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Metamorphosis - Part I of the IGCSE Art Collection.

An art student's cluttered studio.

For the first part of the IGCSE Visual Art examination, we needed to produce 8 boards of development plus one final outcome on any particular theme. The art students could come up with their own theme, and I think I enjoyed this freedom a little bit too much. When I first began thinking about my coursework in the summer, I had a difficult time deciding on a theme. My imagination went wild, jumping from "Escapism" to "Melodrama", then to "Mythology" and "Euphoria"; I even considered the theme "Caffeine" - because, well, I loved drinking coffee at that time... But none of these ideas felt unique enough to me.

One afternoon when I was reading the ending of Kafka's Metamorphosis, a thought glistened in my mind - what if I create a coursework exploring the process of metamorphosis? This thought unlocked many other ideas. Metamorphosis means more than the life cycle of a caterpillar - it is change, not just physical but psychological, too. Metamorphosis is when Gregor transforms into a giant insect in the story, it is when one's dream shatters into disillusionment.

When you view my coursework, please keep in mind that the pieces are connected and are meant to be read as a whole - together they embody the journey of metamorphosis.

(slide for more!)


Aria: Metamorphosis of Flowers

16.5 x 23.4 inches, acrylic, watercolour, and graphite medium.

Have you ever watched a rose die?

Detail of the petals.

From a little bud, shy in her virescent skin, still reserved for the awaiting life; then one morning after a night of mizzle - you find in charming astonishment that the rose blooms ever so resplendently, with such vitality under the pink glow of the sun. Gleams of beauty in her nacreous dress, but just when you think that this will last forever - the rose’s glamorous pink blush fades. The petals are no longer smooth or lustrous, but instead wrinkled, dappled with worn yellow. I have watched a rose, watched it born and blossom and die. I have watched a rose’s metamorphosis.

Variation I: Physical Metamorphosis, Kafka's novella

16.5 x 23.4 inches, acrylic, watercolour, graphite, and Copic marker medium.
Hands reference.

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into an enormous insect.” – the opening line of Kafka’s work, bizarre and unnerving. This board is precisely inspired by this book. Here, I explore the physical metamorphosis like what Gregor experiences.

I think hands reveal a lot of things about their owners’ identity. I used pencil and watercolour to draw the hands, as I wanted to see which one would create a better effect. The result suggests to me that the pencil sketch works better, as it only focuses on the shades and details without driving the viewer’s attention to the colours. I added eerie elements that resembled the ideas of metamorphosis, such as cercus, hindleg, hairy skin, which also seems to be done better in pencil sketches. For the watercolour hand, I embedded an insect egg in the thenar which is colourfully painted to suggest the strangeness and eccentricity.

The colours used were mainly red, blue, and purple, which have a memorable visual effect. The colour purple is echoed in the background and in the roach. For me, purple is a colour symbolising mystery, the unknown, insinuating strangeness and uncanniness in nature. Throughout my coursework, the purple colour will be constantly entering your sight. It acts as an alarm reminding the viewers and the characters in the boards, that metamorphosis is always present.


The giant roach is painted using acrylic, the same medium as the faceless girl. However, the girl is painted with lighter acrylic, the texture is more watery and thin; in contrast to the roach in thick acrylic paints. This is to create an overwhelming effect that the girl is being engulfed by a force that is much more powerful than her. The girl is also facing the viewer, having her back against the roach, insinuating that she does not know what is happening to her, what is the mysterious and potent creature that is haunting her, but can only feel it exerting an unfathomable force upon her. I chose to veil the girl’s face because the unnerving effect to be created here depended on the overall atmosphere, and having a detailed expression would have weakened the desired ambience of horror, by shifting the viewer’s attention to her emotions.

Variation II: Psychological Metamorphosis Prelude

16.5 x 23.4 inches, acrylic, acrylic marker, and graphite medium.

Here, I played with colours a little bit. In the portrait, you can see the colours are exaggerated from the ones in the reference picture. This was inspired by Fauvism, originating from the French word ‘Fauves’, denoting ‘the wild beasts’. Fauvism paintings are emphasised by the strong colours over the realistic values, further development on top of the representation of Impressionism.

Variation III: Metamorphosis - The Journey of an Illusion

16.5 x 23.4 inches, watercolour, acrylic, and ballpoint pen medium, Adobe photoshop.

Illusion, an instance of a wrong, or misunderstood perception of reality, a specious deceiving vision that you breathe in.

Work in progress.

