Shayne Phua Shi Ying’s debut solo show at Coda Culture gallery last October was titled Sehnsucht, a German expression that roughly translates to a deep feeling of yearning or missing someone or something, coupled with a desire for alternative experiences. Traces of such nostalgia can be found throughout her work.
For example, her sculptures are formed using vintage moulds – the kind used to make pastries. Collecting them remind her of her grandmother who brought her up, says the 23-year-old.
Shayne Phua Shi Ying
They also often sport Chinese symbolism as a nod to her family, who practises Taoism and Buddhism. “As we move towards science, logic and reason and cast spirituality aside, we run the risk of losing the wisdom of traditional practices,” she says. “Mysticism in moderation can teach us humility.”
“My works have to do with the idea of functionality, and the symbols and meanings of shapes and forms [but] I’m all for variability, flexibility and plurality… I believe people contain multitudes, and inconsistency should not be stigmatised – at least not in art.”Shayne Phua Shi Ying
The final-year student from the Glasgow School of Art certainly fits right into the Slow Movement camp. Each of her pieces can take over a month to complete and calls for up to three rounds of firing – all to create their lustrous hues and whimsical shapes and details that are her way of reacting against the minimalism trend.
Pictured above: Her 2018 sculpture U+1F595 Talisman, which was inspired by the folklore of the ancient skilled exorcist, Shi Gan Dang, from Tai Shan Mountain in Shandong, China.
To think her earliest works were mostly in black and white. Of this phase, Phua says: “Most of the objects I encounter every day are quite flat, clean, machine-made and devoid of excessive colour, and that subconsciously influenced my idea of beauty – that beauty meant something pure.”
Her evolution since has only proven that wrong: Most of her works from the Coda show sold out and Phua recently took part in a group show at Grafunkt at Funan Mall as part of the recent Singapore Art Week.
Below, a condensed interview with the artist.