Love Letter to Art Collectors

I know I haven’t been diligent with the upkeep of my online artist journal but this was just too big a news for me to pass up unannounced.


Some of you know this, but for those of you who don’t, I’ve been struggling with something in my art career for a long time: selling my work. Many of my mentors, friends and colleagues in the art industry have assured me time and time again that it wasn’t my art. Maybe it was where I was showing my work, my marketing, or the time just hadn’t come, Australia didn’t have much of an art market, etc, etc. And indeed, several times I have had interested folks from the States inquire about my work but I think to a certain degree I did feel like it had to do with my work. Something about it was just not coming together. It wasn’t the form exactly, it just wasn’t coming to life like I hoped it would in my mind.


When I finally got my hands on some crystal glass, I knew I had found the final piece of the puzzle. The glass itself had a presence. It sung in the light in a way that resonated with the excited buzzing in my heart. James Thompson (of Blackwood Crystal Glass) had promised me beautiful crystals and he had delivered me magic to work with.

I was crying tears of happiness for days! I don’t think I’ve ever seen such beautiful glass in my life and kept asking myself why hadn’t I switched to crystal sooner!  Blackwood Crystal Glass is a local Australia made glass with James Thompson, an absolute master, the brilliant mind behind the creation of over 30 colours with rare earth minerals. An epic achievement!

I was crying tears of happiness for days! I don’t think I’ve ever seen such beautiful glass in my life and kept asking myself why hadn’t I switched to crystal sooner!

Blackwood Crystal Glass is a local Australia made glass with James Thompson, an absolute master, the brilliant mind behind the creation of over 30 colours with rare earth minerals. An epic achievement!

blackwood crystal glass


How do I describe the feeling of when I first opened the buckets of crystals and felt them glow in my hands? How do I describe the first time I cast an artwork and the feeling when the investment mould just fell off the glass so clean and perfect? Does it feel like an exaggeration to say that in that moment I felt my life change? Because it does not feel like an exaggeration to me.


Because every work that came after has been a dream. The visions in my mind manifesting before my eyes. (Mind you, I still have a long way to go but-) I was finally, FINALLY creating artwork I was proud of. And that made me confident about my work. I loved what I was making. So I kept going, savouring this new power.


I haven’t had the chance yet to exhibit many of my new crystal creations, only twice so far. The first glimpse of the crystal ballet slipper Persistence VII showed for a brief period at Summer Sojourn (an Art Atrium event) at the the end of last year. And the second and latest time was in Melbourne at the Vitreous Exhibition (as a part of the Herring Island Summer Arts Festival with the Contemporary Arts Society of Victoria). It was there that came the second life changing moment I am going to mention in this entry.


It was where I sold my first serious artwork. Someone fell in love with my vision enough to buy it. Someone saw enough value in my craft to fork over their own hard earn money for it. 194 (wo)man hours. 3 years of imagining went into that artwork. It was worth every dollar I had set as the price. Some would even say more would be fair but I figured I was just starting out.


This was just enough that I wouldn’t feel insulted for my blood, sweat and tears. Because how many nights have I lain wide awake anxious about what was going on in the kiln, how many times have I had to restart over, how many issues have I had at each step of the process be it clay, silicone, wax, moulds, casting or polishing? Countless trials and errors. How many nights have I questioned how long I could keep on this path as an artist putting in all this work with no return other than words of assurance?


But I could only look forward, not because I couldn’t take any other pathway in life but I felt like this was the one I was supposed to be on. That it was mine.


But what was abstract feeling in the face of cold logic? What was stubborn hard work and insistence that this was what I was meant to do in the face of a thousand criticisms from friends, family, strangers on the street even, in the concern and doubt they showed for my future. This is the pressure every artist goes through. The world seemed to have presented us with this passion and then turned its back on us by having everyone ask in one way or another what exactly were we doing?


Can you imagine the frustration?


Can you imagine the helplessness in the face of all this concern?


Because it was true. It felt true. Why was I working so hard? How could an artist continue being an artist under all this pressure?


But I was fortunate.


I was lucky because I was in a studio full of supportive artists who knew what I was going through, who had been where I was at and I will never forget what Kate Banazi told me.

“The Artists who make it are the Artists who last.”

The artists who kept going.


I never forgot that. I will never forget that.

Head Case I Cast Glass Sculpture Nancy Yu NC Qin
Head Case I Crystal Sculpture Helmet Nancy Yu NC Qin


So when I got that call asking me about my artwork Head Case I, just when I arrived in Melbourne to collect my work personally for de-install on Sunday, 17th of March 2019, something settled in me.


This was something solid I could grasp onto.


