A play on photography by Seb janiak

One of my favorite sites is Photogpaher/Director Seb Janiak's for his clean and stylized photography. Take a look at his editorial section. Some of his imagery really capture my attention such as these two. Wahahaha Precisely because I sometimes liken my house cats to wild cats! Yep, Halo the leopard, and Angel the black panther. Ironically, these two photos suit the personality of my cats as well. Angel, always calm, relaxed and manja... Halo, more easily agitated, cautious and always on tenterhooks! This is a play on the photographs in the spirit of catmasutra! Click on the photos for a closer look. Check out Seb Janiak's website.

Kids of the temple

The temples are like labyrinths. I don't remember their names but they're like physical manifestation of the passage ways inside your mind. There are entrances and exits, one path leading to another. The color of the rocks and the texture of the temple landscape while you're in them is really fascinating. Each temple seems the same but they are different. They look like they're part of nature (perhaps they have been around for so long that they are), and yet they are man-made.

There are not as many kids around now as a friend (who has been there before and acts as our resident tour guide) suggests. And of course, if you wanna take photos of them they would ask for "one dollar". The landscape is changing rapidly. Roads are being built; Grand hotels are appearing everywhere; I think the innocence that my friend saw a few years ago are rapidly losing its grip to syndication and commercialization. Everything, it seems, has its price.


Impossible is nothing

"Do not try to bend the spoon.
That's impossible.
Instead, only try to realize the truth.
There is no spoon.
Then you'll see,
that it is not the spoon that bends,
it is only yourself..."


Angkor Wat

"We have rooms in ourselves. Most of them we have not visited yet....From time to time we can find the passage. We find strange things...old phonographs, pictures, books...they belong to us, but it is the first time we have found them.” - Haruki Murakami.

We collect things when we travel. It let us get out of ourselves for a while...

Angkor Wat. I wanted it to rain. For the three days it didn't. On the fourth, when I decided to return to the hotel as opposed to visiting Angkor Wat again, it poured like crazy. The dark clouds swam across and engulfed the entire landscape. It has been nothing but hot and humid. It's strange when it rains. It changes things... reflections become vivid and the scene changes right before your eyes. Here, the kids came out to play... Some walked nonchalantly letting themselves soaked to the skin. Others were running and laughing. A kid and a young lady continued strolling with their push cart of pirated books. The ice man continued to saw at the ice blocks in the rain. Women on scooters continued riding. When was the last time you walked in the rain? I mean really walk? Not running to escape from the rain but walking to enjoy it?


New Catmasutra painting - Sniffing the Kenzo flower

Contains: 50ml Eau de Parfum Natural Spray, 75ml Creamy Body Milk - Flower is a contemporary fragrance for the modern, city woman who looks to nature for inspiration and renewal. Flower by Kenzo. A flower in the city.

Kenzo launched it to celebrate Valentine’s Day using the image of a red poppy. Poppies have the tendency to spring up anywhere, and as a reviewer puts it, "rather like love itself"! The association was quickly established, the red poppy as a celebration for love and life. This is, of course, a little different from what poppies are traditionally associated with...

The opium poppy, Papaver somniferum which loosely translates to "sleep-bringing poppy" is banned in Singapore - wahahahahah. In the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, there are magical poppy fields that will bestow eternal sleep for those who passed through them.

The poppy flower is attractive because of its promise to take you to another plane, and the power of red to stir even the most hidden desires. Sniffing the Kenzo Flower (5th May 2007), a new catmasutra painting is a play on the power of imagination, of how Kenzo magically created a scent for a flower that does not have much smell to begin with. It is also about the opiates that we need in life, to be moved and be carried away (just as a cat would by catnip) by life's natural flow... Here, the red poppy has become a symbol for both life and death, for happiness and sadness - There will always be time for both.


In-between time

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. I've just bought the latest book by Haruki Murakami. I think I've read all of his fiction and stories. It started out with "Kafka on the Shore", and i've just finished "Hard-boiled Wonderland and The End of the World". If you always felt that you're outside of the system and trying to create your own world in-between time, then I'm sure you would love Murakami's books... "In-between" time -haha, I call it that because it's so apt. It is the time that you give yourself between work and the hundreds of other activities you think you have to do (in order to survive and retire comfortably to travel the world and so on and so forth kind of precept). And this often neglected "in-between" time disappears just as easily as the sun rises and sets. Yet, it is this in-between time that makes my heart skip, see, hear and feel things differently - the real pulse of life. Sometimes you have to tread lightly so as not wake anything up from its deep slumber; sometimes you just wanna scream and shout and wake everything up. So be careful what you wish for; Here you can hear your dreams more clearly than anywhere else...


