Error Hope Essay – Tamares Goh

Her secret was to listen to flowers wear out their colour.”  - unknown poet


What wonder! What had given flat sheets of paper such breath of life! On sheets of paper were the most beautiful words written, mathematical solutions resolved, inventions jotted down, information passed down from century to centuries; laws made, photographic images printed on, music scores written, an encouragement sent, a memory stored. Does the world become so obsessed with such a material and thus a make-believe towards whatever monetary surface value there is printed at the mint factory! Might have it been an unrectified error from the past, but how we had believed in it!

But what wonder anyway, a material which novelists, poets, writers, lovers, draughtsmen, painters, scientists, architects depend on!  And how we trust it! And how we love to trust it! Lest our conveyance be met! Life’s saga and epic noted on paper. The medium that had predominantly taken over the civilized world is perhaps soon bidding goodbye…And while we savour…

So, they are the Error Hope Drawings! At first glance, these drawings appear poster-like, as viewers get drawn to the formation of words, as if drawn to daffodils at the first of spring! These are the Error Hope Drawings. They bear curious characters of continuous weaving almost like some active brain cells. They interfere with each other, travelling through spaces, connecting one another, contacting each other. What is at one glance suffocating is not suffocating at all. In fact, it is quite the opposite. They liberate, spell freedom, bearing a dialogue of hauls and movements.

Now the birth of words! They find their dwelling as painted forms in Ian Woo’s recent drawings. Prior to ‘Error Hope’ the forms on his paintings were taken out from the everyday existence through simple observations in life pared down to the basics. Previously, words were the occupant in Ian’s sketchbooks, jotted down as a process to record some key elements through his thoughts. Only did you notice hints of what certain paintings were suggesting when you see titles which seem most cognitive i.e. Mind Plant; Madness, Precedence and Beauty; thoughts by day, thoughts by night; Hyper-real steps, etc.

The titles from ‘Error Hope Drawings’ are words you see from the drawings anyway. While his previous works bore titles that were metaphysical, titles that occurred in the mind-scapes of everyday living, even though as one could well-relate to them, the specifics is hardly graspable. ‘Error Hope Drawings’ is the hymnody of the tangible that surrounds us: One Day Contact Lenses; Restaurant Near the Sea; Butterflies and Marigolds; Samurai Movies. They are specifically down-to-earth, sweet-natured, revolving around the simple joys of life.

No qualms of hiding whatsoever, almost teasingly, these forms (words) are intricately made up of joint dotted lines and carefully written words. You can almost feel the speed of the written words…precarious yet expressive. The patterns and forms moving through spaces on these sheets of paper, varying through tones and plateaus. When given a bit of unhurried time, you can make out the forms (words), thus turning the whole experience of looking into a little venture. The forms contain a certain sort of chaste-beauty. They are shy and unassuming while showing off their obvious charms.

A loose kind of narration takes place in these drawings. One can only second-guess what’s going on in Ian’s mind, but he provides little answer to ground you to specifics. The forms are revealing, yet ambiguous. Almost illustrative, but not conclusive. ‘Butterflies and Marigolds’ doing curtsies alongside a moderato tune? Feel the grains of ‘Between Carpets’? Caught in a bubble of spectrum light in ‘Restaurant Near the Sea’? Eurythmics of ‘Rico Chet’! Intense gathering around an off-center muggy glow at “Heat at the Equator’! We read poetry, we second-guess, get moved by the sentiments of words, reminding us, displacing us, but who knows what’s actually going on in the mind of the poet? We, in turn, become poets.

Marks, splashes, blotches, stains. They notably stand out in pieces like ‘One Day Contact Lenses’, ‘Office Romance in Sea Foam Green’, ‘Lizard Surprise’, ‘Naming Names’, ‘Hotel Lobbies’. Mark-making has been long-established in Ian’s works, but no single mark has ever been identical. The marks have individual personas, some rather awkward-looking, some misfits, and well, a few of them, quite pretty. But whatever, whoever, Ian does not dismiss. He gathers them together, recognizes them for who they are. While some take center-stage and others, back-stage, they all have a part to play in the making of a picture. They’ve all come to stay.

And thus, the wonders of paint on humble sheets of paper! Through them, so many journeys we travel, so many stories to tell, so many feelings unraveled. And what visual delight are we succumbed to! Such treats are made more difficult to resist by Ian who is a master of his craft. He, being the master of his craft, not necessarily take over his knowledge. Rather, he lets non-predicament take wonder, and he himself marvels at what’s in store for him. And how he adores the wonder!

The ‘Error Hope Drawings’ is an expected surprise. How can one expect a surprise when it is a surprise? Well, it is much like a surprise awaited for. Such is the work methodology of Ian. While displaying stern discernment, Ian remains docile, allowing the nature of solvents and grounds speak for themselves.



“Error”, is an aesthetically interesting word. While looking like some numeric make-up “37707”  or something of such, it contains 3 “r”s  in this five-lettered word. On the philosophical front, it is a word that is much avoided, for there is simply no room for it in today’s society. Ian had started this series of drawings by typing the word “Error” on the paper surface, constantly erasing and re-typing it again.  In his paintings and drawings, where he had let errors and mistakes pronounce occupancy, was he reinstating the word further?

As the saying goes, “To err is human, to forgive, devine”, therefore hope. In this day in age, where perfection is craved, are we introducing more errors when we seek perfection?

Or, as Ian paints “This Ying Yang Sucks!  The Everyday World GO!”


based on Ian Woo’s solo exhibit “Error Hope Drawings”