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Mui-Ling Teh

Art and Words from the Heart



A year went by in a single day

"A year went by in a single day" by Mui-Ling Teh


A year went by in a single day;
The snow fell and melted away.
As blossoms and leaves dropped like rain,
The world became covered in snow again.


In the dark, the air felt cold
But I could see the light beyond.
In the past I’ve been told
Toils will never be forever gone.
And thus I know that beyond that light,
There will be new challenges to face.
But for now I’ll enjoy the sight
And make the most out of today.

The first poem was written on Dec 11, 2012, the second one January 10, 2013.


During the period that I worked on My time is already running late I was very reflective; thinking back a lot about my most difficult days in 2010; and day by day I felt anxious… then one day, upon an incident, all the memories and emotions I had from that year rushed through me… overwhelmed me… to the point my hands kept shaking, and I kept feeling something like a panicking pulse beating under my eye… The following day I suddenly remembered how I overcame that darkness, and revived the desire to start pursuing my art again… on that day my memories of 2011 had me flowing with tears. Later I thought back on those two days, and thought to myself, I re-lived two years in two days…

Since then I was inspired to create a piece depicting a year passing by in a single day; and wrote the first poem on the night of December 11, 2012. I envisioned a powerfully visual scene changing from winter, to spring, to summer, to autumn, and back to winter again all at once, while daylight came and went during the passing hours of the day. The spectacular scene animated in my mind and I was very excited about it; but then I got busy with work… and then I became sick…

After I recovered I started brainstorming again, and found greater meaning to my world as I got a better look…


The image above was created by fusing several images of different seasons in Photoshop, and digitally painting the blossoms and the snow. The characters were drawn by hand then coloured digitally. The style was inspired the animated works of Makoto Shinkai (a student of Hayao Miyazaki); notably his film ‘5 Centimeters Per Second’ (秒速5センチメートル Byōsoku Go Senchimētoru) – a touching story animated with phenomenal lighting. But aside from the art, the film’s story also flashed back in my mind as I thought about my new idea.

The title ‘5 Centimeters Per Second’ refers to the speed at which the cherry blossom petals fall – which is also symbolic of the slowness of life (and more…). 5cm per second is mainly a love story but also touches on various other themes revolving around life as it attempted to present the world from a different perspective; giving a realistic view of the struggles many face against: such as time, space, people and love. But there also comes a time when we look back on everything that has happened, and even among our current struggles, we remember the most magical moments; just as we can reminisce of spring during a harsh winter; or remember the beauty of a sunset during a cloudy day. As we grow, time can feel like it is going by more quickly; and we can replay the events of our past, from our memories, more quickly than they originally happened. All the while, the world will look smaller to us as we grow and mature; our destinations feel closer…


In my work, the world has literally gotten smaller; and as this world completes its orbit around the sun more quickly; change arrives more quickly; the future becomes closer – the different seasons and different times of day happening on other faces of the planet are apart by shorter distances, hence visibly closer. In the artwork I present the day/year unfolding from the bottom to the top; a cold dark winter, during the earliest hours of day, turns into spring as the sun rises; which then turns into summer as the day gets warmer at noon. As evening falls, the autumn leaves compliment the sky, until the stars at night illuminate the next season of snow before the new day begins. In my artwork, two grown-up characters are walking along the path of time, and while their day/year has only begun, they can already see the next season ahead of them – a symbol of one having been through so many trials in their lives that they understand better what to expect in their path – they can see their future more easily.

Shinkai does not touch on the theme of the world looking smaller as we grow – or at least not directly. Often subjects in his films allude to something that may not be easy to catch the first time watching (e.g. slowly falling petals alluding to the slowness of life), but when reading about his works more, it makes greater sense. As I thought about the world getting smaller as we grow; I also thought back a lot on some of the spectacular scenes in ‘5cm per second’ – which I know are already significant in other ways. I saw the film in the fall of 2012 and fell madly in love with it; and while it was not the initial inspiration behind ‘A year went by in a single day’; after I started thinking about my new idea, I thought of Shinkai’s film a lot and started finding more meaning to it. Whether he had thought along the same lines as me is unknown, but it doesn’t stop me from admiring his work even more.



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