Reaching In

reaching in 1

Reaching In, 2013
This piece revolves around the artist’s memories of Chinese herbs. In traditional Chinese medicine, the ‘sinseh’ (doctor) would diagnose the patient’s problems by feeling his pulse. This would use a combination of fingers placed at different locations on the wrist.

The piece here depicts the artist’s hands being felt by the doctor. Personally for the artist, TCM has been part of her family’s lifestyle because her great grandfather was a ‘sinseh’. This tradition of using Chinese herbs, rather than western medication, to cure one’s illnesses has been passed down three generations till today. However, the artist has noticed a decline in TCM in this generation. Many have turned to western medication. This decline makes TCM even more precious a memory.

The top half of the image represents history for the artist. This comprises of Chinese calligraphic writings and herbs. The Chinese writings were traced from the 黄帝内经 which was a journal of discoveries made in Chinese Medicine during the reign of the Emperor of China. Some of these words are traced perfectly, while some others are not- signifying history being lost over generations. For the artist, the act of retracing history was an experience of relearning Chinese and its calligraphy techniques, deemed as one of the important skills one should have then.

The herbs that fly out of the artist’s hands into the sky include chrysanthemum flowers and wolfberries. These are the two most common herbs the artist currently takes. The herbs float away with the wind as if history has been lost. The hand reaches out to grab it desperately. In doing so, the artist depicts her want to know this lost history of hers. The feeling of losing this part of her identity is summed up in the bolded Chinese words on the left of her hand “心烦心痛” which means heart ache, heart pain.

Thus, instead of reaching out, the hand is really reaching into her past and her heart.

 Bed of herbs, 2013


reaching in 3

Bed of herbs, 2013
Chinese herbs arranged like a pillow which the hand rests on during a consultation with the TCM doctor. Can this comfortable pillow of herbs cure your heartaches?