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Ling Tiffany Lee interprets spiritual rituals to archive the lives of Chinese seamen

Jan-Carlos Kucharek

Deliberately naive presentation is cleverer than it first appears say judges, awarding Ling Tiffany Lee third place, student

Returning Roots to Pear Blossom Port. Digital collage, 297 × 297.
Returning Roots to Pear Blossom Port. Digital collage, 297 × 297. Credit: Ling Tiffany Lee

Third place, Student
Ling Tiffany Lee
Royal College of Art, London

There’s a strange sadness at the heart of Lee’s Returning Roots to Pear Blossom Port, interpreting spiritual rituals as a way of archiving the lives of Chinese merchant seamen and their descendants in the context of Liverpool. ‘The Nook’ was the first Chinese pub in Europe, in which Chinese Liverpudlian seafarers socialised and found work – here reimagined ‘through research into photos, oral accounts and archive footage to memorialise the life that once populated the city’s Chinatown’.

The judges enjoyed the deliberate naivety of the presentation. ‘There’s something uncanny about it,’ thought Kucharek, ‘an absence or bleakness, and while it doesn’t seem technically skilled, it has a suggestive nature.’ Chou challenged the assertion, thinking ‘the drawing’s apparent lack of skill seems deliberate, intentional; the strangeness of the scene conveyed in the technique’.

Wigglesworth agreed. ‘I find it quite intriguing. It’s knowingly quite cut-and-paste-like. The China vase looks decidedly flat and the shadows don’t quite work either, which adds to its unsettling nature. The mirror at the back throws you even more, bringing more strangeness to the familiar; I think it’s cleverer than it first appears.’ ‘She’s either a genius or naïve,’ thought Ramstad; expressing that emptiness which, in Lee’s words,’ bridges the gap between present descendants and those lost to colonial violence’.  

Eye Line award winning drawings from this and previous years