The following interview is not a romantic love story, which is why I have debated for quite a while if this is the right title. But when he mentioned the memories of the jjajangmyeon and the girls who broke his heart as one of his inspirations, it instantly lit up something in me. Yes, his works are whimsical, surreal, and perhaps, otherworldly, but now I see them as buckets of common memories that I can try and access through the portals of food. I start to question the elements, reminisce on my memories, embrace the pink colors, and stare at each piece much longer. In that sense, I suppose the collages by mushroomalice are like romantic love stories for me, each a prologue to the true feelings in our lives. After every glance of his works, I find myself feeling all buttery inside, happily tingled with a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love.
i) Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?
My name is Jun, and I am a Singaporean. I am a landscape architect currently based in sunny Singapore. Before this, I spent a few years in Rio de Janeiro scribbling away for my thesis on the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. As a child, I’ve always been interested in both the gobbledygook and silly rhymes, interests that are further encouraged by stories from authors like Lewis Carroll and Dr Seuss. As I grew older, I also took a deeper interest in the intricate relationships between people and their surroundings. These various affections gradually formed in bits and pieces the basis of my artworks and poetry.
ii) How has culture, if at all, has shaped you as an individual?
As someone who grew up in a metropolis city-state, it can be a little difficult, if not daunting, to justify a cultural identity to define oneself with. How does one resonate with living and creating in a young multicultural society? I am someone who’s very much influenced by both film and food. As a big fan of storytelling and visual treats, movies are my go to choice when I am looking for inspiration both in art and life. As for food, this is where culinary in Singapore comes in with its multifaceted cuisines. I fondly remember the dim sum restaurants I visited with my family during my formative years, the murtabaks I shared with my siblings, the nasi padangs I had over lively debates with friends, the jjajangmyeons I had with the girls that broke my heart. Some of my strongest memories are surrounded by food and the people I share them with, and food culture, one that feeds both stomach and soul, reflects itself in my works, where it is regularly featured in pieces of collages that I work with. In this aspect, I find that @mushroomalice is a little like a charming dim sum restaurant of sorts, where each square within the collection holds a particular dish to be savoured, in part or whole.
iii) Would it be far fetch to say that the career of a landscape architect has limited you in imagining your own stories, hence, you have turn to collage and art?
This is a good question, and one that I’ve personally asked myself. On the contrary to being limited, I would say that working in the field of landscape architecture has brought me much closer to collage and art. It’s one of those rare things in life that works well hand in hand, one with the other. As a career, landscape architecture requires one to imagine and create livable open spaces for people, gardens and greenery that encourage physical activities for everyday users. I would say that the same imagination has on many occasions spilled across the seemingly different platform onto @mushroomalice, where the play of scale and sizes, the relationship between people and their surrounding environment, have affected the bits and pieces in the collages. Likewise, the over-imagination from @mushroomalice has sometimes inspired elements of my journey in landscape architecture. That said, writing and collaging has always been a big passion, and I would always say yes to more opportunities in doing them over anything else.
iv) How did @mushroomalice come to play?
@mushroomalice itself has been around since as early as 2010 and has gone through various iterations, from photography to drawings to portraits, where it finally found its full expression in collages and rhymes.
The name @mushroomalice is a play of words between mushroom, alice and malice. A girl with a lollipop for her head, a lighthouse overrun by a giant octopus, a dancer seemingly stuck in a piece of strawberry cake, these collage portrayals seek to bring out the darker side of the whimsical, while keeping its childlike innocence through the contrasting elements in the imageries. Together with the accompanying rhymes, the surreal images reminds of an Alice in wonderland-esque world, transporting the reader into a space that is both familiar and otherworldly, sparking imagination of a different universe. I do not know when it was exactly that people took notice of @mushroomalice, or if there was a precise moment in time that people started following the account. I do believe though that the consistency in creating relatable content weekly in the past decade has retained some of the audience through the years, friends and followers whom I am immensely grateful for, as without their constant support and encouragement there would be no @mushroomalice.
v) What are some of your favorite songs that you like to listen to when you create art?
