Hello. I am happy to report that my Christmas celebrations have been a fun one.
I haven’t spent Christmas at home in three years. The first time I was away, I spent it by myself in halls because I didn’t know that public transportation didn’t run on Christmas day, which I was meant to have spent with Richard in Brighton. I lived in halls and everyone else was away for about two weeks (a rare gift!), so I found myself leaning into the solitude and a clean kitchen. I was lucky that the Tesco close to me was open. I was lucky that I was happy with eating sausages and that by that time, my little room was starting to feel like home.
The second year, I had Daniella and Minhae over, and all we did was drift in and out of naps, rising only to eat (Korean pancakes and stew, Greek cookies, a Filipino breakfast) and drink while watching notable Christmas classics, The Gremlins and Chalet Girl. Loose-lipped on a fair bit of boozy drinks, we played a highly revealing game of “Never Have I Ever,” because we are all obviously adults, and relished the feeling of not having to be anywhere, and not having anything to take us to faraway places on that day anyway.
This year, Minhae is back in Korea (though sorely missed). We sent her a picture, and she sent us some back of some food she is having: the salad Daniella made for us last year. I spent Christmas eve with Moki, who is finally here, studying at LSE, Aleks, and Daniella. This was Moki’s first time at my house and she said that she knew she was at the right place because she could smell the adobo I was cooking from the outside.
Christmas day was spent inside with Spanish tortilla (torta in Filipino, lol) and the chicken I make when I’m too lazy and sad to make anything else. We saw, in order: Ready or Not (we were not), Clue, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, and Death Becomes Her. For snacks: a Russian treat (salmon caviar on poppy seed baguette) with prosecco, popcorn, Greek cookies, and chocolate jewel tiles I made instead of earl grey biscuits. We ended up reading towards the end of the night, because a movie about death and impermanence is bound to make you think about your own, and all you can do sometimes is temper the flames of despair, if you can.
The next day, we put on Paddington.
So, my little year-end essay is going to be a little early, because if I don’t do it now, I will either forget or run out of steam. It was a mix of really good and really bad, as I’m sure most years are, though to varying degrees. This year, I finished my masters programme (graduating with okay enough marks: a 2:1), gave a talk, quit my job very unceremoniously, found other things to do, had the best summer, ended up living in a house with someone who ended up being a very good friend. I found a way to stay in London, which at times still makes me stop in my tracks because I’m hit with the realisation that this is where I live now. I’m trying to see where I fit in all of this.
It’s been a struggle to think about moving forward when you think that you’ve gotten rid of the thing that made you feel so stuck, but also losing a little bit of anchor that’s meant to keep you from floating away. Floating is good; it just gets a little scary when you don’t know how to find yourself back to where you’d like to be. I have not been very good at taking care of myself, but I’m trying harder now and moving within myself more carefully, instead of giving into that voice inside my head that keeps telling me I can’t do it. I can’t make it. I don’t fit anywhere.
Raymond assured me that I’m not a mess, and reminded me to take one step at a time, to put one foot in front of the other. “I remember how Pedro Almodovar described Volver once,” he said. “The story of a woman whose life is falling apart and has no choice but to put one front in front of the other to get her and her daughter out of it.” I trust him because Raymond is smart.
In the grandest grand scheme of things, I know that I don’t have super serious problems. The kind that stops your life in its tracks. My life isn’t falling apart, although it sometimes feels like it is. I don’t have a daughter, but I have me, and I owe it to myself to see this through and fight against falling apart.
Yesterday, I met up with Bea and we were both talking about how much we missed reading blogs and writing in our own blogs (lol) and about how what we enjoy most is when people get sort of unscripted and somewhat personal in theirs. Following my last post, which was another one of these life update things, I thought I ought to write something “substantial” (whatever that means) that wasn’t another one of these wala lang posts. But then, it was like, “Well, what’s wrong with just writing these things?” Nothing, that’s what. I have nothing to prove. Nothing with this blog, anyway. (Silent lol.) So here we go.
(I’ve been thinking, for example, of writing lots and lots and lots of exhibition posts because I have lots and lots and lots of pictures. But here we are. You get my navel-gazing instead. Lucky.)
