Mind Labour by Mui-Ling Teh

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Physical work may strain my behind
But the heavier labour is in my mind
But the cow stays strong pulling carts all day
I too will get through; I will find my way

Back in 2009, during the period of my internship in London, UK, I watched a series of performances at Trafalgar Square on Chinese New Year. In the opening, the hosts welcomed the Year of the Ox. As that was a period after the recession began, the hosts talked about how the ox is a strong animal that endures hardship, and that during this difficult period we too have to be strong. Although our hardship is perhaps more commonly in the mind while the cow endures physical labour – hence I use the pencil to represent the labour and hardship in the mind.

As the idea came up in my head, I thought it would look like the sculpture just outside of the Pantheon in Rome, Italy. The statue, designed by the Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini (and carried out by his pupil Ercole Ferrata in 1667) is called Pulcino della Minerva (Minerva’s Pulcino), which features an elephant carrying an obelisk on its back:

Coincidentally enough, Alexander VII, who commissioned the sculpture, was thinking along the same lines as me – the Latin inscription on the base of the sculpture is said to represent that “..a strong mind is needed to support a solid knowledge”. (source: Wikipedia) – I was in Rome just before the London internship and have seen this in person.

For a better idea of scale

Cow was folded from a 15×15mm piece of paper. Pencil is taped to a piece of foam core with the cow tucked underneath it as it would’ve been physically impossible to balance a pencil on the cow. And yes I did use that pencil right to the end; it is the same one I drew for Drawing Day 2008

Taken with a Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS on macro mode; natural lighting.

559 views as of June 24, 2012

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My art and writing do not belong to the public domain. Materials may not be reproduced, uploaded, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, copied, edited or published in any form or by any means without my permission. Any site using my images against my conditions have not sought proper permission and should be reported or brought to my attention immediately.



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Mui-Ling Teh – Art and Words from the Heart

© Copyright Mui-Ling Teh. All rights reserved. My art and writing do not belong to the public domain. Materials may not be reproduced, uploaded, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, copied, edited or published in any form or by any means without my written permission.

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  • ArtChances
    ArtChancesabout 2 years ago

    So different but thats what makes it stand out,awsome job Mui-Ling .Love it:) hugs

  • Aww, thank you Thelma!

    – Mui-Ling Teh

  • Mui-Ling Teh
    Mui-Ling Tehabout 2 years ago

  • Why can’t I ‘Like’ this piece? I’m only having the problem with this piece right now…

    – Mui-Ling Teh

  • George Parapadakis (monocotylidono)
    George Parapad...about 2 years ago


  • Jonathan  Green
    Jonathan Greenabout 2 years ago

    Awesome Artwork : ))

  • Thank you! : ))

    – Mui-Ling Teh

  • Hugh Fathers
    Hugh Fathersabout 2 years ago

    Awesome work and a great concept . . .

  • Many thanks Hugh. I have to say, labour on the mind is rather tiring… I’m actually feeling kind of tired right now; too many thoughts and ideas flowing. I’ll have to take a rest me thinks…

    – Mui-Ling Teh

  • © Helen Chierego
    © Helen Chieregoabout 2 years ago

    Mui-Ling, I love your description of your thought processes when creating Mind Labour!

  • Thank you so much Helen. Some of my facebook fanpage followers are quite perceptive too though; yesterday received a comment on the photo I posted of the scale reference – it was more on the line of physical health but it was pretty insightful. I’ve had a LOT to say in response to that!

    – Mui-Ling Teh

  • cherylc1
    cherylc1about 2 years ago


  • Thank you so much Cheryl!!!! xxx

    – Mui-Ling Teh

  • © Karin  Taylor
    © Karin Taylorabout 2 years ago

    You have a brilliant mind that is always searching and coming up with fascinating and meaningful observations Mui-Ling…indeed I think you are a philosopher…. I love the way you come across things and apply them to yourself, your thinking, your life, and then to your creativity….this is what creative living is all about….and you do it so beautifully. You leave me with much to think over and inspire me. This is fantastic!! Thank you so much for continuing to share your creative journey. It’s deeply meaningful xox…. even down to the pencil, which you used completely….which now takes on a whole new significance because of it’s previous life and how you’ve recycled it, it now has a new purpose and representation.

  • Ah Karin, it is so wonderful to read your insight :) I was feeling rather tired just now, and got off the computer – labour on the mind is tiring indeed; too many thoughts and ideas flowing (although I did do a bit of physical labour today too). But all that said it is hard to sleep because I am too excited.

    And your observation on the pencil is an interesting one – there, standing like an obelisk; the obelisk too is essentially recycled. The obelisk used in the Pulcino della Minerva was one found in the Dominicans’ garden; it was one of a pair originally from Sais. There are a number of obelisks all around Rome; many of them originally from Egypt. There are so many that were originally on one place or got buried and then re-erected to new locations.

    – Mui-Ling Teh

  • © Karin  Taylor
    © Karin Taylorabout 2 years ago

    wow I didn’t know that (about the obelisks)…wow again :) x

  • Gwoeii
    Gwoeiiabout 2 years ago

    Wah! Really cool! It’s so abstract :) ok, there is no such description as “so abstract”!

    Your miniature work is fantastic.

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