When I write, I do not usually have anything on as I find that it distracts me from finding the correct words and phrases, but when I do listen to something I generally require music without vocals. In that sense I tend to lean towards composed film score and classical music. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is an all time favourite. When collaging, I’ve noticed that I will naturally gravitate towards Julee Cruise’s cover of Summer Kisses Winter Tears. It’s got that bittersweet allusion to lost love that puts you in a certain mood. But that’s not to say I don’t listen to anything a little more ‘fashionable’, I do like to put on BlackPink now and then! 😉
vi) You could have just created prints out of your works, why the choice of postcard?
I find that, even though postcards belong to an era of the past where it was used as an easy form of communication in the late 19th century, there’s a certain romantic connotation to them. A well-wishing handwritten message on a card always feels slightly different, more personal perhaps, than a text message that simply reads ‘Hey’. The sense of purpose and human intimacy to written communication is retained in a postcard, something which cannot be achieved with print outs. On a more personal note, postcards remind me of a time where I would exchange intricately folded sheaves of paper and little cards with people I knew, where we would drop them in each others’ mailboxes after school. The anxiety and curiosity you feel from waiting for and reading those letters is an experience in life which has few comparisons to. Certainly, what can be more romantic than the idea of writing intimate stories on little cards and mailing them out to someone whom you hold dear?
vii) Do you think social media has assisted you in creating art, or has it hindered your actual desire to create experiences for your audiences and for yourself?
I believe social media is a double edged sword, where with the offered platform audience comes the responsibility of creating experiences and content regularly. Even though the audience reach for the involved artworks is increased with social media, it can be intensely stressful at times, especially on days when you do not have anything in particular to share with your audience. This inherent tension is amplified by the fear of not being able to stay relevant, of being forgotten and lost in the barrage of distractions, and being unable to post relatable content on an increasingly regular basis, fears perceptibly common in the era of social media. Personally, what I’ve tried is to post on a comfortable but regular pace and to slow myself, to take a step back and rest when I feel the need to. I cannot stress enough how mental health is infinitely more important than the number of followings and likes one has on social media.
viii) Are there any components which you find yourself particularly gravitating towards when making art?
When I create, I try to keep the artworks as easy to understand as possible, where I’ve come to learn through the years that good ideas do not have to be overtly complicated. In that aspect I try to create with as little elements as I can, and to use the interaction and energy between the different elements to convey what I want to say. I sometimes find that design process similar to how a chef cooks, where what’s truly required for a well-savoured dish is the perfect blend of ingredients in moderation. Regarding elements that I regularly use, I’ve come to notice that I subconsciously favour blossoms and flowers in pink. The use of plants and flowers might be a preference due to my career in landscape architecture, but I do personally see pink blossoms as a softer element contrasting against the harsher ones, an element signifying the start of spring, of new beginnings, or of hope after a prolonged winter.
viv) Did the poetry come first or did the collage work come first?
This is a question which I get asked a lot, and the answer would be that there’s no real sequence as to which comes first. The collages are created first on days when I come across interesting images in my mind, and the words first when I have certain stories that I would like to convey. It depends on what I happen to feel on those particular days. But in either scenario I would try to pair both the words and collage of each piece as closely as possible so that they become seamless in what I would like to convey. There has been many a time when collages or words have been kept in draft limbo for months on end because I couldn’t work out their counterpart stories.
x) Can you share one of your poems with our readers?
This is a tough choice as I really do like all of them, but here’s one which I wrote a while back that I’ve always liked for its alluded imagery of forlorn yearning:
dressed in the glow of a pale blue moon you stepped into my dream; wandering past the hills of dunes to meet me on a whim. i gazed at you, your hair half strewn, over a longing face of grim, and wondered if it would be soon when we would laugh and kiss and scream.