“If the leaving is always lonely, staying doesn’t seem like the way to go either. So let’s get a change of environment. Let’s get ourselves into a lively, bustling formation and leave together as a whole. Your concerns are also mine; Your loss also his. Don’t be afraid, for there are plenty of fish on the same path. No need to doubt, let’s swim!”
300 translucent gauzy fish led me to discover this Hong Kong soft sculptor – Eastman Cheng.
Repetitive movements, forward and backward stitches, these are her pen and ink. She has a habit of exploring things through colourful fabrics. Every time she thinks about creating a work, the colours come to life to guide the combination.
“In fact, as I sew while I think about everyday miscellaneous things, ideas are sometimes conceived that way.”
As the pandemic has eaten up her busy job duties, the year that was freed up was just enough for her to reorganise the things that she wanted to do. “Waking up everyday, I would first watch some television and listen to the radio. I would sew for a while until it was time for grocery shopping and cooking. Then I would carry on sewing until sunset, on and off like that, watching or listening to dramas as I sewed. I would describe it as very rejuvenating.”
“To me, creating is very relaxing. Although there are numerous annoying, miscellaneous things every day, every time I engage in repetitive movements, not only does it help to pass the time, but it also shifts my mood. Living in Hong Kong, things are always busy and chaotic, be it going out shopping or commuting… A time for myself to unwind alone is essential. You can call it a time for self-healing. Whenever I come across frustrating things, I do that for a while and I calm down. This is the kind of state I always live in.”
“I can no longer part from the feeling of working with my hands all day and all night. Sometimes it’s enjoyable, sometimes painful, but there is generally a constant desire to create with my hands over prolonged periods.” Eastman recalled how in the past, every time she was halfway through creating an artwork, she would hate it. She would find it ugly and would not want to continue. Because people who engage in creation doubt themselves all the time, she made a lot of half-complete works, most of which are not exhibited. Now that she knows, she tries her best not to think too much and not to let her mind go berserk.
“I’ve always thought that techniques are results attainable through repeated practices. I never pursue techniques. What I look for are ways to achieve things. Because once you learn a certain technique, those techniques become obstacles to you as you complete the work. Without ideas about techniques, you will create more freely.”
Under the pandemic, Eastman takes this approach to guide students of the design institute remotely. Unable to bring students to an island to appreciate plants, she took photos on the island for students to do online sketching. Then she taught them to use old clothes and fabric to make textile plants. At last, with 200 plants completed, they gathered the plants, brought them back to the studio, affixed them into pots and transported them back to the island by ferry to be filled with concrete.
“My idea was for our friends outside the island to create soft sculptures, such as plants in Yim Tin Tsai, and send them back to the island, as though they were sending warmth to the island.”
Eastman took a whole year’s time to explore the use of stitchwork to copy thousand-dollar banknotes onto fabrics. She chose the ones issued in 1977. “Because that was the year of my birth. They have that British flair with the royal emblem and the big golden lion, things that we were proud of.”
“Money money money money! They accompanied us as we grew. Nowadays, there are talks of the Hong Kong spirit all the time, but I could only think of these.”
Eastman於是把她的偽鈔工場設在Para Site的《擱角覺》(Minding the G(r)a(s)p)展覽中，展出製作過程，並由5月14至8月14日期間陸續印製共1200張布鈔票，來展示她的《天痴金庫》(NMNT Vault)。
Eastman thus set up her counterfeit banknote workshop at Para Site’s exhibition Minding the G(r)a(s)p. It will show the production process of the banknotes and print out a total of 1200 fabric banknotes between 14 May and 14 August, to be exhibited at her “NMNT Vault”.
“To me, stitching is to begin from the feelings, enjoy the process, and reflect on life at times. It is a kind process for sinking in, rather than a display of technique.”
We look forward to Eastman’s participation in our good friend and artist Sara Tse’s CLAYPLAY artist-in-residence program from June to July. Through two soft sculpture workshops, she will teach us about the healing process of making.