Monday, 29 December 2008

A walk on the wild side and then dahn the river!

I've just had a story published in a magazine here in Taipei. Based on an actual encounter with a territorial wild boar in the mountains of Taiwan, it tells the tale of how two lost, hapless middle aged expats escaped a terrible ordeal by the skin of their teeth! I illustrated the story with two silk paper cuts.
The first cut called 'A walk on the wild side' shows the lost duo being pursued by the 'man eating' wild boar and fleeing for their lives!!

The second cut, 'Dahn (Down) the river' shows the two still lost, but making their way down a river as they know it will lead them to the ocean nearby. In hindsight it was the hidden dangers that could have caused more serious problems, especially snakes that like to hangout on river banks. Luckily it was a cool day so they were hiding. Search carefully and you'll see many hidden creepy crawlies lurking in both pictures.

As usual I cut the illustrations using red silk paper which was then mounted on white silk. Gold silk was added to the water in 'Dahn the river' to emphasise the turbulent flow. If you want to read the full story of this 'epic adventure' click here and you'll find my article on p18. Enjoy!

Oh, and before I forget... Happy New Year for 2009!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008


Since I'm a pretty frugal person (though my wife would say otherwise!!) every time I finish a silk paper cut I'm left with heaps of beautifully shaped scraps. I hate to throw them away so I carefully collect and store them. I realized I needed to use them in some way, so I started sticking them onto unpainted bamboo bowls and plates.

This one I did months ago, but I decided to add a poem to it to see how the shapes and writing interacted.

Here are some very recent examples, but instead of using scraps I purposely cut flower shapes out of silk paper and carefully glued them to the plate.

This last one is actually two layers of different colour silk paper slightly offset to give a blurring effect.

Now all I have to do is set up an Etsy account and try to sell the stuff! That'll be my next project.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Vietnamese Onomatopoeia

I cant say 'onomatopoeia' but I know what it means. It is a word or group of words that imitates the sound it's describing, such as, 'boom', 'clank', or 'bang'. But more of this later.

Living here in Taipei one cannot help noticing the constant stream of motorbikes that zip in and out of traffic, twisting and turning, going up and down and around to get somewhere fast. To my ordered, sequential mind this equates to total chaos!

Just a few weeks ago I was in Vietnam on business and discovered that the chaos there was far worse than Taipei. As soon as I arrived at Hanoi the airport taxi driver had to maneuver carefully around two unconscious motorcycle riders whose bikes, loaded high with various goods, had bumped and spilled their loads all over the road.

Hanoi was worse than Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) with riders coming from all directions especially at intersections. Traffic lights seemed to be for reference only. But the real revelation about Vietnam's bikes were the horns. Everyone constantly toots, peeps and parps. Some prefer many short sounds - 'Peep Peep Peeeeeep'. Others prefer one long 'PEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!' While creatives have composed their own signature peep - 'Peep, Peee, Peee, Peee, Peee, Peeep!' Apart from the bikes most other vehicles have their own distinct horns, from the big bus yodelling, 'Par-AU-AU-AU-AU-Au-au.' To the old worn out horn that just never gets there, 'FLUR-R-R-Pppph.'

I found a small French owned cafe in the old part of the city and tried to write down all the horn sounds I could hear. Here they are illustrated with help from one of my 'Dangerous Boys'. Click on the picture to get a clearer image.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Out of my studio window I can see...

Recently I've spent a lot of time gazing out of my office / studio window. Not good for work or the silk paper cutting, but it allows me to gaze at the heavens and the wonders they bring. I'm also lucky enough to look out at the tallest building in the world, the Taipei 101. It's so tall that the top of the building has its own weather which streams in from the hills behind it.

This first picture was taken in June from my studio. Every afternoon there was a thunderstorm. This one seemed to be forming right over the 101, the clouds churning and darkening until they burst. Awesome stuff.Then just last week a rainbow appeared and seemed to move closer and closer towards our apartment building until it was about 500 metres away. It was the closest I'd ever been to the end of a rainbow. It too was awesome!

Monday, 20 October 2008

Kako Ueda

Kako Ueda is a Japanese artist who, for many years, has made her home New York. She cuts in paper and does something that I've been experimenting with recently (so far UNsuccessfully!) and that is painting on the paper cut.

Some of her work is mounted and framed, but some cuts are pinned to the gallery wall which emphasizes the organic nature of her work. It only took one glance at her website to realize that some of the work she produces and some of mine have great similarities.

Her heads, full of organic stuff, are like some of the heads I have produced in the past.
Here's one of Kako's.

But compared to hers mine is quite restrained.
A couple of mine.

I love the energy and visceral nature of the complex designs she produces and then to add colour to emphasize all of the above. It's Hot stuff!! Check out her website

Monday, 29 September 2008

A Walk on the Wild Side

I found this article in a recent edition of the Taipei Times. One of the Taiwanese indigenous tribes has an annual celebration where the men go into the wild central mountains hunting wild boar. Here we have a group of young men with their glorious porky catch.

