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Paper on paper

The abstract works of visual artist Nee Wong take their cues from spontaneity and the imperfections that comes with the territory

09 Jul 2020 / 11:58 H.

WHAT started as a hobby fuelled by her penchant for abstract forms and vivid colours later came to fruition when Nee Wong, a Master of Architecture graduate, fanned out from the structurally rigid domain in search of a more expressive creative freedom.

She described a “confined feeling” when drawing and visualising buildings in very monochromatic colours, and before she knew it, people began to recognise her as a collage artist.

Wong shares: “I think it’s nice to step out of our routine sometimes and create with our hands, not knowing what the end product might be. The spontaneity in paper cutting is a strong factor as to why I choose it as my technique and medium.”

With an eye for technical execution and aesthetic detail, her interdisciplinary work as an interior designer and collage artist shifts between spatial design and art.

Wong’s mural at Facebook Malaysia. – COURTESY OF NEE WONG
Wong’s mural at Facebook Malaysia. – COURTESY OF NEE WONG

What is it about collage art that drew you in?

“In this digital age, I think a lot of creative content is done through the computer or tablet. I used to draw a lot on the computer when I was working in an architecture firm, and I craved a more tactile experience.

“I wondered why as adults, we lose that inquisitive desire to explore with just good old scissors, crayon and coloured pencils. Making my art with my own two hands is very important to me.”

Are there similarities between your practice as an interior designer and as a collage artist?

“I see these two coming together in interesting ways, and without one I couldn’t function at 100% in the other. For instance, collaging has informed some of my mural art for my interior work, which gives the space individual character.

“My technical knowledge from practising interior design, on the other hand, has been extremely helpful in letting me construct my installation works. Doing more of both constantly keeps me on my toes with my selection of colours in the design of spaces and my art.”

Let us into your creative process, and tell us what inspires you.

“My creative process usually starts with me picking up a few scrap papers to form a colour palette, before I cut or tear them up to create different types of compositions.

“The process is usually pretty spontaneous, as I move things around until I like how they look.

“I’m inspired by intangible moments, like feeling the ocean breeze or hiking up a trail. Memory is a powerful source of inspiration for my work, as I draw from my feelings in these moments to create a colour palette that suits the mood.

“If I remember being relaxed and calm, the palette becomes softer and shapes are rounded.

“Strong, unique motifs are also a source of inspiration for me, as I’m very interested in shapes.”

How has your collage style changed over the years?

“I started off by referring to a lot of objects like fruits, plants and mountains as an exercise to recreate them with cut paper. It was really amusing to see them in a different light!

“Now, my art has evolved into a more minimal, abstract form. The muscle memory from cutting all types of shapes has now turned into a fun composition play when I collage. The shapes don’t need to have meaning anymore, and I focus on just the composition.”

Do you have a creative exercise that you practise?

“Experiments are constant in my practice. I’ve done a few weird things that I think helped me create. Sometimes I sketch in pure black and white before moving on to the piece, just to see clearly how the shapes come together composition-wise.

“There were times when I also grabbed a few random items in my studio, put them together and photographed them before completely recreating the composition and colours with paper. I think its important to constantly experiment so the work can evolve.”

How much attention do you pay to the feedback of others on your work?

“Surprisingly, not much. I’ve always treated my art as a personal project, so it feels like an exploration with secret techniques only I know! I do appreciate constructive criticism, and working with different clients has helped me grow my work.

“For instance, private commissions make me look at the context of the project before seeing what might fit, whilst for art curators, I have more freedom to explore my techniques.”

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