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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Issue 22: Artist Interview of Pok Pok & Away

FEATURE BLOG: Singapore Artist

Real name : Lee Xin Li
Nick/Artist name : Pok Pok & Away

When did you start and what makes you started?
I began drawing since young however the current style goes back to around 2013 when I picked up a book titled “Jerusalem : Chronicles from the Holy City” by Guy Delisle. There was a pause and lack of drive for drawing during my earlier years in university pursuing Architecture. The illustrated journal by Guy Delisle brought back fond memories of the Adventures of Tin Tin by Herge and I was fascinated by his personal and unique take of famous places such as Jerusalem or Pyongyang and Burma in his other works. From there, I was motivated to draw again, and some of my earlier works were based on my imaginations of Tin Tin and Snowy visiting Singapore.

Where does your Inspiration comes from?
Much of the inspiration comes from personal experiences including childhood memories and interests which range from history and culture to travels and architecture. A lot of my work stems from my experience in growing up in a changing landscape. Illustration becomes a medium to come in terms with the change, to document it to combat memory loss and make a personal connection with home.
There are origins of inspiration that I slowly understood in retrospective such as the interest in airforce from memories of Tengah Airbase as a child or buildings from the library of architecture books of my uncle. There are always new experiences and discoveries where I find new inspiration such as the works of Vincent Mahe or Esther Goh and even cartoons like Rick & Morty with its deep philosophies and concepts. Inspiration is always out there, but the value of it is the new perspectives it creates.

What is your best achievement?
I was heartened by how the Kueh series struck a chord with many in Southeast Asia or Singaporeans and Malaysians living abroad in the States or UK. Technically, I don’t think I have achieved anything that I would recognise as “best achievement”. There is always something more to learn. A trip in August last year to see the World Illustration Awards in London was an eye-opener and the past two Illustration Arts Fests by OIC Singapore always leave me in awe.

Which is your personal favourite?
The Peta Singapura piece, the first version is a personal favourite. It was a truly personal work which I felt that I learnt a lot in the process and surprised myself at the speed it was made. The work made me feel like a tourist re-discovering Singapore.

Who inspires you?
Illustrators like Christoph Niemann, Victo Ngai, Vincent Mahe and Guy Delisle are some of the illustrators I look up to. Closer to home, the open and frank conversations I have with friends such as Darel Seow, Wong Ruixiong, Lim Qixuan and Alvin Ong often lead to inspiring moments when you view your own works and yourself in a different perspective. It is from their valuable perspectives
that I learn something new. From there I learn something new and it makes me excited about a project.

Advice for aspiring artist?
Whether you are pursuing it with a full time job or full time, it is a difficult journey. In this journey, and I don’t think this is exclusive to the pursuit of art, you will face doubts, uncertainty and anxiety from yourself and others. At times, you might find yourself in difficult situations, encounter apparent barriers to your creativity in the form of client’s tastes, personal fears or financial limitations and might even be discouraged and distracted by comparing oneself with peers who seemed to have a more comfortable head-start.

These are challenges that put our aspirations to test. However, it also provided opportunities to learn such as picking up useful life skills, finding ways to focus, learning technical skills and in the process, discovering more of ourselves and the passion we are pursuing. The challenges made the journey rewarding and fascinating despite the hardship.

Hence, embrace the uncertainty, the anxiety and the doubts by rising up to the challenges and opportunities they bring. Keep an open mind to learn, stay focused and enjoy the journey ahead.

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