SINCE WINNING an Oscar for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, costume designer and art director Tim Yip Kam-tim has branched out into new art forms. Two new books, Blue and Illusion, are evidence of his talent for writing, photography and design. Yip's first two books, Flower of the Wind and Circulation, published in 2002 and 2003, were just as eclectic and also brought a design sensibility to prose. His writing is full of images, a strong sense of colour and vivid moods. But whereas the first two books focused on childhood reminiscence and coming-of-age experience, the new releases look at the metaphysical. Blue, the more personal of the two books, explores Yip's spiritual journey. 'This book is about depression,' he says in Taipei's Wind restaurant. 'It's dreamy. It's about the buried past. I use the process of writing to balance my emotions, my inner life.' Dressed in his trademark black baseball cap, dark trousers and white linen Tang dress, Yip, 42, presents an easygoing counterpoint to his lavish, extravagant and outlandish art. After years of celebrity, he's taciturn, even shy. 'Some of [my writing] may not be that easy to understand. But they are my inner thoughts and reflection of me.' 'Blue covers the period of my last days in Taiwan and the past year in China shooting Chen Kaige's The Promise. I was in a moody phase. Many things weren't going smoothly at the time. It was a depression. I was sleeping two hours a day.' Blue is an extravagantly designed, oversized book comprised of papers made of different materials and even fold-out pages that convey different moods. The predominant colour is blue: blue lighted streets, mountains, lawns and sky. 'Blue is the realm of imagination,' Yip writes. 'It's the colour of reality after [it's been] plastered by a coat of transparent colour. But sometimes, when you feel the colour blue, that is the original shape of the world's reality.' In person, Yip can be just as poetic, abstract and philosophical. 'I grew up enamored by the Surrealism movement,' he says. 'That's a world with images existing in your mind rather than seen by your eyes. Except for the natural landscape, this world as we know it is all created by human beings. This world we know is created according to our dreams, fantasies and desires.' The book is filled with such existential contemplation: 'Everything is transient - particularly those things held most dear. I wonder if it is only a fortunate few who experience those truly exceptional events fated to remain lucid amidst the otherwise nebulous memories. Or, perhaps, such emotions have no place in our existence. Colour is a subject on which I've been pondering lately. Where does it come from? How does it find its way to our eyes, and then filter into our conscience? How does colour evoke in us an emotional response?' Illusion is a collection of Yip's photos of women. 'This book is about love and desire,' he says. 'As a designer, I'm in a unique position of creating the ultimate beauty image for women. I'm interested in exploring what we want, desire and fantasise about in women and why.' He's worked with almost every major Chinese star of the past 30 years. Some of the most intriguing photos show them relaxing or off-guard. Joey Wong Cho-Yin, of A Chinese Ghost Story trilogy, is captured slouching over a table between a fashion shoot. Zhou Xun, of The Little Chinese Seamtress, is caught frolicking during a film production. Gong Li is photographed while a designer tussles with her hair. 'The process of putting on and taking off the makeup is the moment of a woman stepping into another persona,' Yip says. 'A woman in makeup exists in a state of being desired. It's an exploration of the conflict between fantasy and reality.' 'Professional actresses are a very interesting species. They rely on my means and methods to help them become other characters. At times, after I put the makeup on them and finish my design, I, myself, become enchanted by the power of their beauty. They also often discover other sides of their personalities that they didn't know existed before. 'My aesthetic sense is multi-faceted,' Yip says. 'It's ancient Chinese merging with modernity. It's a language in itself. I would say fine art is my favourite. Visual language is a religion. 'I try to bring fine art to the cinema. Fine art is borderless, essential and a must in life. Fine art allows one to express oneself, to find the outer forces and to find ways to express oneself.'