From Chinese Terracotta Warriors to Donatello’s bronze figure of David, Constantin Brancusi’s ‘The Kiss’ to Anish Kapoor’s ‘Sky Mirror’, the medium of sculpture has proven itself as one that is ancient as much as it is diverse. Its prominence stretches across all eras of art-making, a multiplicity of genres, and has the capacity to encompass just about any material.
This three-dimensional art form has gone through massive changes through multiple eras since it was first conceived in prehistoric periods. Contemporary artists no longer carve out busts and butts of yore out of marble (although arguably, a giant butt sculpture was amongst those nominated for the Turner Prize not too long ago). But, where are the female sculptors? It doesn't take much research to find out that female sculptors probably find themselves having to navigate around this incredibly male-dominated field, as in the case of several other mediums in the art world.
Shining a well-deserved spotlight on women in art, we’ve compiled these exceptional sculptors who are steadily climbing their way to the top of the field or have already done so. They use the malleable medium of sculpture to aesthetically present well thought out themes of cross-cultural experiences, feminism, dynamics of the world order, as well as self-reflection. Read on to know more about these inspiring Asian female sculptors who are making their mark:
Hailing from Myanmar, Soe You Nwe earned an MFA from the renowned Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and has traveled extensively for her craft since. She has taken part in multiple residencies in the United States and across Asia, allowing her to reflect on her cross-cultural experiences as a fluid yet fragmented state. Her sculptures, predominantly made with ceramic and glass, explore themes of alienation, confusion, and pain from her experiences as a cultural outsider.
Soe has exhibited at the 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Australia; 2018 Dhaka Art Summit, Bangladesh; and ZieherSmith in Chelsea, New York. Her works have been acquired by the Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, Australia, and she was recently named in Forbes 30 Under 30: Art & Style 2019.
Born in Hong Kong in 1952, Cynthia Sah was raised in Japan and Taiwan. Minimal, sleek, and meditative, her sculptures seem to exude strong themes of Zen Buddhism comparable to sculptors from the Mono-ha movement. However, it is the Chinese philosophy of essential equilibrium that she is seeking to reflect. Often using marble or bronze, her works contain a lightness and fluidity that effortlessly transform the space they are in. Streamlined, simple, and elegant, these sculptures fully express the artist’s own minimalist aesthetics whilst highlighting the delicate changes in their textures.
Sah has been based in Italy for over 40 years, residing in the mountainous region of Pietrasanta where she first began her creative journey. Her large-scale sculptures are in private and public collections such as Taipei Fine Art Museum, Farum International Sculpture Park in Denmark and Azuchi-Cho Cultural Center in Japan, and can be seen around the world. She continues to have works commissioned, making sculptures for prestigious hotels, mansions, and landmarks in Taipei, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Macau, collaborating with internationally-renowned architects to construct the artistic poetics of space. Sah is also an elected member of the Royal Society of British Artists.
A multidisciplinary artist who is now based in London, Chila Kumari Burman explores just about every medium in her practice from etchings to acrylic on canvas, digital paintings to installations. Across the board, she documents her experiences and aesthetics of Asian femininity, more recently adding a new vibrancy that challenges the stereotypical assumed notions of Asian women. These result in powerful works that exemplify Asian feminism.
Burman’s bold and colorful experimental works have been exhibited internationally, from Singapore to South Africa, Cuba to Canada, earning her the status as a leading figure amongst black and Asian artists in the UK. She is a published author, with works residing in notable collections such as the Wellcome Trust, London; British Council Collection, New Delhi, and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
With a BFA and MFA in Fibre Arts from Ewha Woman's University, Seoul, it’s no wonder Sui Park’s works depict 3-dimensional dynamic and organic forms. The Korean sculptor’s education goes even further to include a BFA in Environmental Design at Maryland Institute College of Art, as well as an MDes in Interior Architecture at Rhode Island School of Design. Her acute sense of form and space allows for her works to create an ambiance that is mystical and illusionary, and all at the same time aesthetically pleasing.
Using non-durable and easily consumed materials such as cable ties, Sui weaves and connect these mediums transforming them into organic visualizations. She has exhibited numerous times in her home country of Korea, in public outdoor sculpture parks in New York, to a textile-based exhibition in Slovakia.
Alice Wang’s practice includes sculptures, prints, videos, drawings, and experimental films. Wang has a Bachelor in Computer Science and International Relations from the University of Toronto, another from the CalArts and a Masters from the New York University, and has been awarded several major grants from the Canada Council for the Arts. Her sculptures are made up of anything from iron meteorite to 300 million-year-old fossils and exude highly organic characteristics that highlight Wang’s close relationship with nature.
