The Blueprint is The Oxford Blue’s arts publication. It showcases creative work in a range of artistic media, providing a space to share thoughts, stories and personal experiences.

Issue No. 7—Reflection

We are way less often deceived by looks than we are by the act of looking.

Mokokoma Mokhonoan

In the third instalment of our senses-inspired series we explore the vibrant world of sight and reflection. Artists from across Oxford have come together to explore distortion, self-hood and portray their own personal view of the world.

Featured Artist: Aiden Tsen

Pagoda – Aiden Tsen

Your classical water reflection drawing, with an Asian twist to reflect my ethnicity and heritage as a British Born Chinese person. When all this is over, I want to take a break from grey England for red East Asia, where eating with chopsticks isn’t weird and people don’t automatically hate you for being Asian.

Unexpected Glimpses – Luke Bateman
Illustrations by Aiden Tsen
I aim to grow so comfortable
In myself that should I catch my reflection
I will mistake it for art to be interpreted,
Not a self to be preserved.
I will thank the mirror for each fresh discovery,
Recalling as a child the astonishment 
I felt when I learnt a ‘looking glass’ was a mirror,
Not a synonym for magnifying glass. 

Reflection cave – Aiden Tsen

I’ve loved Pokémon since I was 6 – it’s the basis for my Instagram art account and the reason I started drawing again in December, so I had to find a way to include it in this anthology! In one of the games, there’s a place called ‘Reflection Cave’, which I thought was perfect. I really loved experimenting with bright neon colours and different digital brushes as normally I use soft pastel colours. It’s fitting: Pokémon has always brought light into my life, including in my darkest moments.

Teatime – Jessye Phillips

I made this to channel frustrations I had about how femme bodies are perceived and sexualised against our will. These tie to the discussion about whether it is possible to present your body how you wish to, without catering to the male gaze. Is appealing to those hungry eyes, consciously or unconsciously, inherently anti-feminist, or just human? How often is doing so or not doing so a mode of survival as opposed to a true choice? Would it even be desirable to escape a gaze which many feel paradoxically both validated and trapped by? 

Reflection to the Past – Aiden Tsen

Through drawing and writing, I’ve been able to reflect on my struggles growing up. People have called and continue to call me mature, which I think is a mistake: my ‘maturity’ is the distorted reflection of the darkness inside me. I can’t honestly say I’m glad things turned out this way. However, if it meant an alternate version of me didn’t have to suffer, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

Blues and greens and everything in between – Emily Broughton
I asked her what colour she saw
And held it in the light.
The colour of clear skies
And my deep eyes
She replied.
I could not see the same.
The base of a dandelion stem,
Shadowed shades of layered leaves,
Healthy food and childhood dreams
Were in my deep eyes.
She replied,
She could not see the same.
A tinted world,
A million colours.
I will never see through her eyes.

Sculptures by Ashley Cluer

‘Untitled’ (2020)
‘Back Again’ (2020)

Reflection to the Future – Aiden Tsen

After drawing the piece on reflecting on the past, my mother asked me if reflection could extend to the future, specifically asking if there are material things I want or places I want to go to. There are, but both are a far second to the kind of future I want: one that we can be proud of. One where people don’t have to suffer for the simple sin of being born into this world. One that’s better for someone like me.

Photo Series by Niamh McBratney

Visual snow – Aiden Tsen
“Visual snow
Have you ever heard of it?”
Outside it neither rains nor snows
Inside my eyes is a snowstorm.
“Visual snow?”
You’ve never heard of it.
Outside it neither rains nor snows
Inside you think I’m a weirdo.
This is exactly
What I feared.
This is exactly
How I realised I was weird.
I used to never
Look people in the eyes.
They say “Eyes are the window to the soul.”
Your souls blaze so brightly
I have to avert my gaze.
You thought that I didn’t care,
Wasn’t paying attention.
I still never
Look people in the eyes:
Yet I look between their eyebrows
For you.
The Day
I got my purple lenses
Changed my life.
Goodbye to
Visual snow,
To being (a bit of) a weirdo...
...In public. In private
Outside it neither rains nor snows, yet
Inside my eyes I like to watch the fall of
Visual snow.

Aiden Tsen – Cherry Blossoms

When I was a child, there were cherry blossom trees on the way to school. Although I don’t live in the same house and it’s out of my way to go there, it’s never springtime for me until I go there and see the cherry blossoms in bloom each year.

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Curated and edited by Emily Broughton and Yundi Li