So, I made it! I’m back in London. Two days after I’d written the last post, I got my endorsement from the Arts Council (which was surprising but also what I’d hoped for) and then I flew to Manila shortly thereafter to file stage two of the visa application. Yes, it’s An Ordeal. Yes, I’m very grateful that I am even able to think of this route as a possibility. Anyway, I got my visa application approved shortly after filing. And then I spent the last remaining weeks I had allotted for waiting just enjoying the company of my family and friends. Schmoopy way to say that I enjoyed my holiday, but I’m in a mood.
Anyway, so I’m back here and I’m trying to get a handle on things again. I tend to take a while to acclimate back to my routines when I take a break to go home, but I’m uh… trusting in the process. I have sent out a very large handful of job applications, and I am trying to get back into studio life. It’s… really hard, lol. But I am still in that place where I think it will be worth it. I’m probably going to go in and out of this state in the next couple of months, so I’ll be bracing myself.
Truthfully, I am equal parts terrified and excited, but as is my natural tendency… I am not quite in the place where I am willing to really feel the excitement of possibility. I don’t ever think that I have something until I have it, if that makes sense. (It probably doesn’t.) So, I think maybe that has been affecting my ability to properly go about my life. Even though I have taken fairly productive steps in the looking for a career department, I have also spent a huge amount of time watching the telly and… playing games.
(In a moment of weakness, I got myself a Nintendo Switch that was on a Black Friday promotion. I am considering it either a birthday present or a Christmas treat. But we all know it’s an attempt at crisis aversion.) It’s been fun. I’m trying to not let it consume me, and I’ve introduced some gaming aspects into my life, making deals such as: if I send out at least 15 job applications, I can get Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
(It is a very good game. I sent out 17 applications before caving. I’ve received one rejection already. Swift and harsh, but better than withering in wait.)
Other than that, elections are giving me second-hand anxiety. I’ve usually coped with this by thinking that everywhere in the world is bad, but rather than give me a boost of assurance, it has proven to make me want to stay in bed and entertain the dread. I have, however, not been doing that. Here’s to trying very, very hard to be optimistic, and I hope that when we see one another on the other side, it’s not going to be a place that is completely doomed.
Reader (whoever you are), a lot has happened since you were here last.
Minhae, one of my uni classmates, flew back to Seoul last weekend. I miss her already. I dumbly assumed that we had the same visa dates, but she actually flew over here earlier, so I had another month. Anyway, we had a nice little party for her at my house, which made it feel like it was my house too, rather than just my flatmate’s, which was odd but nice.
I’ve been able to spend a nice chunk of time with some friends from home, too. Angel, who is actually now based in Malmö, came for a visit and we spent the day at Tate and walking around King’s Cross.
Had ramen and mochi with Ken, which was quite fun, because we hadn’t really met each other outside of Instagram up until then. He was in town for meetings on the forthcoming Nam June Paik show at Tate.
I met up with Marga, who I work with a lot but never really hung out with a lot, too, and it was the best sort of day where you just eat and walk and have coffee and talk about what :) kind :) of :) internet :) anxieties :) you have in common, lol. Met Kat, too, who’s based really, really, really close to me, which was cool.
People often ask me if I miss Manila, and absolutely I do, but it’s more because of the people, really. And the dogs, of course. I’m lucky to have such a great support system here, but so many people I love are back home, and it’s nice to see them here every once in a while.
Truthfully, I have been having a hard time looking for jobs. I’d like to think it’s due to the visa restrictions (in that, if I don’t hear good news soon, I’d have to leave by the 21st of October, which is, of course, a less than ideal situation between me and any and every HR department in existence), but it could also be due to what feels like a skewed notion of value ’round these parts. I have, for example, worked as design lead for quite big global companies in the Philippines. Do they care? Doesn’t seem like it. Like, what even is the Philippines? It’s frustrating, but what can you do? Nothing. Offer up my fate to God and the universe and try not to rot in destitution.
