Do art collectors look at art objects as conversation pieces or as sources of peaceful intimacy?
One of Ashley Yeo’s hand-cut pieces was sold to an art collector for USD 1,700.
The young artist engages the viewer through lightness. Drop of Light appears to be the favourite title for several of the artist’s artworks.
Her act of creation is a meditative process. The artist deleted her Facebook account already in 2012 to silence the overwhelming, shocking, instant news on social media.
Observing things more intimately.
Demanding attention from the viewer.
Asking for the slow and the quiet through quality in technique and small sizes.
Tempting us into pure creative flow thanks to her deep concentration.
These are Ashley Yeo’s art propositions.
Her artist hand makes a voyage in the now … that can last weeks or even half a year for 45cm-artwork.
Through geometrical interlace, freed empty space and flowing 3D articulations, Ashley navigates following her soul’s desire for delicate openings on paper.
“Spinning ethereal artwork from simple paper” is how the online magazine Coconuts Singapore felt wonderfully inspired to describe Ashley Yeo’s work.
I had the opportunity to interview the artist thanks to Mizuma Gallery Singapore. Mizuma Gallery organised collective and solo exhibitions showing her art work in Singapore: On/Out of Paper (2019) and Gentle Daylight (2020). In 2021, Ashley Yeo participated at the Grafunkt Art Market and showcased an intricate papercut on a solid walnut screen frame with Chengal wood feed.
While in the Western culture paper may be regarded as a support medium to organise an artist’s ideas on, Ashley Yeo likes to infuse Japanese philosophy and art in her paper-cut works. Making art of paper has a unique and charming valence because it involves versatility in mastering this independent art medium.
Roxana Florina Popa: Gentle Daylight is the energy embracing your art objects. If you were to choose a place with light for an outdoor exhibition, or for simply positioning the objects, what place and what time of the day would you feel as resonating with your paper lace? And, what other things could be seen through the empty spaces?
Ashley Yeo: I think dawn is a very soft time. Between blue and greys, I would say between 6:45 – 7 am, in Singapore, would be a time I feel motivated, comforted, or sometimes, dread as the light starts to come in. I think that time shows the softer side of things.
Roxana Florina Popa: What moved you towards making art of an ancient Chinese craft that is older than the invention of paper itself? Which is the bridge to and the message for our contemporary society?
Ashley Yeo: While it originated from the Chinese paper cutting, I think my context and application of paper cutting is quite different.
I’m drawn to making things that take time and patience, it is my way of dedication through craft. Alternatively a form of meditation, sometimes…not always… since it requires deep concentration.
Ultimately, when I make my works, they are built up from a sense of responding to what is happening currently, how I’m feeling and from considering what I like the viewer to experience from my work.
I make things that counter a kind of content that gives a lot of information, but no knowledge. I make works that are against things that demand attention, but are ultimately meaningless. However, everything is a social construct, so I say, take what you want to from my works as well.
Roxana Florina Popa: How many years have you been exercising to acquire the mastery of a sure, flawless and artistic paper cutting?
Ashley Yeo: I started cutting paper when I was 19. I’m 30 now. I won’t say my works are flawless, but I think the trace of the human hand is what makes craft attractive sometimes.
Roxana Florina Popa: Which is the story that you like pouring into crafting each of the paper-lace art objects?
Ashley Yeo: Openly, I take pride in my craft and I hope that the viewer would be able to share a certain intimacy with the objects as they observe and walk around them.
Roxana Florina Popa: When you are cutting up and removing the paper, do you feel like clarifying something inside yourself? What revelations or inspirations come up to the fore? Do you have the sensation of transcending the geometrical structures you are creating?
Ashley Yeo: Not really. I think it’s more of a type of meditation, or going into deep concentration when making the works. The works are all calculated and thought through beforehand, I don’t really garner new revelations of art from the works.
I make the works to create new experiences through the object—in the hope that they can generate new energies or a kind of resonance with the viewer… I wouldn’t say the objects transcend anything particularly.
Roxana Florina Popa: Some of your objects are rather small while the paper adds a precious vulnerability and lightness. Where do you think this vulnerability comes from: a threatening force outside or from the used materials themselves? What good traits and habits are your delicate and elegant art objects inviting us to practice?
Ashley Yeo: I would say, to live life kindly and slowly.
Roxana Florina Popa: Could you reveal more to us on the interplay between the fragility of paper and its strengthening by the applied geometric structures and the spaces? In particular, the piece “A Space in between Those Spaces” appears equilibrated by its in-between space and its reflection.
Also, many of the 3D objects seem to be floating. Are you more attracted to geometrical forms or to creating this floating-in-space effect?
Ashley Yeo: I think the floating aspect creates an attractive atmosphere for my work, and I’m interested in making works that suspend. I guess those are the kind of ideas that I daydream about. The paper objects are fragile, but they are stronger due to the geometrical structures.
Special Thanks go to the artist Ashley Yeo and to Theresia Irma, gallery manager at Mizuma Gallery Singapore
About the Artist
Ashley Yeo graduated with a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Arts London, Chelsea College of Arts, London UK in 2012 and a B.A. in Fine Arts from the LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore in 2011. She has participated in numerous exhibitions in Singapore, Japan, South Korea, United Kingdom and United States. Yeo was the first artist to be shortlisted for the LOEWE Craft Prize, London, UK in 2018. Revolving around themes of lightness and slowness, Yeo’s practice is built upon reflections on the accumulations of hedonistic culture and alludes to the soft and fragile. Her paper sculpture explore geometry, precision and the spiritual power of simple materials. She is currently interested in maintaining a relationship with nature. Ashley Yeo lives and lectures in Singapore at the LASALLE College of the Arts.
About Mizuma Gallery
Executive Director Sueo Mizuma established Mizuma Art Gallery in Tokyo in 1994. Since its opening in Gillman Barracks, Singapore in 2012, the gallery aims for the promotion of East Asian artists to the international art scene. From 2014 to 2019, the artist residency space “Rumah Kijang Mizuma” opened in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, to create a new platform for dialogue by supporting exchanges between East Asia and Southeast Asia.