And maybe you won’t know how much it means to me and to all artists, but art collectors are so special. Because when they buy an artwork it’s not only money they give for our craft but they gift something far more precious. Confidence. Belief in our work.

Herring Island Gallery 17/03/2019

Herring Island Gallery
17/03/2019


Humans were never meant to be alone.


And us, artists, are always making work for an audience.


So thank you to the collectors for responding back to us and especially thank you to Mike and Sandi Faulkner for being the first ones to take a chance on this young artist. For giving her the much needed confidence boost that she had been anticipating for ages. And who knows where this life changing event may lead. ;)


SKETCHES: BLESSING THE WAY OF BIRTH AND LIFE with Lana - (2) FRIDA KAHLO

Last Sunday I experienced my first baby shower and blessingways event. I started off the morning a little bit anxious, I’ve done life sketching before but never in such an intimate sphere. I would be entering a circle of love and care but as a stranger, an outsider, there to witness and record. I had prepared my materials the night before to cut down on any clumsiness on the day, I had with me: 2x fine artline pens, 2x medium aquash brushes filled with premixed ink, a roll of pencils and 2x stacks of 216gsm paper (just in case I messed up).

To give you some background, I was a surprise organized by Lana for the Momma to be (we’ll call her M). Lana is a close friend of M, and she had contact me only days before for this customized live sketching session. I was to rock up and sketch the blessingways ceremony (conducted by Lana from the Parents Village) and if M was comfortable, squeeze in a few nude drawings as well. (Luckily, being an petite young woman worked in my favour this time!)

 

Oftentimes we come across a mat of flowers and talks of energy beads and label it as hippie, I’m guilty of this myself. But it’s not until one actually experiences one of these understated rituals themselves that they truly grasp the meaning of them. It was an experience that made me see not only the magnitude of a birth that was coming but also the circle of love and support the new mother had around her, but more importantly it was a ritual that would make her see this without any doubt.

It starts off with Lana setting the tone, expressing that this was a safe place where everyone was not only allowed to be honest and free with the emotions but would be accepted with love. Everyone present would not only be giving support but also receiving it in turn.

A cute little detail in the circle was the presence of the mother with the newborn baby sitting directly opposite the mother to be. She blessed the water with happiness and courage along with her infant daughter.

A cute little detail in the circle was the presence of the mother with the newborn baby sitting directly opposite the mother to be. She blessed the water with happiness and courage along with her infant daughter.

This was the last ritual. Here M, the mother with the flower crown holds a bundle of red string, in which she wings around the wrist of each woman present 3 times. When the bundle arrives back the web of support she has around is made visible to her giving her warmth and strength.

This was the last ritual. Here M, the mother with the flower crown holds a bundle of red string, in which she wings around the wrist of each woman present 3 times. When the bundle arrives back the web of support she has around is made visible to her giving her warmth and strength.

 

The first ritual utilizes Dr Masaru Emoto’s thought experiments with water. Where positive and negative thoughts are experienced by water and over time changes their molecular structure, one prominent among them is the rice experiment. It works quite simply, one separates a batch of cooked rice into three containers label love, hate and ignore, speaking loving and encouraging thoughts to the one labeled love, spewing angry and hateful messages to the one labeled hate and the last jar was to be ignored. By the end of two months the rice in the one labeled love still looked edible for something left out of the fridge for two months but the ones labeled hate and ignore were rife with mold. The most common way to cook rice is with 2 parts water making it around 66% water based; just as Humans are 60% water, and the brain and heart is 73%.

In this ritual, Lana presents a cup of water that is passed around the circle. Each person blesses the water with a loving quality they wish upon the unborn baby, which the mother drinks at its zenith.

My personal favourite was the bead ritual, where a string was passed around the circle and each of the women in the circle would recite qualities that they admire about M and think will help her in birthing the child, adding a bead for each quality. The necklace was then tied up and given to M, being something that she could hold onto during the birth, reminding her of the characteristicsinnate in her and the love and support of her friends present with her.

Although I was only present in the capacity as an artist, I was touched by this gentle yet strong show of friendship as everyone opened up about what they loved about each other and allowed themselves to be vulnerable. I had only known them for two hours but I feel so privileged to be there for such an intimate moment that could only be cultivated by the trial of time. As I scribbled onto paper hoping to record the connection, I was strongly reminded by my own circle of friends who are constantly with me whether present or not. I was reminded by how they were there in times of need and how their belief in the person I am carried me through.

If you're an expecting mother or know someone who will be, I highly recommend this blessing way service that The Parents Village provides. It's truly empowering to witness and I can only imagine that it is even more so to be involved in the circle. 