Truthfully (again), I feel a little bit weird about it. Although I am very much an online person, I’m not sure I am the type of online person who attracts Patreon users. IDK. I’ve only ever contributed to one group, which I had to of course stop, because as we’ve established, I’m not exactly Scrooge McDuck over here. Maybe I’ll have my 20’s changed into 1p coins and attempt a little swim. A little swish, at least.
But yes, in case you are inclined, I’ve gone and made a Patreon. I’m probably going to overshare (it’s exciting in my head, and then scary, and then embarrassing, but mostly exciting), but behind a paywall. Does it make sense? Potentially not, but this is where we are at. I’ve been wanting to do videos and stuff like that for a long-ass time. This is probably the “go signal” I was waiting for. (Sidenote: I can’t help but feel like if I’d been more of a mess, I’d get more followers. Is this a logical conclusion?)
Other than that, I’m running a sale of sorts on my print shop, Bluest Press, for the next two weeks. For purchases £15 and up, for example, I’m throwing in a free print of your choice. I think if you asked nicely, I’ll throw in another one. I’m soft like that.
The last few days have felt a little icky because everything feels like a money-grab situation, which, of course, rationally speaking, it’s not — I am just trying to earn money so I can pay rent, etc. I can’t exactly look for employment at this moment yet, so it’s kind of a bit of a pickle. Did I lead myself into this pickle? Signs point to absolutely yes, but even so, I’d like to get out of it.
Some nice friends have commissioned some paintings and work, so that’s been lovely and heartwarming and all that. It’s a little scary to be confronted by a) absolute alone-ness in this kind of world, i.e. the arts~, that I’ve always felt rather at home in, and b) THE POSSIBILITY THAT YOU DO NOT HAVE WHAT IT TAKES.
I realise this is more an unfurling of a crisis rather than a light-ish life update, but honestly, this is where I am most of the time. I try to get work done and usually, it works out, but other times, I am paralysed by a concoction of big and small fears, and then I am roused out of it again, because no one is going to take care of me for me. Is that an obvious thing I have overlooked in the last three decades? Possibly. I am feeling the brunt of it now, though. I think it’s because I am doing my laundry, I cleaned the house, and I paid for my rent yesterday. I know I have it better than many other people, but it doesn’t mean that these things don’t keep me up at night, because they do.
And now I feel extra gross, because. Well, you know.
I had a really nice dinner with Isa and Rach last night, who are staying at the same hotel as fucking HAIM, and it put my situation in a manageable perspective for me. We ended up going around King’s Cross for about an hour and a half before finally being able to eat because Friday night, amirite, lol.
But yes. Isa: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Rach said that no matter what happens, just roll with the punches. Whatever happens to me, I know this isn’t the end. I’ve always been very observant of signs and what they might mean, but I was reminded that what could be a “no” doesn’t mean that I don’t belong here. It doesn’t mean that I should stop trying. I think, after all that’s happened, I can’t afford to anyway.
Tomorrow is my birthday. I turn 31. I don’t know what that means other than I’m a year older, but I guess we’ll see, won’t we?
So, I’m thinking about starting a series where I talk a bit about artists and their work, particularly women. Partly because I’ve been wanting to expand my knowledge on the subject, so to speak, but also because it has been another “thing I’ve been meaning to do” — that is, write more thoughtfully about art — and just never really did. (Aside from uni essays, which, if we’re honest, head towards a more philosophical, at times navel-gaze-y, and at other times a Charlie Kelly web of mystery slant, than anything.)
First up is the inimitable Lee Krasner. When her expansive retrospective opened a couple of months ago at the Barbican, it did so to expected wide-ish coverage. However, the coverage of course involved, expectedly, He Who Must Not Be Named, Krasner’s husband and poster boy of abstract expressionism. You know who. Predictably, I mention him too now, in the beginning, but I would like to offer the “just to get him out of the way” card by way of explanation. Hopefully you’ll have it, and then we can move on.
The show has closed for about a week now, which is what often happens because I sit with my thoughts for too long a time and just miss the windows. But perhaps it does no good to rush through things one needs to process, so here we are. The more forgiving aspect of writing about art, maybe, is that it doesn’t seem to expire. The urgency doesn’t die with the passage of time, or I certainly don’t think so. I can write about the oldest things and never feel like I am running out of time to think about the things I want to say.
