One Friday evening in June 2015, I walked into an arts cafe in Singapore, which was showing some of my paintings as I was their featured artist that month.
Friday evenings at this cafe was Open Mic Jam Nights, where anybody could show up, pick up one of the instruments on stage (or bring your own), and make music with other musicians.
I showed up with my friend Sean, with whom I had prepared 2 mash-up songs that we were going to perform the next day. This was our chance to practice in front of an audience, and while Sean was getting his guitar equipment set up with the sound engineer, I was introduced by the cafe manager to an odd-looking character in a pale blue tank top and jeans, seated alone at a table in front of the stage and enjoying his chocolate mousse tart.
He was a classical pianist and piano teacher, and he seemed like a weird interesting artistic sort, and while I was somewhat intrigued, I thought he was gay and definitely not interested in me. The cafe closed with no time for Sean and myself to jam, so PianoBoy followed us to a bench outside where we performed our 2 songs for him. It was then I started to realize that perhaps he wasn’t gay, and that perhaps the attraction I was feeling was mutual.
We met again a week later, and ended up staying out all night chatting and sharing our favorite music videos on YouTube. I felt as though I had known him from a different life, like we were soulmates, and I was just so ecstatic that this quirky, cool, interesting, talented PianoBoy was interested in me, too.
Well… before Disney came along, fairy tales didn’t always have happy endings, and this one ended a month after it began. Something happened that complicated things (perhaps I like to make things more complicated than they really are), and I decided to end the relationship because it felt like the right thing to do at the time – for myself, and for him.
A few days later, “Heartbreak Song” was created:
I drew PianoBoy in a red t-shirt because I really liked how he looked in his red t-shirt, and I made his keyboard red because black wouldn’t have really stood out against the blue in the painting. Strangely enough though, a few months later, he bought a red keyboard…
The other weird “coincidence” was that during his teenage years, he had a ginger cat which used to rest on top of the piano while he was practicing…
6 months later, I found myself still thinking of us and what we could have been, wondering if we had a chance to continue from where we had left off, now that the complicated situation was long over.
He had moved on and was dating someone else, while I was still in orbit around his world…
During the month that we dated, he liked to send me pictures and videos of his day – sometimes of his students, but usually of himself, and the ones I loved the most were of his playing his piano. One day, he sent me a video of himself attempting to sing “I Miss You” by Incubus, while accompanying himself on the piano. From that day on, I tagged this song to him, and the song’s lyric “threefold utopian dream” was exactly how I felt about our time together.
In a painting by the same name, I’ve incorporated items from his room into this caged up world where part of me was still trapped by the longing of what could have been.
In the middle of 2016, I started developing a series of works based on the yin yang symbol, playing with the idea of cycles and karma, and “Karmic Love Story” (2016) was created.
Once again PianoBoy was the inspiration for the male character in this painting, as he had become a symbol of my soulmate, and the love story I would repeat and cross paths with over and over again across numerous lifetimes, and yet we would never be together…
But of course I move on, I work on myself, I work on my art, I date other guys, and earlier this year in March 2017, I attended a 10-day retreat and discovered my obsession for romantic relationships, and that became the basis of my “Love Stories” series which was exhibited in Utterly Art in August.
And of course, the series wouldn’t be complete without “Your Song” (2017), a tribute to PianoBoy, his piano and his ginger cat, and how I was captivated by his music and the idea of someone like him as my one true love…
Here’s a speed painting video of “Your Song”, where you’ll get to hear me narrate the story of my love affair with PianoBoy.
Looking back now, one might say that I was a bit obsessive over this guy whom I barely knew, and overly romanticizing a very basic story of “he just wasn’t as into you as you thought”.
But I realize that without having gone through this whirlwind romance with PianoBoy, my art wouldn’t have evolved, and the best work of all that emerged from our short time together wouldn’t have been made:
“Lovebirds’ Dream Tree” (2015) tells the story of a penguin couple living in their tree home, constructed by the little moments that they share everyday. Each panel depicts the couple spending time together in various activities in different parts of their tree home.
What most people don’t know, is that the blue penguin is me, and the purple penguin is PianoBoy, and that some of these small panel moments were inspired by our actual moments together.
The second tier represents me, the artist, working on art while PianoBoy watches:
The third tier represents PianoBoy’s room where we worked on songs together sitting side by side at his grand piano. He also had a keyboard (again, I chose to make it red without knowing he was going to buy a red keyboard), and a full length mirror with bulbs:
He enjoyed dancing, and one of the things I had really been looking forward to was to go dancing together:
This was the time we went climbed up to the roof of the Arts and Design building in Nanyang Technological University in Singapore to star-gaze:
And here’s his bedroom with his black sheets, and the brown chest beside the bed where his Macbook was kept:
This 10-paneled painting was the first I’ve done in this way, and it was really thanks to my time together with PianoBoy which led to its creation.
So now you know some of the stories behind my art that are linked to my real life love story with PianoBoy. My art is always inspired by my life, my experiences, and what I’m learning in my personal evolution as a human being (and penguin).
Check back again next week for another story behind my art!