Catmasutra 3 - Catzophrenia

I'm like searching for something... A knot of air, solidified into something heavy (maybe lead) that lay immovable at the bottom. It probably will take some time before the knot unties itself and becomes air again so that I can breathe it out. Right now, it's catzophrenic split personality - a tale of 2 halves taped together with a Catmasutra Balm pain patch.

Catzophrenia (1997). Inspired by the classic 50's badass biker's tattoo, it blares violently with the horsepower of 512 light bulbs. Catmasutra adds brakes to the same imagery, and is akin to a night shelter after speeding for hours on a highway. Rather than ending in a fireworks of explosion, it stops for a little respite, refueling the passion to find that something in between the two halves, and accepting the abyss that sometimes comes with it.


Absolute Bliss

More and more I'm borrowing time from sleep... Time to be able to squeeze into another plane, personified by the irrepressible Catmasutra cats. Go to a place where no words are needed. You communicate by a thought, a gesture, a wink, a grin, a nod of the head (haha that's how I communicate with my cats), of getting high without alcohol... Absolute Bliss! Stealing a quote from Murakami, "People are looking for their tales inside themselves. Without tales people can’t live their lives..."

This painting was painted in November 2004, from the Catmasutra 1 exhibition held at 37 the bar (no wonder, the cat gets high!), and was one of the first few to be sold (and was sunsequently resold!). Really missed this painting now; it was the first piece that I used alcohol bottles as a motif...


Catmasutra 2 - One Night in Bombay

It’s a hot humid night. The air is still and heavy. I’m soaked through with perspiration, wearing a suit in this weather. I take off my bowler hat and place it on the metal chair. It’s made of the same material as the ceiling fan. I’ve painted them copper. The room is deep red, as usual. The apple is floating in mid-air but I’ve decided it should behave like a normal apple. So it’s sitting beside my bowler hat as I pour myself some gin. Because it’s Bombay Sapphire, I’m in Bombay which explains why the weather is so hot and humid. I wonder why I’m doing here although I know I can leave this place in the twinkle of the eye but my cat is drunk (having consumed one quarter of the gin already); it has a soft spot for alcohol and fish as you might have guessed by now. This cat has more magic than I do. It’s the living sutra, with a solid grasp as to how life’s supposed to be lived. I’m his apprentice, by the way. One night in Bombay… well, I guess the cat will know what to do when it wakes up. In the meantime, I need to take a shower…

That was 15 months ago. It didn't make it to Catmasutra 2 Exhibition; it was bought by a gallery owner soon after it was painted...


Catmasutra 1 - The Usual Please

There's a systematic way of forgetting... "Systematic" is probably the right word for it, done on a mass scale and in the name of progress and profitability, and in this case, the passing of the old-fashioned coffee shops. We forget so much about it that it's enjoying a renewal, with some eateries bringing in the nostalgic tables and chairs , the coffee cups... It has become a franchise even (Kiliney Kopitiam), and sometimes I'm grateful for that. It's nice to remember!

Food courts are all over the place now, and in truth, they're like a factory (probably because it is) producing identical plastic-tasting food with an apparent lack of pride ... There is something about the old coffee shops... the old cups and saucers, the marble-top tables, the high ceiling fans, and the old man at the cashier calling the shots. They feel real somehow. The system has a way of wiping out memories making things homogeneous, identical, boring, fake. Like when they design a new bus-stop... this aerodynamic looking shelter that looks out of place if you drive by in an old -about to be scraped but still love because of the memories but no longer worth the COE kind of car. Before you know it, they're everywhere. The cute looking orange-top bus-stops I used to remember as a kid have now vanished.

Layer by layer, something is wiped out from one generation to another. What comes back to us are just fragments that surface once in a while and we smile when we recognize them, like a stored away memory dislodged. Where there's memories, there's identity, and memories must be remembered and lived, not brain-washed, and then transplanted. Each part of our island has a little identity because we live there... It would be nice if the area I live in has only orange-top bus-stops, and an authentic kopitiam that remains since my childhood. And when I visit another place where my friend lives, it would also be different with little quirks that define it, that makes it real. Old provision and coffee shops will continue to give way to 7-11 and cheers and the pretentious 24 hour- charge a bomb for drinks "kopitiams".


