O Lucky Man!

Born lucky, or creating your own luck.

Lucky charms. Lucky in love. Lucky to be beautiful. Lucky to be wealthy. Lucky to be alive.

The swirling curves of tapering circles draw you in, leading your eyes to a hypnotic focal point. A young girl vacantly stands out from a crowd. A horse runs swiftly. A woman finds $50 on the ground – or is she being given this sum from an unknown source? The Terracotta Army bravely protected the mausoleum of the First Emperor of Qin, but now stare blankly ahead. An empty bed duels with an injured llama, taking cue from a scene from the film O Lucky Man! in which this series was inspired from.

O Lucky Man! is a series of photo-based cut-outs that delve into varying ideas of what constitutes ‘luck.’ Utilizing two shades of gray paper, and one sheet of black paper, I overlay the sheets and hand cut details out from the papers to create an image that resembles a black and white photograph. In tune with the aesthetic of my medium, my theme of ‘luck’ forays into the many layers of the human heart and of human thought.

My desire to understand ‘luck’ stems to when I was a child and used to wish that I was a boy. I used to believe that it was my bad luck that made me a girl. The traditional Chinese opinion that boys are considered good luck, and girls are considered of lesser value, was also familiar territory. As I grew up, I slowly began to appreciate being a woman. Yet, I continue to find that society has its concerns focused on favouring the male species. From the back of Toronto’s Eye Weekly and NOW Magazine with their extensive pages on female escorts, to even cosmetic surgery, wherein a woman’s self-esteem may be raised with false pretenses of physical beauty, the ultimate purpose has been to appeal to or to appease males.

In addition, I would like to examine the relationship between luck and love. Finding money on the ground is considered lucky, but how about finding true love? Where does the saying ‘getting lucky’ fit in? What about the concepts that surround faith and luck, does having faith bring good luck?

“Unknown Uncle” is a family portrait that I have recreated from a photograph found in my grandfather’s photo album. The title refers to the fact that I never met my young uncle, because he was randomly stabbed in his early twenties, and died in my father’s arms. The alternate title for this piece is: “before our luck ran out…”

O Lucky Man! is intended to stimulate our common understanding of what we consider important or fortunate/unfortunate. Often, we do not appreciate what we have that is ‘lucky’ until we are faced with something that is ‘unlucky.’ The immense attentiveness involved in the paper-cutting process also works in tandem with my theme to comment on latent inclinations and the existence of a certain obsessive melancholy.

Joyce Lau (December 2009,edited October 2010)