Sharp Speak — 2023


Sharp Speak is a reaction, historically, psychologically, and personally, to my cultural upbringing in the PRC.

Sharp Speak is an experiment at the overlap of drawing and type design.

Sharp Speak is a comment on design, labour, and production. It comments on the dehumanizing and competitive design industry in China and East Asia.

Sharp Speak is a message. I re-personify and redistribute words that are deeply meaningful to me as well as having broader cultural and historical significance.

Sharp Speak is the antithesis of Chinese propaganda art. It challenges state-subjugated brutalism, by rendering complex messages into even more abstract forms. The meticulous and painstaking drawing style contradicts the industrial production style of the state messaging that has and still is plaguing rural and urban China.

The irreversible and inevitably palimpsest nature of coloured pencils on paper makes it a metaphor for many things – history, its erasure, and censorship; generational and intergenerational trauma; or, just a visual analogy to the walls full of propaganda slogans in rural China.

Come and See the Blood in the Streets

23x30 cm.

The script reads: ‘Come and see the blood in the streets / Come and see / the blood in the streets / Come and see the blood / in the streets!’ – an excerpt of ‘I Explain A Few Things’ by Pablo Neruda:

And you will ask: why doesn’t his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land?
Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
the blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
in the streets!

Dé/Sài (diptych)

23x23 cm.

There were no native Chinese words for ‘democracy’ and ‘science’. During the New Cultural Movement of the 1910s which promoted Western modernisation over classical Confucianism, they were referred to as ‘Mr. Democracy’ [德先生, Mr. Dé] and ‘Mr.Science’ [赛先生 Mr. Sài], nicknames based on direct phonetic translations. This diptych takes the formal qualities of the traditional mounted Fú [福, fortune], displayed upside down on diagonal red squares as a wish for good luck. The work calls for the ongoing need for democracy and science in a contemporary Chinese setting, once again after a century.

Jasmine Flower

23x30 cm.

Jasmine Flower [茉莉花] is a famous Chinese folk song title. Despite its frequent use in official events hosted by the Chinese government, Jasmine Flower was also used in a series of lesser-known, Chinese pro-democracy movements in 2011.