 

 

To end this entry, I will be presenting the Inspiration of the Week, nominated by Lana: Frida Kahlo, a woman who coincidentally also sports a flower crown on her head.

Here, it might surprise you because I've talked so much about the bold, direct gaze of Frida, but here, her gaze is actually depicted away from the audience into her inner world. This is simply because I love creating portraits of greater intimacy. where the sitter does not feel a need to put a face on to deal with their outer world.

Here, it might surprise you because I've talked so much about the bold, direct gaze of Frida, but here, her gaze is actually depicted away from the audience into her inner world. This is simply because I love creating portraits of greater intimacy. where the sitter does not feel a need to put a face on to deal with their outer world.

Most of us know Frida Kahlo as the Mexican artist with the monobrow, which she depicted consistently in her self-portraits. As a child who first saw her paintings on a poster up in the art classroom wall, I was not impressed. I had a monobrow myself, which while I was not bothered by, it wasn’t my standard of beauty either and there was too much yellow in my opinion (I have an irrational dislike of the colour yellow, it probably won’t surprise you that when I first saw Van Gogh I wasn’t too impressed either lol, though it’s since become one of favourites). But as I revisited her story when I was older, I saw past the bold, cool glare that she is always challenging the audience with and I saw a character of great emotional complexity and sensitivity.

It reminds me of a small anecdote Carlos Fuentes once made on their first meeting of Frida Kahlo.

Right in the middle of the overture in an Opera production, played in The Palace of Fine Arts, New Mexico a noise invaded the theatre that silenced even the orchestra. When everyone’s attention turned to the balcony where the noise came from they were greeted by the regal entrance of Frida Kahlo bedecked in jewels, necklaces, rings, bracelets and everything in between, all jangling with their own tune. To the casual observers it was all too ostentatious, but if you knew her and her story, then maybe you would be able to guess that they were there to distract attention from the weakness of her body. Frida had survived polio as a child, she had survived a bus accident in her adolescence that left her pelvis fractured and speared by an iron handrail. But just as her gaze was always firm to hide the thoughts inside, she dressed and carried herself in a way that made transcend her physical world.

Persistence - The Strength behind the Beautiful

On the Opening night of Love Letter: Be With You , my Mum raised an interesting critique on my ballet slippers in the exhibition. (You can always rely on parents for that. Haha.) 

She asked: Why do the shoes appear to be so strong and borderline bulky? Why aren’t they more like the soft satin slippers that ballerinas use, elegant and exquisite – characteristics they’re known for portraying?
 

I wondered if anyone else had similar questions, so I decided to write up a more comprehensive context to the makings and concept behind the glass slippers.

love letter exhibition persistence glass ballet pointe shoes installation
4 ballet dancers persistence glass pointe shoes sculpture installation

For me, this is a work on the persistent strength of character. I’ve always seen ballet dancers as warriors, which I guess could be strange to think about at first but it’s more to do with their stoic attitude to physical pain and transformation of the mental limits into seemingly effortless grace. It’s also about the unseen struggle of the dancer who keeps silent about her pain to the audience. Ballet for me is an intensely feminine but strong type of art, it shows the mettle of feminine endurance.

I had made them out of glass, because glass has an indomitable and wild nature, especially during its casting stages. But there’s also an element of sensitivity and transparency and this is the effortless elegance that holds its spectators captive. When we see the finished product, we don’t see the weeks of effort that goes into each piece but only of the intrigue it presents itself in. That’s art. Beauty with Depth. But it’s a depth we can only feel.

Photo by Tyler Shields

Photo by Tyler Shields

I have included ribbons but excluded the feet. Even though it’s the physical body that keeps the shoes aloft and full of life, why is it missing? Is it just because it is more beautiful that way? Perhaps. But you would only be half right if you answered so. It’s because you never see the feet of the ballerinas on stage; you only see the soft satin that wraps like a medal around them. The slippers represent the prestige of being on stage, in the spotlight, in front of the audience. The slippers also represent what shields the audience from seeing what it took to get there. In a way, my shoes are trying to represent what is missing rather than what is there.                                                                                     

It’s a piece that depicts the struggle of the artist. Of any artist in any field. Because it is a battle for every artist to get there: on stage, in front of an audience. It is a battle to believe what you’re trying to do matters, to get up again every time you take a fall and it’s a process of saying, “This is not the end!

 

The quiet before the opening. Dancers watching each other. Tension and energy in the air.

The quiet before the opening. Dancers watching each other. Tension and energy in the air.

Photo taken on the Exhibition Opening Night by Mark Jones

Photo taken on the Exhibition Opening Night by Mark Jones

I would like to thank everyone who came to the exhibition on the opening night and afterwards. It was truly a pleasure to meet all the new faces and get reacquainted with familiar ones. :)

I would also like to thank my Mum for inspiring further attention to the context of this series.

