Her exquisitely pencilled works first draw admiration for its technical artistry, then curiousity for its quirky content, and finally serendipitous delight for its statement. Su-en’s work is one not-to-miss.

Artist Wong Su En Pencils

Su-en held her first solo exhibition in Singapore at the age of 14, and she moved to the US at 16 to continue her studies. 

You draw yourself in a very unflattering manner. Is that simply a lack of vanity, a deprecating sense of humour, or a bold statement about how one sees her place in society?  “I don’t deliberately draw myself in an unflattering manner. I also don’t attempt to achieve exact representation. I like the co-existence and flux between the true self and the generic self, so often I don’t consider that I am making an image of myself. When I am working on the figures, I don’t refer to them as myself, but rather as ‘the girls’!”

Artist Tan Su En Artstage 2

DH-1, Girls with Hearts, 2009. At an early age, she came under the tutelage of Liu Kang, one of Singapore’s pioneer artists.

Your work is like the ultimate selfie. Discuss!  “I am incredibly averse to selfies! I don’t take them and definitely would not put them up on websites! Even though my work utilises the self, I am in fact a very private person. I think of my work as an inquiry into many things involving the self – socialization, identity, culture, gender – and not as much about the portrayal of the physical self.”

Artist Tan Su En Artstage

 DH-5 Dolly and Friends, 2009

Why pencils and not other materials? Does its primitivism reflect your childhood, remind you of something?  I adore pencils for many reasons, firstly yes because I did use them all through my childhood and so have the added pleasure of nostalgia when working with them. I also love the idea of using very basic materials to make monumental works. The strokes are small when you work in coloured pencil, and it takes millions of strokes to make a large work.

Artist Tan Su En Artstage 1

DH-7, Pandas in Display Case, 2009

What did you learn outside of art school that has helped your work, either as a person or as a draftswoman?  “Just about everything outside of art school has informed my work – life itself. Typically, my ideas have stemmed from little seeds of experience in every day life. The rich experience of living in New York has likely helped my work most, if only because it has made me resilient and has made me maintain my sense of humour!”

Artist Tan Su En Artstage 3

Su-en: “My 5-year old son looked at this work and said, ‘But Mama you said NO guns allowed!'”

A lot of your work reminds me of people/gangs hunting in packs, whether innocently or nefariously. What exactly is it you’re looking for?  “My girls are my posse! Ultimately they are looking for a place to simply be.”
More on Su-en on her site