© 2019 chloe wing sam chow. UAL 

    Paper Cages 

Pillars tower above us, looming and great. 

Flowers wind around the curly casement gates. 

Delicate and gentle, pretty, but strong. 

We sew even deeper into this cloth.

We smile and enjoy

the leisure it brings

but this gift was given to us

It did not come from each's within...

 

 

I am a light and shadow paper cutting artist and songwriter who makes immersive installations. I refer to my artworks as cages because they are all subjective psychological spaces that represent the microcosm of the mind. There is a conflict lurking within my decorative cuttings between comfort and anxiety.

 

My works are about mental and emotional health and stem from myself and the experiences of people I know, who struggle with alienation, depression, illness and lack of autonomy. I strip away labels, identity and appearances to highlight ideas and thoughts, and by doing so expose fundamental human emotions.

 

My installations are cathartic and expressive and are filled with melancholy and procrastination, yet also enjoyment and idiosyncrasy. Art for me, has been a way of articulating a voice, concerns, frustration and unease, as well as a way of processing and analysing traumas; to communicate things that I feel are too difficult in my everyday life. I hand cut cotton paper to have a close and confessional relationship with what I do. Rather like sewing a quilt at home it reflects a storytelling within a private domestic setting. 

 

Emotions are not expressed openly in society as they are deemed frivolous and wild, yet they significantly inform everything we do.  Emotions and insecurity combined can reveal a great deal not only about the individual and their status, but also tell us about the world around them. I look at how emotions embed trauma into the unconscious leading to chronic psychological damage. I also focus on psychosocial and phenomenological aspects of the individual’s experience and consciousness, and link all this with the need to belong within a group.

 

My cages exude the striving of connection, empathy and communication yet they are very much segregated and stagnant prisons that contain a narrative; one that yearns for movement. At first glance they are decorative pieces but in their intricacy belies a dark and painful content. These cages are safe havens for the isolated individual that contain a preserved and haunting past. They are filled with longing, unfulfillment and self-protection from a threatening and authoritarian world.

 

I am fascinated in recognised social hierarchies and their relationship to feelings of inadequacy and inferiority, whether it is the status of gender, identity, culture, aesthetics, class, materialism, achievement, religion and etc. We judge ourselves against what is deemed good and acceptable as opposed to what is deemed bad or wrong. But where and why did these rules of living originate? 

 

Social patterns permeate within the psyche, they calculate and regulate, and we compare with and measure ourselves against them. They teach us to dislike certain things about ourselves that do not meet up to established expectations, ideals, and standards. We like them as they seem attractive, familiar and harmless, yet they can undermine and oppress us by putting us in a weaker and lowly state of mind. We revere and look up to them and we aspire to achieve them, therefore we are beneath them.

 

These patterns also chronicle how history has shaped our society and thinking. In what way is what we think nature, nurture or both? Many issues of social isolation are a byproduct of these evolving social norms and the status of patterns is a huge part of this. They have been used religiously, culturally and superstitiously to control, tame, overwhelm, demean and delight the receiver. Whether it is decoration, architecture, awards, trends, language, behaviour etc, they can have harmful implications on the individual who navigates in life to seek their self-worth and esteem. Society insists that we must define ourselves in relation to these categories to belong within a community. The issue with patterns is that they suggest uniformity, hinder expression and inclusion as well as depict the world as a fixed place, when it is not. 

I'm really interested in the inadequacy of language and how it can express hierarchy and impose limited ideas. Language is so indicative of society and it's structures and ideas and how these ideas are passed down through the language we preserve, learn and use. I also feel that language has failed me in many ways as I feel excluded from it and do not fully relate to it in the sense of how it describes me and my experience. So that in many ways I feel segregated, self-conscious, misunderstood and non-existent.

We quite readily look to the outside world for answers, validation and acceptance, but each person has such personal needs and ways of being that the only way to really get these things is to give the acceptance to ourselves. However society educates us to follow rather than to be intuitive and assert our own ideas. It is this reconnecting with one's instinct that is so important for self-esteem. That is why I point towards the psychology to gain some real understanding and to make sense of the individual in a world obsessed with materialism, outside opinion and reputation. How trauma can be a negative driving force when we are not aware of it.

 

My installations are relational as the space interacts with each artwork and the audience. Boundaries are drawn between the inside and outside, private and public, mental and physical, the individual and the other. I wish to depict the vast divide and relationship between the individual and their community.

 

I look at how we can relate on a humane and human level more, by bringing to the fore feelings rather than surface and social judgments. I take away specific identities and circumstances, so that what is left is emotion and thoughts, that can be often cruel and tortured. 

 

Although my work is about specific people it is really about how we can all suffer and feel hurt by others. What happens when we see words like “wrong”, ‘Good girl”, ”bad boy” “should”, “ugly”, “they don't know me yet they hurt me” or even “weird”? What impact does language have on how we feel without thinking about the specific identities that these words were aimed at? In this instance we are made to look at the universal experience of language and interactions and think about the world that created them.

 

I believe that good mental and emotional health leads to a better physical health. When conventional medicine could not help me I embarked on this path to heal myself, but I did not realise it would impact every part of my life. What started as a search for wellbeing ended up being a search for the roots of my issues and a deeper all-round contentment. Essentially through art I seek resolve and peace where there is no resolve, peace or a cure in real life...