Malaysian-born artist En Tze started drawing at the tender age of 3 and has loved art ever since. Now 17 years old, this talented and creative individual draws pencil portraits and original artwork in traditional mixed media, usually in the theme of macabre/dark/Gothic art and traditional Asian art.
She often paints on t-shirts and shoes too. In 2010, she started an art project named Riotous (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Riotous/162746250419539) which is a collaboration of a few artists where they create artworks for sale. Their goal is to open up peoples’ minds about alternative/dark art, which is very rare in Malaysia and to bring back and encourage love for the dying traditional Asian art.
Asiance: It is a pleasure to meet you. I first want to ask you about your piece “Sub Rosa” which is one of my favorites. I can not help looking at it without imagining the story behind it. Can you tell us a little about it?
En: Pleasure to meet you too! The usage of roses in both the poem and the drawing is a reference to an old Latin poem called De Rosis Nascentibus, where the line “collige, virgo, rosas” which means “gather, girl, the roses” appears at the end of the poem. It basically means to gather the roses before they wither, to grab the opportunity while you still can, to carpe diem (seize the day). And my piece Sub Rosa is about the regret from the roses that were *never* gathered. Basically the regret for certain things that I *didn’t* do when I was given the perfect chance to do so, and the pain when that chance has been taken away.
Asiance: You mentioned you feel that traditional Asian art is dying. Why do you think that is?
En: The younger generation of today in Asian countries are being increasingly influenced by Western culture, which we are getting more and more exposure to ever day with the expansion of technology and modernization. Also, the visual aesthetic of the 21st century is more towards a modern and futuristic image, filled with robots and flying cars and whatnot. For example, kids these days would very much rather watch something like Transformers instead of Mulan now. Not many people care about the things of the past anymore when the majority are busy inventing new things and looking towards a more technologically advanced future.
Also, many young people today perceive traditional art and culture as something ‘old fashioned’ that only the older generation do, which I find terribly sad. Most of the remaining knowledge of traditional art are left in the masters of the older generation, and as the younger people are getting less and less interested in that genre of art, that knowledge doesn’t get passed down. And this will eventually lead to the extinction of our cultural heritage if there are not enough people left to keep the art alive.
Asiance: Where do you draw your inspiration and ideas from?
En: From other artists/musicians/poets especially those in the dark/macabre genre and from traditional Asian art and culture. But most of all from my own personal experience in my life. Problems/issues in life are a great source of inspiration for me and I often express my feelings and personal troubles through art. We might as well make use of that pain and turn it into something beautiful right? I strongly hold on to the quote that says “Beautiful pictures are developed from negatives in a dark room. So if you see darkness in your life, be reassured that a beautiful picture is being prepared.” 🙂
Asiance: Your favorite genres of music are Gothic/Symphonic metal, heavy metal, industrial and traditional Asian music. Do you feel there is a connection between music and art?
En: Definitely. Music, literature, dance and theatre are all considered under the arts so there is certainly a strong connection between all types of art forms, and I get my inspiration from all of them.
Asiance: The very first piece I saw of yours was Blood Rose, It is also one of my favorites. What pieces are your favorites?
En: It is one of my favorites too! Other favorites are Sub Rosa, Black Kingdom Red Kingdom, The Peach Blossom Fan and Save Mother Nature :).
Asiance: What is your preferred media to work in?
En: My favorite media to work with are graphite pencils, but I often combine them together with colored pencils, watercolor, pens and markers too which will result in mixed media artwork.
Asiance: You also paint on objects such as sneakers, t-shirts etc. “Shoembies” and “With Teeth” are amazing! Tell us about these.
En: I started painting on t-shirts and sneakers because I couldn’t find any on the market here that had designs that I liked. Especially when you like spooky things, it’s really hard to find things with that style, here in Malaysia at least. So I figured I might as well make my own and make a business out of it too. Hence the birth of my art project Riotous that sells hand painted and handmade goods in that theme.
Asiance: Not only do you draw and paint you also write some poems that accompany your artwork. Do the poems help you with your paintings or do you paint then write the poems about the piece?
En: I’ve done it both ways. Creating artwork based on the poem I’ve written and writing a poem to explain the artwork I’ve already created. I tend to do the former more often though.
Asiance: Who are some of your favorite artists?
En: Natalie Shau, Audrey Kawasaki, Stella Im Hultberg, Sylvia Ji, Lostfish and Zoe Lacchei.
Asiance: You also have said you are fond of old Asian movies. Can you tell us some of your favorites?
En: The Butterfly Lovers, Lady General Hua Mulan, Dream of Red Chamber and Madam White Snake. I also love to watch the Teochew Chinese street operas :).
Asiance: I look at your work and I am reminded of Tim Burton. Have you ever considered doing animated versions of some of the characters in your paintings?
En: Not really, because the characters I draw in my original artworks aren’t actually developed characters with a name or personality behind them. Honestly, they are actually representations of myself, though I may look nothing like them. I draw them based on what I feel is the best way to convey the emotions that I am feeling. Sub Rosa being one of such examples.
Asiance: What do you hope to be doing in 5 years?
En: I hope that I will be having art exhibitions all over the world or something like that! And I also hope to expand and improve my art project Riotous by creating a new website and having an online store with loads of artwork and awesome stuff for sale. So do like the Facebook page to keep updated! I also hope Riotous will have its own physical shop one day. I’ve got many plans, but I’m keeping a few things secret so that it’ll be a surprise ;).
deviantArt: http://tzeisalive.deviantart.com (pencil portraits), http://riottze.deviantart.com (paintings/designs)