Wang also co-organizes The Magic Hour, an outdoor exhibition site housed on a mesa in the high desert of Twentynine Palms, California. She has both lectured and presented works at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, and the K11 Art Foundation, Hong Kong, to name a few.
Singaporean artist Grace Tan creates works that find themselves at the interstice of design and art. With a formal background in fashion design, her first foray into sculpture making began with a series of works that were based on the study of geometric forms, materials and construction methods. Her practice has since expanded to include not only wearable fabric pieces but also impressively complex site-specific installations and constructions.
Tan has had works commissioned by numerous institutions in Singapore, including the Singapore Art Museum, The Esplanade and the Land Transport Authority of Singapore. She has also presented at the Singapore Biennale, Setouchi Triennale, London Design Week and the Venice Architecture Biennale. In 2012, she was awarded the distinguished President's Design Award for Building as a Body.
Hailing from South Korea, Seungjoo Kim has had formal training in painting, and digital arts. Using the ruler as a constant motif in her practice, she creates works that depict the number 1 to 9, seeking to measure both physical and mental worlds. Her distinct works present themselves as minimalist, using bold symbols to critique on human society. Aesthetically, mother of pearl is used to reflect a viewers identity and position, amalgamating them with the aforementioned concept of rulers.
Kim has showcased in solo exhibitions internationally, from her home country of Korea to New York and Singapore. In 2002, she was awarded the HaJungWoong Young Artists Award, and her works reside in multiple institutions across Korea as well as the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, Los Angeles.
A sculptor from Tehran, Shaya Shahrestani finds herself inspired by the process of storytelling. Over the span of her upbringing, she cites her experiences of birth, life, and death, as the phenomena that motivate her practice. Physically, her oil on fiberglass works presents a layered effect that seeks to reflect the layers of experiences she faces in life that reveal themselves over the course of time.
Shahrestani has thoroughly established herself in her home country of Tehran and has exhibited since 1995. This includes the First Tehran Art Expo in 2004, a solo exhibition at Aun Gallery, and the 6th Tehran Contemporary Painting Biennial.
A graduate from the Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts, Fu Xiaotong later earned her postgraduate degree from the Department of Experimental Art at the prestigious Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. In her latest series of works, she uses paper to reveal textures and images, teetering along the line of sculpture and illustration between their 3-dimensional yet delicate presentation. Excavating paper with a needle, she perforates her medium through an extraordinarily labor-labor-intensive process. Her older sculptures depict themes of surrealism, melding organic materials with fantastical subjects to create new imaginations.
Fu has exhibited consistently across China in solo and group exhibitions, as well as in the US and Korea. Her works are in notable public collections, including the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, and the renowned Los Angeles County Museum of Art, USA.
Renqian Yang’s practice not only involves sculpture, but also installation, painting, illustration, and print. She is interested in the concept of binaries, and through her works explores their unity as well as their contradictions. These include juxtaposing themes of “restriction and freedom; pessimism and optimism; complexity and simplicity; representation and abstraction; the man-made world and the natural world”. With degrees in Ceramics from the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute as well as Syracuse University, her ceramic works are exemplary in her practice.
Her ceramic works have been exhibited internationally at exhibitions in the United States, Germany, and Asia. She has received multiple awards and grants, as well as taken part in residencies in Craigardan, Jingdezhen International Studio, and the Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts.
Based in Manila and Boston, Josephine Turalba is a Filipino artist whose practice involves the layering of media. Living between two ends of the world allows Turalba to be conscious of the cross-cultural differences in the context of a volatile geopolitical world order. As such, her practice focuses on “visceral approaches to the politics of violence and dynamics of infliction, trauma” and explores issues of divide and convergence.
She exhibited at ‘Personal Structures – Crossing Borders’ at the European Cultural Center, Palazzo Mora, held concurrently with the 56th Venice Biennale 2015. She has also showcased internationally at the London Biennale, the Cairo Biennale, and at the VII Tashkent Biennale of Contemporary Art Uzbekistan.
Eunsuh Choi is a Korean artist who works spectacularly with glass. Reflecting on her practice, Choi states how she is focused on communicating the “graceful flow of our emotional tendencies” through the demur of flameworked glass. Working sculpturally, she utilizes its form and atmospheres to portray notions of human encounters, their successes, and failures, all in pursuit of personal ambition. She uses her works to create physical representations of what it feels like to have a moment of revelation, allowing her viewers the same experience when they come into contact with them.
Her quiet and meditative sculptures are in the collections of the Korea Craft Museum in Korea, the Corning Museum of Glass in the United States, and the European Museum of Modern Glass in Germany. She has consistently passed on her craft as a teacher from 2001 and has exhibited her works internationally for over 20 years.
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