But back to Krasner.
Although her husband has gained very, very wide artistic acclaim — in my mind, for his absurd brazenness, more than anything — the fact that Krasner perhaps lived, in a way, in his shadow came as a surprise to. Krasner, as painted by the show’s biographical notes, was headstrong and had a mind of her own. Certainly not someone who took crap from anybody. Maybe that was my impression, and the front she put on (or was put on her). Maybe I ought to look at people in a way that allows for complexity. In any case, it was an experience seeing the very logical (seamless?) progression of her work, to see the seeds and the roots and the eventual fruit, which is to say, the practice she arrived at by the end of her life.
Krasner’s work is emotional and visceral. She is unapologetic, by which I mean, she isn’t precious about her work or how she feels about it. She does what she feels must be done. I think that might be a large part of her genius: the unsentimental abandonment of one mode of expression in pursuit of another that is more authentic and true.
I didn’t know a lot about Krasner and her work, and although I’d been introduced to more of it through the Barbican’s Living Colour, there are certainly more layers to peel back, revealing a more accurate picture of a woman whose work received belated attention, possibly owing to her marriage to such a large creative force. Possibly owing to the state of things in general, where women who are wives take a backseat, almost by default.
When people are as entwined as Krasner and Pollock seemed to be, it’s also quite easy to leach into the others’ work, and while I do see traces of one in the other, it is very evident, too, that their work diverge in very important ways. Krasner’s expressions appear to come from a very deep place of longing and self-effacement. Of a loudness and boldness that does not feel like they come from a quiet wife waiting in the wings.
There never appears to be any animosity with Krasner, though. She believes in the importance of her husband’s work, and based on their correspondences, values his opinion. Perhaps I am projecting too many thoughts here, and to be honest, I don’t have a lot of base knowledge on Krasner (as I’ve mentioned early on), or Pollock for that matter. What I do know is that I am and can be deeply moved by art and the artists that make them. And I know that Krasner’s are powerful expressions of movement and individuality, of a singular convergence of her own experiences and the life she forges as someone very close to someone very important and celebrated.
There has not been a major show of Krasner’s work in the U.K. since 1965. This feels, at times, an oversight, but given the state of women and their work throughout history — that is, the almost intentional overlooking, the diminishing importance, the pointed erasure — it is predictable. But what a joy it is to witness Krasner’s own celebration, in her own right, no matter how overdue it is.
So, I know I said I was going to be more vigilant in terms of updating, since I have all the material anyway, and although this feels like how I start everything I post on here now, I’ll soldier on. Ahem. I figured that rather than going chronologically, I might as well write according to what comes easiest. And this, my friends, is The One.
Typography Summer School is a somewhat intensive week-long course set up by Fraser Muggeridge Studio (who, of course, made the hotly-debated Hot Chip album cover — yes, this one — and who I first learned about, I think, through the Visual Editions run of Don Quixote — which is lovely, and fucking massive, and still available for purchase here) on typography. As in letters, and the space between letters, and how these things converge on a page or a screen or somewhere else.
I applied last year and didn’t get in¹, so even though this year’s dates coincided with my graduation — an activity I am told that no one really goes to, lol — I was determined to go to. Partly because I got in this time, and mostly because I wasn’t sure I’d get to do this anytime soon, since my leave to remain in London remains undecided (potentially more on that later, since I have a lot of feelings on it, but also talking about it feels like jinxing it).
So, 30 or so of us, from literally all over the world², converged at Old Manor Park Library, which is incidentally where I’ve gone to a couple of times for riso-related activities c/o Rabbits Road Press. TSS was back in July. It was scorching, and I am heat-averse, but even so, I had the most fun.