 

Each piece was developed to have its own character in the ribbons and colour scheme, allowing it to bring a different energy when it interacts with the rest of the “dancers”. Did you have a favourite?

 

 

Edit: Udee Online Magazine has done a feature on the Persistence series! It has been a pleasure getting to know Laura La Rosa (editor of Udee.) and talking more about the future of my artistic trajectory. 

Persistence 0 - The Humble Beginnings of Adopting the Artist Growth Mindset

This is just one of the stories behind the Persistence series of how it began and what I learnt from the process.

The series has empowered me by making me really adopt the practice makes perfect mindset; the growth mindset. The first glass cast was a complete failure, I had graduated from art school and hadn’t cast anything for at least half a year and my first cast Persistence 0, did not work

In my first mould the core was made out of paper pulp, which I was used to using while I was at art school. But while I was observing overnight the entire kiln started smoking. I knew it was because it was burning all the carbon out, however, I didn’t want to ruin the kiln. There was no more safety net of being a student and in my panic, before it had even reached 300°C, I took all the glass and mould out as fast as I could (once you take it out you can’t put it back in), everything cracked.

I was alone at 3am in the morning with a smoking and cracked mould, I was devastated! There were cinders everywhere, the studio was covered in cinders! I felt so bad for everyone around me because their work was covered in cinders too. And although Kate Banazi who works upstairs was really gracious about it and Kate Baker, my mentor, was really reassuring as well... I felt like a failure. The first one...the first cast had failed.

But the whole idea of Persistence and the reason why I named it that was to keep going, so I did keep going and made my second mould.

Persistence I base glass ballet series.JPG

Aaand that didn’t quite work out either, the glass had started to leak when I checked it at top temperature. My stomach dropped and thoughts like ‘oh damn there is not enough glass to even cover the ribbons!’ raced through my mind. But, in the end when I had found the glass did, in fact, reach the ribbons it was just the tip that missed out. I was ok with that. I was just so happy that something came out! Later I managed to salvage it by creating a base especially for it.

Since then, I’ve been recording my process for each cast. Documenting the materials I use, the temperatures I go up to and how long I keep them there. Each time I find myself gaining more and more confidence and being bolder about experimentation. Each successive cast has added to my knowledge base and helped me improve my technique. I think I’m really getting to finesse that casting process of complex forms (there’s a future project on the horizon that I’m really excited about, which I’ll talk about in a later post).

I feel like I’ve grown into a person with more depth and confidence through this project. I’m not so willing to give up anymore. I used to have so many doubts about all sorts of things but all these failures have taught me that failing isn’t as scary as I thought it would be, in fact, they’re just obstacles and there are so many ways of getting through them.

It’s only a small bump and it’s not a slide straight to Hell (though it may feel like that at times). It’s even rewarding because you grow so much. I really love what I do. This process has developed me and given me a stronger outlook on life than I had before. I’m more willing and more proactive about how I approach problems.

Persistence     I     Lesson: Not there   yet, but we'll get there. :) Recommendations: Read  Mindset  by Carol Dweck

Persistence I

Lesson: Not there yet, but we'll get there. :)
Recommendations: Read Mindset by Carol Dweck

Introduction : The Linear Story

Here I'll be posting updates on my current and past projects as well as insights on my process as I produce more work. There will be old and new concepts of the same project layered on top of each other as the project takes a life of its own or adopt the artist's through the stages of its creation. Many of the projects that I develop earlier in my career are very ambitious in scale and technique, not necessarily because I believed I had the ability at the time but because those are the abilities I wanted to achieve and for me those projects would propel me to learn as much as possible. There have been many obstacles along the way, but I have come to realize that they are the way.

My greatest ambition as an artist is to achieve Mastery; to have the versatility and ability to realize whatever vision or concept I have conjured up in my mind and put it out there to share with the world. 

The Human Spirit is a subject that I am constantly trying to capture in my works. Through themes of love, desire, failure, persistence; and what is most important to me is the theme of potential and evolution. My artworks also document my growth as an artist and a human being, telling a story when they’re read chronologically.

“Icarus” is about ambition, it was my graduation piece cast from my own torso with wings too heavy and delicate to fly. 

“Breath” is ironically about asphyxiation, it is the solidification of the air around the face unable to enter because of panic, of lack of serenity and ability to see oneself clearly. 

And my ballet series, “Persistence” is my answer to what came before, to the trials and failures I’ve had since starting on my artist career and deciding even if I do fail a cast or two (or more), I can still get back up and make it into something beautiful.