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54x60.5cm, oil on canvas

I grew up in a shophouse where the entrance was sealed with a wide metal gate, made of dozens of tall, narrow, rectangular bars packed close together, painted silver, and joined by shorter criss-crossing bars of a similar metal. The gate opens at the centre with two handles, shaped like hollow ear-lobes of a big man. To open the gate, you have to hold it by the ear-lobes, and pull them apart with great strength. You know you’re opening the gate when it starts to grumbles with a loud clattery noise as the vertical bars are slapped together with force.

That was in the 1970s, and there were beggars on the streets. I didn’t know what poor meant, but I remembered wondering: why don’t they sleep at home?

I wanted to paint a beggar outside these gates, but something led me to paint the bars being pried apart with desperate force. Perhaps it’s the beggar, seeking not a coin, but a blanket, or a slice of bread.