The otherworldly microcosms encapsulated in Shen’s paintings are comfortingly relatable, depicting communal areas such as void decks and HDB corridors in a lush colour palette meant to encourage discussion.
“The spaces that I create are welcoming to an extent to symbolise the physical security that we feel as well as the possibility of achieving certain ideals of happiness,” she explains.
Spot the neon yellow lines and accents that are a recurrent motif in her recent works – inspired by signs such as those used to demarcate smoking areas – and the work takes on a darker meaning.
Visual artist Shen likes to involve familiar, communal settings in her work to reach as many people as possible and have them question the conditioning that comes with routine.
“I liken them to a sort of willing containment; a choice that many have taken in order to protect what they consider familiar and comfortable,” she explains.
“Marginalised communities however can have a hard time surfacing their needs and issues, and there always seems to be pushback against new possibilities because of these internalised comfort zones.”
The 31-year-old has fought to renounce her own comfort zones – her personal financial situation saw her turn to teaching for the past eight years. It was only last year that she decided to pursue her original goal of becoming a full-time artist.
It’s one that’s paid off: She staged her first solo show at Coda Culture last September and has another in March at Cuturi Gallery. The latter’s focus is another topic Singaporeans would be familiar with: how fast-paced changes affect our lived experiences.