Quite coincidentally not so long ago I went walking with a friend on the north east coast. It's one of Taiwan's national parks. Rugged mountains with fantastic views of the Pacific ocean. It's challenging stuff especially for us pedestrian walkers. Anyway to cut a long story short we got lost and trapped on a very narrow overgrown path on a steep sided valley. We didn't realize we were in boar territory. As it turned out this was Mr Boar's path and he wasn't happy when he saw us. A big grunt, I mean a very BIG grunt alerted us to his presence and there he stood, blocking our only means of escape. He was mean looking, assertive and had the physique to back up his grunt...

...We realized that to escape we'd have to plunge down the valley side to the river below. Images of us being gored by a large pig kept the adrenalin flowing and we were into full flee mode. It must have looked quite funny to see two middle aged, white guys tumbling through the undergrowth in total disarray. Mr Boar didn't follow us, he had better things to do. Needless to say we survived our ordeal. I decided to write about our little adventure and to illustrate it with a silk paper cut for a local magazine. Here's the cut. I scanned it in two halves as it is quite big. I'll let you know when the article is published.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Paper Pulp Exhibition

Over the summer I managed to hook up with an innovative UK arts organization based in the gorgeous county of Dorset. (This is where my ancestors came from in the 17thC. The Artsreach organization are doing a travelling exhibition around the villages of Dorset entitled Paper Pulp. Twelve artists are exhibiting with paper being the common element between them. In each unpronounceable village Artsreach set up the exhibition for a few days with an accompanting paper workshop before heading off to the next one. This goes on for six weeks throughout October and November. I've got five pieces in the show and the fact that they are cut in silk paper does not seem to worry the curators.

So, if by any chance you are travelling through the leafy green thatched villages of Dorset then drop in and take a look. Take in a pint (or two) at the local pub while you are at it. I myself will have to be content with observing everything thousands of miles away in sultry Taipei!!!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Trying to get back into the swing of things!

It's taken a few weeks to get back into the flow of things here in Taiwan. Coming back from a cool English climate to the constant drip drip of sweaty Taipei has been hard to adjust to, not only for my art but also for my 'real' work. Nevertheless there are a few art projects on the go at the moment and as they come to fruition I'll write more about them. In the meantime let me introduce you to a few of the many artists out there who I find quite inspiring.

Check out the excellent blog Tlacoland (I've got no idea what it means either!) Written by Jazmin Velasco (thxs for awarding me the prestigious Brillante Weblog by the way!). I adore her Mexican Wrestlers especially the awesome Machete in his fearsome mask. Her blog is a cionstant source of fab musings on life 'n' art.

There was an international art fair here in Taipei last week. There were galleries from all over Asia representing the latest trends. They came from Japan, Korea and of course Taiwan. Found the work of a young Taiwanese artist, Wu Geng Zhen, very interesting especially his paper cuts. A nice fusion of old and new with hints of manga. Can't find a website for him.

Another recent discovery are the paper cuts of Elsa Mora. Originally from Cuba she now resides in LA. Her cuttings are amazingly delicate and beautifully cut. They have echoes of traditional European fairy tales which give them an innocent yet distinctly edgy feel.

Over in Japan the ever productive Patrick Gannon continues to amaze me with his commitment to his Japanese influenced paper cutting art. With two shows in the US and one in Japan running simultaneously I hope this is his big break. Check out his comprehensive blog.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

On Holiday!!

For the past month we’ve been back in the UK basking in the ‘cool’ British weather soaking up country life on a grand scale. From our base on the southern English coast in Dorset we can happily see the Milky Way at night and watch shooting stars and satellites pass over head. The only noises to keep us awake at night are the nearby sheep or the incredible silence. This is definitely NOT Taipei where seeing one star in the sky is enough to cause excitement!

Some highlights of our trip so far include stay in the ruins of the 12C ruins of the Llanthony Abbey ruins in the Welsh Black Mountains. We stayed in the top of an ancient tower reached by a narrow twisting spiral staircase. (You can see our window in the pics.) We had to descend the 48 steps to get to our bathroom, which was shared with other guests. If the bathroom was occupied... Bummer!

The breakfast was hearty and the surrounding countryside reaching up to barren moorlands.

Then there was the fossil hunting on Dorset beaches – great fun. Just a couple of hours and look what we found. Recent bad weather had loosened the pyrites fossils from the mudstone cliffs. There’s nothing like coming across something so ancient and so beautifully detailed.

Of course I forgot to mention the typical changeable British weather and the high cost of everything which made us wince! Just one more week left and then back to Taipei. Sob!

Thursday, 3 July 2008


In the last week I’ve completed two commissions. The first is for an acquaintance who is soon to leave Taiwan after working here for four years. I often use the image of a path as a symbol of journey through life and experience. Her experience here has had its ups and downs and so I’ve shown her letting go of the books that represent her career here. There are symbols of Taiwan – 101, the clouds, food, cycling etc. The tree of life is another image I often use as a metaphor for continual change, security (see the birds nesting), strength and beauty. In this picture ‘S’ is urging ‘M’ to fly with him to a new beginning. I wish them well on their journey.

