Ashley Yeo’s paper art embodies “small but mighty”. Measuring just 3.5cm in all dimensions, the delicate filigree paper cube she submitted for the 2018 edition of the Loewe Craft Prize moved prize presenter Dame Helen Mirren to tears with its sheer minuteness of detail. Taking five weeks to conceptualise, hand-cut with a blade and sculpt (no magnifying tools were employed), Arbitrary Metrics II made Yeo one of the competition’s 30 finalists, out of nearly 1,900 submissions, and the first Singaporean to do so.
Inspired by the manga Neighborhood Story by Ai Yazawa, Yeo made up her mind at 15 to become an artist and took up residencies in Jeju, Fukuoka, Beijing, Svalbard, New York and Los Angeles. An adjunct lecturer at the LASALLE College of the Arts, she devotes half her practice to drawing but paper calls to her with its unique qualities. “It’s an unexpected choice; it crumples easily and any small fold means it’s damaged,” Yeo explains. “I try to preserve its pristine quality and present it in a different way.”
The perceived value of works made of paper and the medium’s practical shortcomings (paper is mildly vulnerable to humidity) may make them less attractive than paintings, but Yeo remains committed to negotiating the compromise between personal motivations and market expectations. “Collectors usually avoid paper or materials that are fragile, but that’s how I find my own place in the craft community,” she says. “It’s not about selling works, but about honing skills and techniques.”