Analysis of Stella So’s artwotk – Part 1

Since the style and meaning of Very Fantastic and City of Powder — the disappearing Hong Kong are similar, I am going to analyze these two artworks together.

1. Form, media, materials and techniques used in the artwork

For Very Fantastic, it combines sketches, photos and description in a kind of careful collage. Hence the distortions in this view of a row of bird cages and this sketch of a dark iron door crowned with frosted glass funneling a warm orange intensity.

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This book is also a collection of chromatic reminiscences. For example, the quality of light in a stairwell is noted at one point and is seen to transport that space back 30 years.

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Both of the books are formulated on a grid design which is typical of practice books for writing Chinese characters (Chinese 9-square calligraphy paper). These don’t merely act as guidelines but also as flexible panels to which she fits her sketches. The reason why Stella So designed characters on Chinese 9-square calligraphy paper is that she learnt how to write on these papers when she was young. These papers are also part of her memories and they are going to disappear in Hong Kong very soon. 

Drawing on Chinese 9-square calligraphy paper is really a creative idea as the nine grids enable Stella So to create many different angles and illusions after combining with her illustrations. It can easily catch readers’ attention. From the pictures above, you can see that the grids act as photo frames for Stella So to insert real photos for comparisons. From the pictures below, you can see that the grids are successfully in creating illusion and acting as a background. Stella So draws the girl in the middle part of the Chinese 9-square calligraphy paper when she came out from the old tenement, as a result it is easy for the readers to think that those empty grids are combined to form a door for her to come out.

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Stella So likes using exaggerated angles, such as fish eye, to create a new and unrealistic environment. Like the picture below, exaggerated angle is used in drawing the Star Ferry Pier in Tsim Sha Tsui. She wants to convey readers that although exaggerated angles make these places seem unrealistic, they have been disappeared and can only be drawn based on Stella So’s imagination.

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The final shot of the cartoon shows the protagonist walking down a staircase lodged in the thin gutter between the four rows of calligraphic squares, the paper now turned on its side to give a long vertical space instead of a horizontal one. The paper lodges the proceedings firmly in a Chinese past, the fading green lines hardly being the stuff of modern printing and modern Hong Kong. The large fold out panoramas are not only functional in design, but calculated to draw readers into the centuries old tradition of Chinese scroll painting.

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The old Hong Kong is not only drawn based on Stella So’s memory, but also includes Stella So’s imagination. Stella So drew old Chinese tenements, Chinese restaurants and old Star Ferry Pier based on her personal experience. Besides, she drew Chinese restaurant as a tram, drew trees on the buildings in “Wedding Card Street”, and drew old urban area, which the bus passed through, as a “Castle in the Sky” (天空之城) based on her imagination. Although all these are unrealistic, I think it is the ideal “Hong Kong” which Stella So wants to construct in her mind.

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If you want to know more about Stella So, you can visit her website and blog for more information!!!!

Stella So’s Website: http://www.smstella.com/

Stella So’s Blog: http://stellaso.blogspot.hk/

Stella So’s Old Girl Diary: http://oldgirldiary.blogspot.hk/

References:

1. Honey pupu. City of Powder – the disappearing Hong Kong. Retrieved on 4 Mar 2014 from http://honeypupu.pixnet.net/blog/post/10842846

2. Very Fantastic. Retrieved on 4 Mar 2014 from http://book.douban.com/review/1176115/

3. Very Fantastic. Retrieved on 4 Mar 2014 from http://book.douban.com/review/1891337/

4. Ng Suat Tong. Memories of Old Hong Kong. Retrieved on 4 Mar 2014 from http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/2011/03/two-comics-by-stella-so/

5. DrBlack. City of Powder – the disappearing Hong Kong. Retrieved on 4 Mar 2014 from http://blog.yam.com/DrBlack/article/28489837

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2 thoughts on “Analysis of Stella So’s artwotk – Part 1

  1. I do admit that these artworks showcase Stella So’s ideal “Hong Kong” in her mind. As mentioned in the previous video of Stella So that you posted, she thinks that a ideal city should include both Skyscrapers and traditional buildings such as old tenement, so as to has its own feature. Those traditional buildings are included in Stella’s drawing, which has been destroyed due to urban development.

    In my opinion, her artworks are also a kind of reminisce for the old Hong Kong to the public and also to herself. It arouses people’s collective memory as well as conveys the valuable part of Hong Kong to future generation. On the other hand, I like her exaggerated angles of drawing a picture. It portrays the whole view of a place, which is impossible to do so by drawing with a normal angle. Passion, effort and sadness can be revealed on her artworks.

    What’s more, I am interested in knowing the artist’s artistic development apart from the rationale behind her artwork!

  2. Thank you for sharing Stella So’s artwork. I had a great time looking at them.
    I think a piece of artwork is often a mix of imagination and experience of their own. From Stella’s work, one can experience Stella’s story and point of view. The details in her drawings demonstrated her obsession towards her ideal Hong Kong. I love how Stella use those Chinese 9-square calligraphy paper as drawing paper because these papers are not only Stella’s experience and memories, but also many Hong Kong people’s collective memory. The way how she organize her drawing on the paper and incorporate photos into it, not only is she comparing old and new things, but also is expressing her sorrow towards how old things are being forgotten and replaced.
    I also love how Stella treats her drawing process. She thinks that she can create her own utopia, and bid farewell to the Hong Kong she knew from her childhood. Everyone should have a way to express their own feeling and opinions, and Stella has proven to us that sometimes art do not require any special techniques it just all about expressing our feelings and mixing our memories and imagination together.

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