Eyes say a lot about one’s soul - if not then, thoughts. The faces are painted expressionless, without intense emotions attached to them - unlike the previous board. So the viewer is left with the question of, what is the girl feeling? We don’t yet know. You can say she’s lost - perhaps bewildered, perhaps confused, perhaps puzzled - in a world of her own, a world inside her mind known to her only. The reality around her does not matter, it starts to dissolve, disintegrate, as she falls into her realm. I tried out different ways to paint the eyes - using colour pencils, for instance. I used near-complementary colours to draw the pupils. On top of that, I also tried mirroring (double) pupils. This was meant to create a striking, with traces of uncanniness, visual effect. To further exaggerate the vision, I used Adobe Photoshop to apply the distortion effect onto the eyes then lifted the printed image onto the board. The blending looks better this way.

Celestial Eyes, The Great Gatsby

You might have found the colour scheme of this board familiar - it was inspired by the well-known cover of The Great Gatsby, ‘Celestial Eyes’. Part of the idea of ‘internal metamorphosis’ is also adopted from the book. Gatsby lived and loved his vision of Daisy, only to gradually realise, under the falling autumn leaves, that illusion was all it was.

In the art studio.

Chapter IV: The World of Illusion

16.5 x 23.4 inches, acrylic, graphite, and ballpoint pen medium,

Exploring the world of illusion, I abandoned the usual sinister atmosphere that was communicated in other boards and took on a more tender and beautiful mood. The ambience of this board is dream-like, mystical, surreal. The background is painted in softer colours - dark blue slowly transitioning to mauve, then to bright yellow. Wildflowers dappled and fireflies twinkled. The dark blue waves represent the night, a time when mysteries, enigma, and secrecy linger around the woods; when the Norse myths of the forest stags are told.

One sees the things she desires the most in her dreams. In this illusioned world, she sees herself becoming a stag - a symbol of grace and transcendence. The antlers of a stag shed and regrow every year, to become larger and stronger. Antlers emerge on top of her head, her ears sharpen, her skin takes on the colour of the night - just like how stags blend themselves into the dark woods. A single thread is what holds this beautiful illusion together.

Chapter V: Something Is Missing in This World.

16.5 x 23.4 inches, acrylic and graphite medium, collage.

In the vast beauty, she notices something. Perhaps she has stepped on sere fallen foliages that give a cry and make her realise something is quite missing. The world outside begins to engulf her vision - you can see the purple around the edges, a colour I keep using throughout the boards which embodies the army of disillusionment. It’s always present - sometimes veiled, sometimes visible only a small lump, sometimes it spills across the entire paper - never absent.

One cozy afternoon with art.

In this portrait, I painted using small blocks of colours. A selection of pastel colours was used with the aim to draw out the fragility of the girl. The face was stick onto pages from a book - I liked the visual effect created by the layers of paper with texts. The acrylic painted in the middle of the pages also convey a sense of depth. I experimented with paper tapes to stick parts of the girl’s face on the board. Compared to the string used in the previous board, tapes have a much greater ability in keeping things together - which is a way of suggesting the growing force required to preserve this illusion, as the multitude of disillusionment grows. However, the outcome delivers much less impact from the expected result. The tapes do not seem to be finely embedded in the painting, therefore I decided not to continue this idea in the later boards.

You can see two different orientations of portrait fragments. The first one (bottom-left) is uniformly fragmented; the second one (top-right) is more free-style. I like the latter better because it seems to better present the theme of disillusionment in metamorphosis.

Variation VI: The Army of Disillusionment (Part II)

16.5 x 23.4 inches, acrylic and graphite medium.
Artist inspiration: Cover of The Lottery and Other Stories

Finally, disillusionment comes crashing down the fortress of illusion. Giant insects crawl around the disenchanted world, preying on the tremendously crestfallen girl. She realises, like Gatsby once did in his blue garden, her dream that seemed so close, so beautifully real that she could hardly fail to grasp, was already lost long behind her. So she breaks, like a teacup dropped onto the cold floor by an appalled hand, shattering into pieces.

Variation VII: The Army of Disillusionment (Part II)

16.5 x 23.4 inches, water-based oil paint medium.

Work in progress.

In this final board of my coursework, I further experimented the fragmentation style which embodied the result of metamorphosis. Compared to the previous board, much more colours are seen here. The fragmentation takes on a more 3-dimensional appearance, in contrast to the plane sketch in board 7. I think this way, it builds a more memorable visual effect which I want to have for my final piece. In the background and between the fragments, I inserted the purple roach element and yellow flowers. The enormous roach, as mentioned previously, embodies the force of metamorphosis, is now not only in the background affecting the girl but a part of her broken body. Instead of strings ‘connecting’ the fragments, it is now the purple roach in between. The yellow flowers are taken from the first board (where I examined the metamorphosis in rose) and board 5 (where I painted the world of illusion). These represent the first and the beautiful - although illusioned - stage of metamorphosis, serving as a contrast to the rest of the artwork which is the disillusioned and ghastly result of it.

Artist inspiration: Aykut Aydogdu

Aria (Final Outcome): Metamorphosis, the End.

16.5 x 23.4 inches, acrylic and water-based oil paint medium.

The End.


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