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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/
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