, run by her peer artist brother, Tan Teo Kwang.

Every artist must find in his work his own method of inducing his imagination to take shape, and to develop some initial idea, however trivial, into a work of art saturated with meaning.

The idea, according to Miro, comes with the sensation of a shock, the intensity of which is sufficient to initiate a tension of spirit which leads to new emotional activity. It is important, he insists, that a great variety of incidents should be capable of bringing about this state of mind; but it should not be provoked by ‘chemical means such as ‘drink or drugs’. Also, it is unlikely that the same methods will act twice in the same way; if this happened it could lead to the formation of a system and this would impair or destroy the spontaneity which is an essential element in this process. It is only through the uncharted channels of the subconscious that the main stream of inspiration can flow freely.

‘I work better when i am not working than when I am’, so says St Pol Roux who used to put a notice outside his door’The Poet works’when he intended to sleep. Tension that gives birth to ideas can also come through incidents and surprises which happen when the artist is wide awake, or during the long hours when he contemplates objects which may become particularly charged with interest.

The atmosphere which favours this tension, he told Yvon Taillandier, ‘I find in poetry, music and architecture. Also in my daily walks, in certain noises: the noise of horses in the country, the creaking of wooden cart-wheels, footsteps, cries in the night, crickets. The spectacle of the sky overwhelms me…Empty spaces, empty horizons, empty plains – everything that is bare has always greatly impressed me.

But the atmosphere is productive only when it somehow provokes  a deep, urgent reaction. ‘I work in a state of passion & compulsion. When I begin a canvas, I obey a physical impulse, a need to act; it ’s like a physical discharge..I begin my pictures under the effect of a shock…which makes me escape from reality. The cause of this shock may be a tiny thread sticking out of the canvas, a drop of water falling, the print made by my finger on the shining surface of this table. In any case, I need a point of departure, even if it’s only a speck of dust or a flash of light. This form begets a series of things, one thing giving birth to another thing.’

From the moment when the initial shock has set the imagination in motion, another process follows. ‘I hover and find myself directed mysteriously to further discoveries.’But once the contact between me and my work has been established, the discoveries come from chance happenings in the work itself. A continuous feedback takes place from the work which has already gained a life of its own.

Extracted from ‘Miro’by Roland Penrose.

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