1. Wu Yanrong (@wu.yanrong)
The artist/illustrator’s “look” of choice was Balenciaga’s monstrous swing coat made up of multiple outers that had been fused together, yet the result has a romantic painterly quality reminiscent of early 20th century fashion illustrations. Her raw, expressive strokes feel modern in their minimalism, but the 27-year-old admits to also being influenced by time-honoured crafts like East Asian calligraphy. “I like traditional mediums for their humanity and imperfection,” she says. “I’m most attracted to wet mediums (such as gouache) because of their unpredictability. I never know how a painting will turn out, and I don’t sketch before I paint because the lines are restrictive.”
It’s a technique that she’s refined over the years, and earned her commissions from brands ranging from Uniqlo to Hermes. The latter displayed her ocean-themed installation The Big Blue — co-created with Theseus Chan’s creative agency Work — in its windows at Takashimaya in 2016. While particularly relevant at a time when talk about nature and conservation is rife — even in fashion — sea animals have always been a personal obsession. (Her debut solo exhibition at the now defunct studio K+ last year was “Marine Fantastic: An Illustrated Introduction To Crustaceans”.) “When I discovered that we’ve only explored less than 5 per cent of the sea, it awakened my curiosity, and I ended up making a book about it for a school project,” she explains. “Since then, I’ve been researching and painting these amazing organisms that live in our oceans.” How she wants to evolve is equally forward-thinking and contrary to the millennial more-is-more culture: “(My work) used to be about capturing details. Now it’s about capturing essence; I’ll only paint what’s essential.”
2. Ripple Root (@rippleroot)
Call Liquan Liew, 32, and Estella Ng, 27, the “telepathic art twins” behind this three-year-old art and design collective quintessentially Gen Y. They work spontaneously and collaboratively, painting side by side, and are open to each other adding elements to what they have done. They embrace commercial work as much as their own artistic vision — their client list is a who’s who of the creative and lifestyle scene: Muji, Facebook, the National Gallery, and The Lo & Behold Group, just to name a few. (That psychedelic nature-inspired mural at the lobby of the Straits Clan? It’s by them.)
And while their love for Matisse, South-east Asian art and primitive folk patterns is apparent in their work, their frenetic lines, playfully abstract figures and bold use of colour lend an effervescent spirit that would make the Instagram-happy, well, very happy. “There’s always a tongue-in-cheek quality. Even when we make ‘serious’ art, we want the viewer to experience the same joy we encounter in the creation process. Art should be uplifting,” says Ng. Describing their aesthetic as “swamp life poetry”, they’re big on flora and fauna, which was why we thought it apt for them to interpret the botanical prints of (from left) Dior, Diane von Furstenberg and Dries van Noten. True to their whimsical nature, the duo — who are in talks with a Sydney-based institution for a show early next year — turned the runway models into birds. Says Liew: “Art/design doesn’t have to fit a set ideal or have a defined look. We like being fluid, and we go by our own rules.”
3. Allison M. Low (@allisonmlow)
The human figures in Low’s mixed media drawings are always very chic. (In her artwork above, they’re dressed in — from left — Coach, Miu Miu and Saint Laurent.) They can also be rather creepy, placing the 29-year-old — inadvertently or not — among the increasingly trendy league of young, wonderfully weird artists who dabble with the bizarre, and challenge notions of beauty. Take a close look at her fairy tale-like characters and you’ll realise something off about them, like the sinister side of Hans Christian Andersen (Google it) played up. Common threads throughout her surrealism-tinged oeuvre include disquieting juxtapositions of body proportions, human/animal hybrids and a red string wound ominously around these creatures.
“Surrealism allows me to address themes of (the self and human soul) because of (the movement’s) general disregard for ‘correctness’. It becomes a comfortable place for the ambiguous, the outlandish and the visceral,” she says. Etched with her sophisticated hand, it’s also naturally captivating. Following Oddlings, her first exhibition at The Substation in 2015, she was invited to show at the high-profile Airspace Projects gallery in Sydney. Last month, her works were displayed at the independent Keep Contemporary in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and will be in the spotlight again at a private showcase here this month. Alessandro Michele, call her already.
This story first appeared in Female’s October 2018 issue.