A tiny background: I started “properly” playing with graphic design when I was in high school, having learned of Photoshop, but not really sure how to use it when I worked for the school paper in the seventh grade. (I knew how to use Pagemaker, though, lol.) After that, I was steeped in a weird internet culture that I love(d) and cherish(ed) and also am distantly terrified by. I made weird banners and 100 pixel-by-100 pixel images for people to use on LiveJournal and ship manips and a bit of web design, beginning with a website that was, of course, inspired by The Princess Diaries’ Michael Moscovitz’. Michael’s site was called Crackhead, so that’s obviously what I thought to call mine, a name that I can say did not age very well. I printed zines and little books off of our home printer. I had a DeviantArt account.
Funnily enough, a career bloomed out of that, and I am still astounded sometimes when I think about how this little hobby led to a future working with some of the best people I’ve come to know. Even funnier still is that it’s still what I like to do.
Before all of that good career stuff though, I went to school for graphic design, although technically, it was called Information Design (and housed under the Fine Arts department?). Since 2006, which was my freshman year, I’ve expressed the dissatisfaction of having pursued that program. I felt it lacking, and although typography is meant to make up a large, large part of the design that I do, we only had one class on it. And it was, if I’m completely honest, on the whole, awful. Word on the street is that it’s way better now, so that is a good bit of news I am volunteering here, because I didn’t mean to whine again.
So, anyway, here we are now. I graduated from my BFA in 2010. I got my masters in something completely unrelated in 2019³. The same year, at 30, I decided to take a bunch of classes that, in theory, because of my background and experience, I shouldn’t have had to. And yet, it has been quite fulfilling and rewarding and rekindled my love for design and letters in a way that has only been tapped at as of late.
Perhaps it’s to do with the fact that many of the people that Fraser had invited to do talks and workshops with us were people and studios whose work I had been following for a long while. Perhaps it’s because, for a little bit, I was reminded of how fun it is to just play and figure things out. For a funny little warm week in East London, a space was made for that possibility.
Anyway, a rambling mess, I know. But if you’re ever free (financially or in terms of scheduling or whatever) for a week to do this or something like it, I’d urge you to do so. Apart from all the insight, it was amazing to be surrounded by people who felt very strongly and positively about letters in vaguely the same way that I did. In other words, complete dorks.
And because I am in a sharing mood, here’s a rundown of what happened. Mostly for me, but also for you, in case you were thinking of doing something similar.
Day 1 — Fraser Muggeridge + Mia Frostner and Robert Sollis of Europa + assignment
Fraser started the first day off with a talk — VERY INVOLVED WITH FOOTNOTES, WHICH I OBVIOUSLY WAS ALL FOR — and we started on an assignment to make design systems for… Wikipedia! It was really fucking fun. I was deep in my obsession with BTS, so obviously I picked them, and also Jacques Derrida’s Différance, because of course I did.
We did a few other exercises, which were all quite useful in thinking about letters. (Prior to the week, also, we were given a reading assignment and some homework, which was exciting for me, because I’d been missing academic shit like that… like a dork.)
Europa was perhaps the first studio whose work I was introduced to through this programme. I think it’s probably because a lot of their work is situational, as in environmental, as in applied to spaces. It was great to see these applications away from my favoured mediums of print and screen. I particularly liked the pictured project, which was clever and modular and helpful at actually delivering information—rather apt for the Wikipedia project, in terms of developing a system that would work across the board.
Day 2 — Kirsty Carter of A Practice for Everyday Life + David Pearson
Day two started with a talk by Kirsty Carter of A Practice for Everyday Life, and reader, I died. Again, initial introduction to their work was from Visual Editions: they made their first book: the Tristram Shandy one. Truly starstruck. I loved this talk so much. This is the kind of work I want to do, and their approach is exactly the sort of considered thinking that I’d like to be, at some point, capable of. I was able to ask for tips~ on my design system, lol, and Kirsty was very quick and straightforward in the comments, which was incredibly helpful. (I got to speak with Kirsty Carter, can you imagine my brain trying not to explode.)
In the afternoon, we had David Pearson! Which again, I tried to keep myself together… See, when I was a wee design student, I first came across Pearson’s amazing Penguin series, Great Ideas, and because of this series, I thought, “Hey, maybe I’d like to design books?” It was a moment. Such a treat to see the process of these amazing designers, and how they work through visual puzzles and kind of tiptoe that weird threshold between commercial needs and beautiful fucking work.
