The Artmaking of Ourselves

Written by: Lim Qiu Ping | Alumnus, Class of 2012, BA (Hons) English Language and Literature

The workshop, Creative Expression with SUSS: Exploring Personal Strengths thru’ Artmaking was a surprise. A casual and simple art-and-craft session had been expected; nothing onerous, just something to while away an hour and a half on Saturday, 29 May, from 3:15pm to 4:45pm. It turned out to be something more insightful, engaging the participants as they became their own subject of the artwork tasked to produce. Functioning like an exposure class to art therapy, the workshop managed to prove how empowering artmaking could be when space was set aside for self-reflection, exploration of creative ideas and rationale. 

Instructions were given days prior to the Zoom-conducted session, and participants had to prepare their choice of common craft materials and drawing tools out of a recommended list. Six other alumni had signed up, from different cohorts, disciplines and across a wide age range. 

Each participant came with his or her own stories, curiosity, aspiration and imagination. During the round of introductions, one admitted to his reservations about not being very good at art. Another talked about her love of water colours, hence her choice of her art medium. A third had on hand a blank canvas lying around at home that she had been wanting to use. As for yours truly, I came with my stash of beloved Japanese prints craft papers.

The task, as set out by the facilitator, Ms. Han Li June (Art Therapist at C-Three in SUSS) was to create a Tree of Life, and each participant approached the work in a way unique to him or her. Roots  in life? Drawn were imbued with personalised meaning, from family and values; one’s past experiences; to people support – whether of positive or negative experiences – necessary to shape strength and resilience. The trunk, branches, leaves and flowers of the Tree all bear different interpretations to each person. They became metaphors for the family, friends made and future; for the ecosystem of life where one learnt to give after having received for so long; or the sense of life’s direction and network of relationships.

Such personal dialogue, to which extent and depth depended on one’s comfort zone, was what made the session valuable. June did set fair parameters of mutual respect for differing forms of expressions and being sensitive to another person’s sharing. All stories were kept in the room. But rules aside, it was the dynamics serendipitously formed across the digital space, from a group of participants who were previously strangers, that encouraged even the most reserved to put forth something from the recesses of the heart.

Ms. Audrey (Counsellor at C-Three in SUSS), who was facilitating the workshop alongside June, must have been equally moved. At the end of the class, she crafted a collage poem with key takeaways picked up from the various Tree of Life stories:

the inner child
in Me

and error,
and return

Along the Journey                                 
and renewing

and unknowing,
Coming, from underground

in my hands,
I am becoming…

June also had a truly uplifting experience as she witnessed the threads of wisdom shared by alumni members through their art making – themes of hope, resilience and adaptability, living life to the fullest since graduation. Through colours, visuals and metaphors, we have gathered collective wisdom and strength.

Short but significant, like the hour and a half so richly spent.

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