Charis Loke (b.1991) is a Malaysian illustrator and educator from Penang that will be joining us for April and May. Drawing upon literature and visual culture, she makes pictures that evoke wonder and curiosity, depicting fictional worlds and current issues with a deft combination of traditional and digital media. She is interested in the relationships between word and image as well as how images communicate, enhance, and subvert narratives.
As an illustrator working in imaginative realism, I have long been aware of the lack of Southeast Asian representation in mainstream science fiction and fantasy, despite the richness of the region’s history and myth. And yet: given that so much imagery in SF&F is based on Western symbols and iconography, how can one make genre art without relying on those tropes? How might we use influences from other cultures in an engaged, respectful manner? How does one deal with the danger of falling into an Orientalist mode of seeing, of exoticising foreign, unfamiliar things?
Beginning from October 2018, Charis has grappled with those questions in the form of a project named Kejora: sketches, stories, and characters from where the stars meet the sea and wandering roots run deep. It is fantasy inspired by the confluence of cultures in contemporary Southeast Asia and informed by current issues. Exploring themes like the resonance and dissonance of characters with their communities and what it means to feel at home, Charis will continue to further develop some of those sketches and vignettes into fully realised paintings during her two-month stay here in Rimbun Dahan.
You can find more of her work on her website here.