Monumental is a group of prints about cities, construction, energy consumption, and old and new towers. Through the spiraling and radiating designs of many buildings, this series has partly evolved from my organic plant prints. Today, we see representations of architecture in photographs or defined on computer screens, but my prints are produced by the slower, archaic process of Japanese woodblock printing.

The City

The assumption has been that new inventions and advances in technology would improve our lives, that the future would be better. Such ‘improvements’ and innovations are often seen first in the city, where millions of us live, either born or drawn here by the promise of a better life.

I live in Bangkok and am fascinated by it. Like Shanghai or Tokyo, it’s one of Asia’s megacities—without much beauty, but with humanity and charm. As more people settle, prosper and consume in Bangkok, so more highrises, factories and expressways are built, and the suburbs shift further outwards. By day, the city has a murky acid skyline, at night the sky glows orange. There’s a wicked, giddy vitality to the consumption that makes the city a fascinating, disconcerting subject for my prints.

New Monuments

A few years ago I taught a printmaking workshop at Sichuan Institute of Fine Art in Chongqing, a municipality of 32 million people and a busy port midway up the Yangtse River. Chongqing is now linked to Chengdu, another Sichuanese city, by super-expressway. Whereas Chengdu is ‘green’ with parks, pavilions and temples, Chongqing throbs with massive industry, typified by one of the largest chimneys in China that looms over the artschool. This chimney burns millions of tons of coal that fuels the generator supplying electricity to the municipality and beyond.

In every city—Shanghai, Osaka, London and Bangkok—endless ‘towers’ silhouette the sky: concrete columns supporting flyovers, bridges and skytrains; tower blocks, roadside hoardings, antennae . . . The countryside, too, is dotted and strung with pylons, water towers, oil tanks, chimneys and cooling towers—conduits of our consumption. The unsung evolution, scale and engineering of these constructions commemorate us to the future! They are today’s pyramids and great walls—our new monuments!

electricity pylon