The Paper Cage
My art is essentially about a mental struggle of being part of a global society. I use the trace of memory, handwritten text, paper cuttings with shadow, and music to create atmospheric and immersive installations to depict social alienation and vulnerability.
I am fascinated in anxiety and the vulnerability that comes with it, along with the psychology of emotion behind it. I like to trace it within the human mind and the idea of seeking resolution in relation to this anxiety. By focussing on the internalised view of the individual I use my art as a way to externalise insecurity, inadequacy, fear and anxiety and the feeling of being stagnant.
I expose a silent voice that adheres to an environment that will inevitably be either accepting or rejecting.
My ‘beautiful’ cages contain conflicts of comfort and despair, isolation and publicity. I expose the contradictions contained within them of self-protection as well as the need to escape; which encapsulates the complexity of the human social and psychological experience. I reveal individual microcosms that are formed to create safe havens, which are both comfortable and damaging.
I am interested in the basic need to belong and be accepted within a community and how certain people feel as if they are 'outsiders'. I look at why they would feel this way for I believe our society can rely too much on medication rather than counselling or therapy, which I believe to be vital. I also would like to tap into the more emotional side of ourselves, as a natural response to so much being intellectualised as well as the dominance of science and technology, that we lose something by doing this, a practicality and an intuition; which my hand generated work also reflects.
I like to look into the visual and verbal language of society and how there are residues of an authoritative history. The complexity of how we see ourselves in relation to the authority/ outside world and how restrictive this is when we try to integrate into a community. Symbols and words uphold levels of status that we must abide within our society.
I trace the residues of history that echo in our everyday surroundings and am especially fascinated by symbols and patterns that seem harmless on the surface, yet behind them preserve ideaologies of historical and powerful people, things that were designed to control the vision of the public (such as the immense columns in Greece that were created to express a male power and dominance, the perfection of the Holy Grail in Arthurian Legends and Court, the notion that men should rule and be exalted from religion, and Victorian furniture to teach femininity and discretion). All of which are everpresent today in our attitudes, views and ambitions.
My symbolic paper cages cannot physically entrap but instead represent a mental enclosure. It is an inflicted and oppressive space that draws boundaries of history, status, hierarchy, and separates the individual from 'the other', (therefore it is a social and man-made enclosure/ construction).
The cages are initially warm and domestic in style with the appearance of dressing screens, doll's houses, curtains and chandeliers, but when the viewer looks closely there is a darkness that lurks beneath; echoes and patterns of the past, exposing the contradictions within ourselves. A mish mash of Roman, Catholic, Victorian and oriental elements expose the rich depth of influences that dictate our choices and how we see things; to show how restrictive they are.
I hand cut the paper as a way to tell a story and to form an intimate relationship with my work. I like paper because of its fragility and how it can represent a barrier that is ephemeral yet concrete. I have always liked paper as well so it is an instinctive choice for me and I certainly make art first and foremost for myself.
I have a varied background in English, songwriting, performance, fashion design and children's book illustration. I am also British yet my heritage is Chinese. This eclectic mix structures my art, so the result is idiosyncratic, a hybrid of different mediums, as well as of different traditions.
In Chinese culture paper cutting was used as a decorative way of celebrating with words and symbolic images. They are linked with the tradition of Chinese philosophy and superstition. Many households had them in the past and still do today to bring the families luck and happiness. Traditionally carved wooden screens were used to hide private things such as the bed, mirroring the Chinese culture of modesty and lack of open expression. In British culture, the silouhette was very fashionable and a recognisable aesthetic that pointed towards the features of the face. This decoration was very much part of the social psyche.
My work is inevitably releasing and cathartic, and by depicting the feelings of segregation, inferiority, anxiety, fear and self-consciousness, I show how extreme trauma impedes growth; and how the the individual requires a healing process that manifests as a narrative. I naturally feel an affinity towards Frida Kahlo and Tracey Emin because their works contain a human need to express and release something within wanting to come out.
The audience is integral to the meaning of my installations that are experiential and relational. I use the universal language of emotion; which parallels my intuitive process. Although my work is individual, and I investigate the ideas of the public & private; it is essentially about communication and connection; a human need to be with the other.
My work centres on the idea of isolation and depression within a social setting and the psychological/ emotional impact this has upon the individual. I depict this as a limbo and a disharmonious existence. Although I use my art to face my own issues and process them, the viewers perspective and presence is vital to activate the feeling of the works.
I am inspired by my own personal experience, illness and close friends however I would say that my art is not so much about the specific issues and is more a general promotion of humanity and empathy, as well as the need to question our imposed surroundings and to seek personal resolutions.