Pandemic woodcuts – a disrupted series

Pandemic woodcuts – a disrupted series

Pandemic woodcuts – a disrupted series

2020 / Total: 6 pieces (printing plates of five prints engraved in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic)

A novel coronavirus outbreak started (December 2019) while I was still working on a sketch-and-book project about Hong Kong’s mass protest movement in 2019-20. The virus spread quickly from the Chinese city of Wuhan and affected the whole world. Before I managed to finalise the book content, the World Health Organization (WHO) had declared it a pandemic (March 2020). Lockdown measures were implemented in many countries. My book project was disrupted. While waiting for another printer to take the printing job, I holed myself up in my studio working with woodcut prints. I tried to make it a new series but stopped and went back to the book project when a new printer showed interest (June). However, within one month, the printer decided to opt out after a national security law was imposed on Hong Kong. My book project was disrupted once again. And so did my newly started woodcut project. That’s a period of about three months, only several woodcuts were made and nearly all of them were about the coronavirus pandemic (the virus was named Covid-19 after the WHO declared it a pandemic). – FS


大疫小輯 – 中斷的系列

2020 作品: 6 張 (其中5張的印版在世衛宣佈 Covid-19大流行之後刻製)

2019 12月,我仍在製作反送中運動的速寫,打算出書,新冠病毒疫症已在武漢爆發。很快,疫情危及香港以至全球。20203月,我書稿尚未完成,世界衛生組織宣佈疫情大流行,各國展開防控,採取各種限制措施。我要出書的計劃因疫情突發而受阻,同時我也要另找承印商。 等待期間,我實行「自閉」,關起門來做版畫。如是者不到三個月,竟有新承印商出現,我隨即放下木刻,排版出書。孰料6月底,國安法突臨,新承印商被迫卻步,我的出版計劃再次受阻,木刻系列亦未再延續,僅印得版畫六款。

Cover image
How Could They Sleep Well?! 
「他們豈能安睡?!(2020, woodcut)
Please see descriptions in Project gallery below.

Project gallery (Please click the image to view it in full)
1. Love and Peace 
愛與和平 (2019-20, woodcut)
This piece can be excluded from this series. It was made after the controversial court case of “the Umbrella Nine”. In April 2019, nine pro-democracy campaigners were convicted over the role they had played in the 2014 Umbrella Movement. It was an over-two-month-long protest movement occupying three city centres in Hong Kong. In 2013, when three advocates began to call for a movement of civil disobedience, they named it “Occupy Central with Love and Peace”. The three advocates, generally known as “the OC Trio”, were among “the Umbrella Nine”. The printing plates of this woodcut were engraved in 2019 and the prints were made in 2020, together with the other pieces in this mini series.

2. The Whistle-blower Doctor 吹哨的醫生 (2020, woodcut) 32 x 55.5 cm
Li Wenliang was an ophthalmologist working in a Wuhan hospital when the novel coronavirus began to infect people in late December 2019. He sent warnings to notify his fellow medics about the outbreak and was summoned by the police to the Public Security Bureau for “spreading rumours”. He was made to sign a warning letter in which he was accused of “severely disturbing the social order”. Later he was hospitalised and diagnosed with the virus. He died in early February 2020. According to some online news stories, his last wish was to have a small tombstone erected on his grave inscribed with a line that reads “He has spoken for the ordinary people”.

3. Against the Authorities 逆權女子 (2020, woodcut) 32 x 55.5 cm
Another Wuhan doctor who had alerted people of the deadly virus was Ai Fen (left). She was then working in the emergency unit at Wuhan Central Hospital. In her words, she was “distributing the whistle” when she alerted her colleagues of the deadly virus. She was reprimanded for speaking out but she said in an online interview with a Chinese magazine that she didn’t care. Her interview was deleted quickly by the authorities from the internet. The Chinese writer Fang Fang (right) ran a series of online diaries chronicling life in Wuhan when the city went into a state of complete lockdown in late January 2020. Her revealing diaries were followed by a lot of netizens but soon drew criticism from those who blamed her for speaking out against the authorities. She refused to be silenced, insisting on “singing no praises during the time of a catastrophe”.

4. Frightening Selfies 自拍像 (2020, woodcut) 61 x 89 cm
The global pandemic gave a difficult and frightening time to the medical workers. As the novel coronavirus spread around the world, the numbers of infected cases and deaths increased rapidly. Many of those infected were doctors and nurses working with the infected patients. In late March, a number of photos (selfies?) of frontline medical workers appeared online showing their faces with abrasions from long-time wearing of facemasks and protective goggles. Looking at those photos, I found myself lost for words. I grouped 18 of them into a woodcut and made 16 prints. Of the 16 prints, 15 are rendered in contrasting colours and the remaining one is printed only in black and red ink (see the category “Prints”). -FS

5. None Shall Sleep” 「無人可睡」(2020, woodcut) 61 x 89.5 cm
The pandemic turned the world into lockdown mode. Schools closed; children had to stay home. For several months, I was also in lockdown mode, holing myself up in my own studio. The only entertainment I had during that time was to have some music at night. One late April night, I went online and found a very interesting Youtube piece: 700 children in Italy come together virtually and sing Puccini’s Nessun Dorma. Listening to this piece, I murmured to myself: “None shall sleep. None shall sleep.” -FS
大疫流行,全球陷於停擺狀態。學校停課,孩子們都留在家裏。我也「自閉」在畫室裏,連續好幾個月,絕少外出,其間唯一的娛樂就是晚上聽點音樂。有一晚,我在網上有特殊發現:意大利七百小孩合唱Puccini名曲Nessun Dorma。聽到此曲,我的感覺是沒有人可以入睡。

6. How Could They Sleep Well?! 「他們豈能安睡?!(2020, woodcut) 42 x 56.5 cm
I had troubled sleeping for months before the pandemic. The worsening outbreak made my condition even worse. Perhaps many people had the same problem at that period of time. How about the four depicted in this woodcut? Could they sleep well? I don’t think it’s necessary to say who they are and how they reacted to the global outbreak. A lot of news reports and commentaries have been focusing on them for such a long time. There is just one thing unusual about this woodcut print that I want to tell the viewers: it can be rotated 90, 180 or 270 degrees. -FS