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Lives and Works: Baltimore & New York, USA
Yam Chew Oh is a multidisciplinary artist, educator, and writer based in New York and Baltimore in the United States. He counts himself lucky to have spent his formative years in a few of the now-extinct villages of Singapore. He remembers still using wood as fuel in 1991; four years later, commercial Internet became a reality. In college, Yam Chew majored in Human Geography and Southeast Asian Studies, and minored in Chinese Studies. A corporate job took him to London, then graduate school in the arts to Baltimore and New York, where he obtained his Master of Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts. Having moved across the world 15 times, much of Yam Chew’s work reflects the places he has been or is in, physically or mentally. They often contain personal stories and capture significant moments in time.
Yam Chew’s late father was a karung guni man — growing up helping him with his trade had a deep impact on the artist’s love for found and humble materials, and how he treats them.* He sees possibilities in the discarded and overlooked, and poetry in the modest, delicate, fragile, ephemeral, and flawed. Yam Chew is inspired by music, the built environment, lines, geometry, abstraction, and the written word. He is especially interested in the everyday, in being more aware, paying more attention, and becoming more mindful and present in both his practice and life.
Yam Chew’s works have been exhibited and collected in New York, Brooklyn, Harlem, Miami, Baltimore, California, and Singapore. His paintings and writing have been featured in Lumina Journal, Studio Visit, Commotion, and Velocity. Yam Chew is currently a faculty member at SVA. He is also Asian Contemporary Art Week's 2019 Strategic Development Fellow. Visit www.yamchewoh.com for more information.
* The karung guni man is the Singapore equivalent of the 19th century rag-and-bone man in the UK, who scavenged unwanted rags, bones, metal, and other waste from the towns and cities where they lived and sold them to merchants. In America, they are called junk men, and in many developing countries, waste pickers. Karung guni is the Malay phrase for gunny/burlap sack, which was used in the past by Singapore karung guni men to hold the used newspaper they collected for resale.
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