The annual Ox Warehouse Children's Artland is a most adventurous event full of surprises, aimed to explore all the little participants’ artistic potential, with instructors of different backgrounds and experience designing different courses that have spawned quite diverse works. This year we did not set a theme, and the format also followed last edition as most instructors stayed with us. Nonetheless, the current results are very different from previous years’, thanks to the instructors’ self-adjustment – although that does not necessarily mean progress. But while pondering over past experiences and making further plans, creation entails infinite possibilities. Every creative move means an experiment, a practice or a product, regardless of its significance, length of time invested, or its eventual good or bad quality. In a conventional society, we are doing the same things day after day, in a daily humdrum existence: eat, sleep and work. By contrast, non-routine art and entertainment can be approached in a different fun way every time, or even be developed further, to counterbalance the daily boredom, bringing more zest to life.
This summer, Júbilo 31 Books takes as its exhibition theme “Picture Books Also Liked by Adults”. The idea is close to my curatorial concept for this edition, in that we decorated the exhibition venue in bright yellow and violet – possibly emulating a children’s theme park, as mass information often relates intense colours with children, the bizarre or fancy clothes. That’s a flawed understanding because adults can also love strong colours and children the plain black and white. This time, Ging Joeng, a pupil of Lam Ut Ngo, exhibits independently. The boy just loves drawing lines, expressing his daily life-inspired messages through figures. Nobody ever taught him drawing, and he draws as if by instinct. Though not good at speaking or communicating with others, he masters English words and images better than the Chinese language. (Potentials) discovery and allowing space (for development) are important, especially in Macao where art is not really taken seriously and where schools and most people think fine art, music and physical education are secondary subjects while 90% of learning activities are pure memorization, with recitations and calculations. Students weak in these areas are considered deficient. By contrast, it’s considered kind of ‘normal’ if one doesn’t perform well in drawing or music. What’s more, in the official curriculum, the educational standards and space allowed for art are poor. As a result, the different standards on art and other ‘more important’ subjects lead to different ratings and evaluation of students with different capabilities.
This year Bonnie Leong Mou Cheng also focused on one-on-one tutoring. In her first year teaching here, we had to cooperate with a certain organization in order to recruit pupils for her, because in Macau one-on-one visual arts teaching to pupils with special needs was non-existent. The following year with enrollment only through Ox Warehouse, and without defining the target as children with special needs, soon the course registration was full. As everyone is unique, it’s really important to expand the scope (space) for accumulation (of experience and learners). If space and financial resources allowed, we desire to offer truly art education, continue the development of one-on-one teaching, inspire more children, as well let parents, other adults and the public understand our approach. Bonnie is good at teaching and exhibiting works, within a limited set of conditions, resources and recycled materials. I have learned a lot from her in the past few years. Ji-Ja (Art Workshop) is in its third year cooperation with Ox Warehouse, with Vanessa Leong as one of its instructors with many new things. Every time she departs from previous experiences, showing brand-new features. This year she cooperates with Pauline to create a large-scale creative project with kids. Although focusing on smaller works, for Ox Warehouse exhibition she lets students create large-scale, collective works; this time she also filmed the entire creative process, leading her pupils on a travel through iconic art masters and the dichotomy of creation vs fun play, opening more possibilities in art.
Tan Lay Heong and GOO Zhuan Xuan from Malaysia continued to host shadow puppetry workshop this year. The children participants’ performance last year was pleasantly surprising, with the premiere surpassing the 2nd performance, since in the first the children were unreservedly and candidly acting out their creativity, unleashing their inherent potential energy. In fact, as long as there is appropriate guidance and room for them to play they could deliver unexpected outcomes. But in the second show the children became a bit impatient with the ‘repetition’, and therefore were less involved and did not perform better despite their previous experience – this does only happen to children. The shadow puppetry workshop was both static and dynamic. This year, Tan and Goo led the children out of the classroom to explore the surroundings, letting them use visual, auditory, smell and touch senses to feel the environment, before turning such experiences into ‘food for the script’. At the beginning of 2017, Ox Warehouse organised more children's art courses, and Stella Lam and Summer Ieong were two of the instructors. They used different stories and contents to guide each kid into expressing personal feelings and moods through art, then integrated the works based on a same concept to generate steady visual effects for the exhibition.
Long ago I thought a design without designing is the best. Upon seeing the posters you’ll figure out what we are showcasing here; any fancy work is extra, unnecessary. The poster drawing course is aimed at letting children use their drawing as a visual theme, so even if they finish the drawing in a minute, that does not affect its value. The annual children’s exhibition has been held along the fifteen years of Ox Warehouse existence and it has nurtured countless talents. This art space is soon to undergo operational changes, and therefore this exhibition, as my last curatorial effort, is very memorable. Because of this I have chosen yellow as the theme colour, a colour to represent and commemorate the Ox Warehouse building.
Cora Si Wun Cheng