Dreaming of Ocean Liners…


When the sirens screamed in London during the Second World War, we headed underground for the deep shelters to avoid German bombs. To escape the dangers in 1944, my father sent me as a 3 year old child to live with a carpenter in the countryside until the end of the war.

The carpenter had a hobby of making model ocean liners. One of them, a majestically long vessel filled his small parlour. When he carved the complex wood pieces, I crouched beside the liner and rolled marbles along the enclosed decks and into the maze of its inner chambers. Mr. Page and his wife were a childless couple and became very attached to me. When my parents came to collect me at the end of the war, Mrs Page was devastated and had a nervous breakdown.

In 1964, I immigrated to Mexico after receiving an architecture degree cum laude in London from the Architectural Association. For the next sixteen years I designed department stores, schools and homes and produced low-cost furniture. My architectural models were important for clients to decide whether to make the projects possible.

In Mexico I used to paint and had exhibitions, but I found that wood does not answer back in the way canvas does. Canvas loses its life very easily. You can work on wood indefinitely, strip it down and start all over again.

Fifty eight years later in California, that model wartime liner is still there to haunt my art.


© copyright Po Shun Leong