Montmartre is a place of dreams. It’s known all over the word for its painters, the Parisian joie de vivre and bohemian romances. To sell your paintings there these days however, is nothing but a modern-day challenge. You need patience, luck, and fast legs should the police or troublemakers approach you.
Poesy Liang lacks the latter. Having been diagnosed with cancer twice, she’s suffered serious repercussions from this dreadful disease: she’s lost sensation in her lower limbs. She can walk, but she can’t run. Yet she is determined to make it as a street artist in Paris.
When I talk to her she has been travelling around Europe for a month, raising awareness for The Bald Empathy Movement. BEM stems from Poesy’s experiences with cancer (both she and her mum have beat the disease) and is a project constructed to show empathy with people that have lost their hair as a result from various illnesses. As part of the venture, Poesy is meeting with international photographers who are taking beautiful photos of her thick, black, voluminous hair. Angelina Jolie has gotten nothing on Poesy. None of that matters however, as she has vowed to go bald May 16, in a live webcast at the Cannes Festival. This girl is brave. She is also broke.
Travelling Europe is expensive, and the cash flow for BEM suddenly ran out. However, instead of sitting around waiting for the Cannes Film Festival, Poesy, who’s a designer by profession, decided she would make money by selling street art. Since it was too dangerous to flog her pieces on the Parisian pavements, she turned to a trusted virtual marketplace instead – Facebook. This is the 21st century after all.
In Poesy’s Art Studio, the White Cartoon series are exhibited with Poesy fondly holding the coveted art pieces she’s been drawing on Parisian park benches. Her signature style is childish, almost naive, with adorable animal illustrations. But don’t be fooled by the simple cartoon subjects, Poesy has had extensive art training and has set up plenty of creative businesses, her rare gemstones jewellery collection Poez Jewellers being one of them.
When the rest of us were trying to figure out how to hold a pencil, the 6-year old Poesy apprenticed with 2 gurus specialising in Chinese watercolour, landscape, calligraphy and seal carving. She exhibited her first painting at the tender age of 10. Before hitting her teens, she had already won gold medal for her calligraphy (beating 80 other primary school children without ever having attended Chinese school) and had carved her own artist seal, the same one used for all her art since she was 12. This bright red artist stamp is used in the White Cartoon series and means “Little Poet”, Poesy’s name in Chinese.
If the canvas motifs are childish, the titles are more grown-up, indicating that these are not paintings necessarily intended for the nursery, but for those with a good sense of humour. My personal favourite is the Corrupt Chicken canvas, with a hen wearing dark shades (admittedly, refusing to take in the outside world) and its baby chick wearing a helmet for protection. The Sparkling Giraffe, inspired by a champagne bottle, or the Vegetarian Fox (lounging with a mushroom next to her) similarly evokes laughter. I could see the obese Rollipolli Kitty easily turn into a cartoon strip, looking like her unfortunate weight is about to roll her out of the frame. Some of these characters will be appearing in iPhone apps in the very near future.
There’s usually a moral behind the canvas subjects, a sort of modern fable that can offer a commentary on contemporary life. When Poesy offers an explanation the paintings become even more vivid and it’s an interesting process reading the following user comments, interrupted by the occasional SOLD.
The mini canvases are painted using metallic acrylic diluted with Chinese ink. You can clearly draw parallels between Poesy’s excellent training in calligraphy and the style she’s adopted to portray the charismatic animals. The brush strokes are controlled, even with the wobbly lines, thickness and sharpness of the edges made to look like they’re effortlessly composed in 10 seconds. But you know there’s far more than doodling to these techniques.
The prices for the canvases usually start at £15-20 and any subsequent reproduction of a specific character becomes more expensive as demand goes up. This is quite a clever marketing idea, as it encourages buyers to make a purchase when the “price is right”. Poesy will only produce the White Cartoon collection when she’s travelling, and the paintings will never exceed £50, as she’ll cease reproduction when the £50 mark has been met with 4 original paintings sold.
It’s a good idea to snap up some pieces now as this multitasking, multitalented designer, is set to make it big. Apart from being a creative entrepreneur and a Parisian street artist, she is also the leader of a movement, designs jewellery, and is an accomplished architect design consultant back home in Malaysia. Most people would feel out of breath just hearing about her painting endeavours.
When the Cannes Festival opens, Poesy will abandon her brush (in more sense than one) and focus on other quests for BEM. Until then, I’m awaiting her next batch of paintings. Freshly produced from a sunny spot in possibly the Marais district, what can we expect to see next? I’m hoping to see a fusion between fashion, food and furry friends. After all, combining disciplines is what Poesy does best.
Poesy’s virtual art studio can be found here.
Poesy is developing a random acts of kindness project in London under her movement of compassion called Helping Angels. This initiative, which has been very successful in Malaysia, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Taipei and other international cities she travels to, is fundamentally a global movement to motivate and gather volunteers for welfare work. The objective is to encourage professionals to use their wisdom, influence, skills and time resources to help others – aiding the underprivileged, supporting education welfare, helping the homeless and offering life-coaching.
At the moment, Poesy is looking to recruit members to Helping Angels, especially now that she’s based in Europe. To raise awareness for Helping Angels, Poesy has recorded the song Treetops with a renowned music director in London who has an impressive client portfolio that include the likes of Boney M, Jimmy Ruffin and the legendary late Asian pop singer Teresa Teng. Poesy composed the melody, wrote the lyrics and sings the vocals. The song, which is a sweet ballad, could just as well be the next big Disney tune. For anyone who remembers the Disney hits of the 90’s, listening to Treetops will take you back to the days of The Beauty and the Beast glory – it offers true nostalgia.
To join Helping Angels and to find out more, click here.
And more information on the Bald Empathy Movement.