Got a sneak peek of the new John Le Carré series David worked on, too. And they are sublime:
And then we had a showcase of Wikipedia work, which was so fun so see such a big variety? I certainly had some favourites. Then, there was also a cute little session to kind of consolidate what we had learned so far, in the last two days, and there were a lot! But we stopped at 10. :)
Day 3 — Catherine Dixon
Catherine Dixon is amazing and so is her love for letters; when she gets particularly excited, she carries on talking, marking each end of phrase with her standing on her tip-toes, the gained height matching her enthusiasm for letterforms.
This day was interesting in that we more or less ended up thinking about letters and type as though they were people, as though a certain kind of life resides within a tail or a curve or how much each letter stood apart from the other. We talked about what we liked or didn’t like about particular typefaces. We picked one letterform and had to draw it in three different ways, large-scale with charcoal, as an exercise in learning how to look and see. Catherine would come over and tell us where the weight should fall more or where the thickest and thinnest parts of the letter should be. Because a letter isn’t just one drawn line; it’s an occupation of a space. It signifies what is there, instead of what isn’t.
Then, we each got a letter “M” in different typefaces, mounted on foamboard and cut out. We had to travel with these letters and see how being around them made us feel. Mine was innocuous enough — a monotype that turned out to be the one I used for both my portfolio and my dissertation website: Nitti. As such, it felt quite at home in my shirt pocket.
Day 4 — Paul Barnes / Commercial Type + Ben Prescott of Studio Frith
I missed basically all of Paul Barnes’ talk in the morning, which was a shame, but also, I graduated! So, that’s okay. Haha. I rushed straight to fucken Newham from Southbank, but did OK on time, I think. They’d began working on some fonts based on some type specimens that Fraser found, and as I was late, I ended up joining a group of two (the rest already had three). I worked with Alicia and Moa and we got a reaaaaallly fun one that had a VARIETY of possible variations, to be gleaned from only four letterforms: F I L M.
In the afternoon, Ben Prescott of Studio Frith gave us a little talk — and some of their work is gorgeous; again, I was introduced to this studio through Visual Editions, as they worked on a really, really clever book by Adam Thirlwell called Kapow! More recently, they worked on the Hayward Gallery’s branding for that show, Kiss My Genders.
Honestly, it made me want to play with making crazy letter systems. Is that another unreachable dream? Possibly. Although, it could just be another thing to do for fun.
Day 5 — Rory McGrath of OK-RM
Much of the last day was spent working on our letter systems, which… I’m not very good at. I think I’m good at ideas and art direction, but this was really revealing of how much of Illustrator I actually don’t know how to use, lol. Thankfully, Moa and Alicia were much better at that than I was.
At some point, Rory McGrath of OK-RM gave a talk, which was, obviously, inspiring. I love their work; it’s so unapologetic, but still holds an internal logic, which makes some of the (apparent) bonkers decisions make sense. They did the Virgil Abloh book, but really, I was enamoured by everything they made.
We had graduation. And drinks. And it was a lot of good fun. I have a little bit of separation anxiety, since a lot of the people I really got to speak with don’t live close to me. It’s a lovely thing to be able to keep in touch with their lives and their work on Instagram, though.
Sometimes I second guess myself because I do end up spending a bit of money on these classes and workshops, but when it works out as well as TSS did, there is absolutely no question that I’d do it again.
P.S. I have a shit ton of other pictures and maybe if I’m in the mood, I’ll actually post the lot of them (a lot…), but here we it is for now. Amazing time, the start of a lovely summer for me.
——— ¹ Looking back at the portfolio I submitted then, it was no wonder I was offered only a place on the waitlist.
² If I remember correctly, aside from the U.K., places that people were from include Thailand, Sweden, Australia, the U.S. (Portland, New York), India, Russia, Korea, Italy, Austria, the Netherlands, and Berlin… and perhaps another place I missed. I’m pretty sure I’m the first one from the Philippines!
³ In case you were wondering, I took an MRes in Art: Theory & Philosophy… so, yanno, a thing that feels a bit like a wild card, sometimes.