All Play, No Work - Catmasutra 1

"All Play, No Work" was painted for the first Catmasutra 1 exhibition held at 37 The bar in November 2004. Part of the "Nostalgic" series, it's about painting forgotten memories; collective memories that linger but remain hidden simply because our landscape is changing much faster than we can remember. "Memory is like fiction; or else it's fiction like memory." A paragraph from one of Haruki Murakami's short stories (The last lawn of the afternoon from the book, "the Elephant Vanishes"). "No matter how hard you try to put everything neatly into shape, the context wanders this way and that, until finally the context isn't there anymore. You're left with this pile of kittens lolling all over one another. Warm with life, hopelessly unstable".


Catmasutra 3 - Mirror, mirror on the wall...

Mirror, mirror on the wall is a reflection of what we can amplify! A cheeky grin everyday will make your world go round that much smoother - wahahaha. It's all about attracting the positive stuff and amplifying them. If you are just waking up and about to brush your teeth - make sure you see that spark. Too many times, I have missed them and I have to get back on track with the sutra of these cat paintings. Maybe it's about simplifying things, and trusting that things will work out eventually. They always do if we can simplify and amplify! I'm actually quite bad at that as I tend to complicate things but everything is very simple when I paint...


Catmasutra - Spashing around...

Work in progress for Before the Splash... This painting is actually quite a tedious piece as it actually involves straight lines haha... As you would have guessed, I'm a rather messy painter so getting it straight means having to somehow straighten my brain patterns... it's just not natural! And I have to be extra careful as I wait for one coat of paint to dry before I can paint the other. I used a roller to create a flat surface and tape to delineate the straight edges...

It's uncanny how I'll get paint all over the place including myself all the time... Sometimes it's hard as we just don't have any space. It would be a dream to have a big painting studio with cemented floor that you don't have to worry about getting dirty. One day, maybe that'll come true too. When I first started painting, I have to scrape the paints off the floor after each session, and then I bought the cheapest carpet from Ikea and viola! No more cleaning...Haha

It's really staisfying when the whole piece comes together! Catmasutra is about being happy and quirky, bringing all kinds of stuff from everyday things to popular culture and even high culture, and condensed them to one cheeky and happy moment. Our minds like to follow patterns, and humour helps to effect a sudden change in perception. It helps us to break the pattern, see things differently!

Painting will never be the same if the cats are not around, either having them snoozing on the bed, or chasing each other in and out of the room, or simply taking up strategic space (Angel is the main culprit here) on the floor so that I cannot move my chair. Halo has a peculiar habit as well... she loves to drink from my painting mugs... Each time when I'm most engrossed, she'll make a habit of jumping to the table and attempt to drink from the mug... And each time, like a waiter, I have to bring her a fresh mug; otherwise she'll drink the paint stained water. Sometimes I think water in the paint mugs are like Coke to her, and running water from the tap, is akin to beer! What a good life! That's what Catmasutra is about!


Catmasutra 2 - Before the Splash

"Before the Splash"(above) is a parody of "A Bigger Splash" by David Hockney (below), painted in the early summer of 1967. It depicts a swimming pool setting on a hot and cloudless day in Los Angeles. It’s a delightful interplay between strong horizontals and verticals against a diagonal diving board and the exuberance of spray, seemingly suspended in time (Maybe Hiro Nakamura was there…hahaha). There is no visible human presence here. The setting is crisp and clean, perfect and cold except for that instant of a splash…

“Before the Splash” in Catmasutra 2 is about going into reverse, and in this instance to the time “before the splash”! We realize in this alternate space, the diver is not another human being but a cat with a fish bone in its mouth. We have no idea why the cat jumps into the pool (one can only assume that it’s such a hot day that even a cat is tempted by the cool lullaby of the pool…wahahahah) ; Herein lies the process of “reversing pop art”, and the opportunity to engage one of the most iconic images of the mid-60’s. (Hockney’s earlier version “The Splash” fetched a whopping £2.6m at auction last year). To experience “Before the Splash”, you need to exert yourself, stop time and reverse it in order to pursue pure pleasure!