The second silk cut also uses the metaphor of the path as part of life’s journey. The arch represents the portal through which M & T pass to move on to the next stage of their life journey. He carries a map as he loves travelling while she carries a notebook representing her love of blogging. Again there are images of the places closest to them – Taiwan, Japan and Hawaii. The lantern, hanging from the arch, could be the earth with clouds swirling around it. The constant movement of cloud and air around the globe is the ever changing energy of life. The pattern below the picture is old Chinese money representing wealth, health and happiness.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Adam's Lusitania picture

My son Adam has been recently very ‘into’ shipping disasters such as the Titanic and the Lusitania. Without copying he reproduced this near perfect rendition of the sinking of the Lusitania. Every parent thinks his / her child is a genius, but mine really is!!

His perspective is excellent and the amount of detail on the ship is just awesome. It’s odd though, that the survivors all have no faces. Click on the pictures for much clearer images.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Happiness of the Eyebrows!

I've just spent the last 5 days in rainy Shanghai and while rummaging for paper cuts (didn't find any)I found an interesting book in English. So now I can let you in on some of the meanings behind some popular traditional Chinese paper cuts.

Before you read the explanations look carefully at the paper cuts and see what you read into them.

This one is A Snake Circling a Rabbit. I initially thought this was all about danger, fear and the inevitably of death… How wrong I was!

The description for this one is long but in a nutshell it describes peasant families trying to marry off their sons early. To marry off a 15 or 16 yr old son meant finding a mature wife 2 years older who could look after her husband well. A girl born in the year of the rabbit is older than a boy born in the year of the snake. Hence the saying, “If a snake circles a rabbit the family will surely be rich.” Therefore, making a paper cut in the shape of a snake circling a rabbit to paste in the bridal chamber speaks louder than words.

What do you make of this one?

This one has the brilliant title of ‘Happiness on the Eyebrows’. The description says – ‘The two eyebrows of the person are cut into a pair of flying magpies as are the arms, which add a festive atmosphere to it. The key point is that it is a masculine symbol. Under his crotch lie lotus flowers which symbolize a female. As a whole, it is a picture depicting copulation between a man and a woman. The guava and lotus flowers have the meaning of giving birth to a child.’

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Dahn the 'ole!

When I was five or six years old I dug a hole in a neighbour’s dirt driveway. I was all of 6 inches down on my epic dig when the neighbour returned home. She seemed intrigued in my hole but was concerned that I was going too deep and would end up in China. I was shocked that I could do this. Little did I realize I would eventually end up in this neck of the woods. Not quite China, but Taiwan is close enough. This memory is the theme of this symmetrical silk paper cut.
Click on the pictures for clearer images

Since it involves a journey through the earth, it can be looked at upside down or downside up.

Daniel is fleeing the trees who grasp and scratch him. They don’t like him and he doesn’t like them either.

He dives down a hole, a badger hole. Deeper and deeper he goes.

This is where the badgers live. They gaze at him from the comfort of their sett.

Out he pops at the other end of the hole. Everything is upside down. That’s because he’s in the land of the Dancing Boys! He watches aghast as they ride their bikes, crashing into things. Bugs scuttle across the floor. Poor ol' Daniel what has he got himself into?

I cut this piece in two colours, red and black. I am thinking of mounting the red one between two layers of silk and displaying it as a shadow screen. Here's a sample pic of it. I love the shimmering, blurry imagery.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

The Long March paper cutting project

Several years ago I saw an installation of paper cutting from the county of Yanchuan in Shaanxi province. It involved a group of Chinese artists from the Long March Project working with local people on a paper cutting project. The variety of images produced was stunning. However, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that 4,000 local paper cutters were involved! After years of searching the web I’ve found maybe 20 artists working in this medium and they’re of all nationalities. But to have 4,000 (predominantly female) paper cutting artists in one Chinese county is amazing. Then I discovered that in this part of China paper cutting is a very important skill for women to have as it demonstrates artistry, patience, creativity etc. All attributes that make finding a good husband all the more easier. Check
out these two links for more information Link 1 Link 2

More recently the Long March Project artists have been working with educators and schools to come up with a paper cutting curriculum for schools in the area. The Long March artists see this as a way to search for possibilities through which folk culture and art can effectively express and continue Chinese traditions. Take a look at these students’ hard at work or click here for more info

Thursday, 22 May 2008

You Make My Day!

You Make My Day Award. Yay!!The badgers are grinning in their dark setts tonite as they proudly acknowledge that they have made someone’s day. This doesn’t happen too often as they’re secretive animals and don’t try to attract too much attention. The ‘You make my day’ award has been bestowed upon them by the most excellent Tokyo based paper cutter Patrick Gannon. The badgers will celebrate with an extra helping of soft squidgy, moist slugs.

Many thanks Patrick.

Here are a couple of pics taken at last weeks opening of the art and antiques show. All photos taken by Roma Mehta. It was before the opening started so everyone was quite sober.

The (also most excellent) curators Philip & Milena

Some of my work

Artists Thomas, Michelle and (right) Constance. Guest Vikram (sitting)

Prish and friend with Thomas' paintings
The opening went well. Lots of contacts were made and fun was had by all. Not sure what was sold as I concentrated on the wine and chatting!