SINGAPORE: “You’ll burn in hell and these will be your hellhounds.”
“Absolutely disturbing and horrid.”
“I’m sorry, but you and all your fans are a bunch of freaks … This is so creepy it’s not art.”
Artist Lim Qixuan may have a 107,000-strong following on Instagram and heaps of praise from fans all over the world, but she regularly gets comments like the above, from people reviled by her work.
Lim, who goes by the online moniker Qimmyshimmy, has made a name for herself fashioning baby heads, organs, eyeballs and other body parts out of clay, and placing them in everyday objects such as sweet wrappers, gumball machines, pies and sardines cans. The juxtaposition of deformity and decapitation against the mundane in a signature pastel-pink hue is meant to provoke a reaction.
The 27-year-old told Channel NewsAsia she “would rather people really love it or really hate it” than create forgettable works.
"I get a lot of very, very rude comments about my work, but it’s okay. It’s fine with me because when I create my art, I don't really make it to please anyone," she said. “I enjoy reading comments ... just because. I don’t get offended when people don't like my art. I think that's one of the reasons why I don't really get that affected when people don't like it or like it.
“I think it's also okay to get bad comments, because in a way you get that spectrum of people who really dislike it and like it, then you generate interesting dialogue.”
She added: “I always tell people to just dance in the rain. Some people are just so uptight that it’s hilarious!”
As she spoke her fingers moved deftly, pinching and pulling till a nose materialised on a cherubic face which she laid down on a plate.
The self-described “accidental sculptor” first began creating oven-baked clay sculptures six years ago on the advice of her mentor from Noise Singapore – a youth arts platform organised by the National Arts Council.
It challenged the graphic designer to step out of her comfort zone and to start experimenting with sculptures of futuristic animals. She moved to her current aesthetic, inspired by the sight of discarded pistachio shells one Chinese New Year and imagining baby heads cocooned in them.
Said Lim: “Babies are usually something we associate with vulnerability, cuteness and other positive feelings. When I try to take the subject out of its context and put it in a situation where people find it strange or unfamiliar, I think it becomes interesting for people to encounter something or an art work in that way.”
Qimmyshimmy’s pieces command between €800 (S$1,400) to €1,200 (S$2,100) but she doesn’t sell her art to everyone – only to people who understand and appreciate her work, she said.
“I do not want them to become some sort of mass-manufactured item. That’s not how I see my art practice to be, even though that may help my work last longer and also make it more collectable,” Lim stated.
Aside from Singapore, her work has gone on show in places like New York, Melbourne, Milan, Prague and recently, London.
Having just completed a two-year masters programme in information design in the Netherlands, Lim returned to Singapore, but not without a lot of deliberation.
The attitudes and slower pace of life in the Netherlands spoke to her as a creative professional.
"Whether you're a designer or an artist, or some kind of cyborg or scientist, they're not so quick in wanting to place you in a box and put a label on you.
"So in a way, it opens a lot of doors for hybrid roles and quirkier creations. And there isn't much pressure to be able to explain your art completely," she said.
Still, she decided to stick with design in Singapore, with art on the side.
“Singapore is also very cosmopolitan, so I think there’s this rapid exchange of ideas and cultures and stories that is happening almost every single minute. Singapore is also my home after all and I really hope that can help me find a stronger voice in my art.”
Lim’s biggest fans of her art might be her parents, although it took them some getting used to.
“When I started to sculpt things that looked a little bit creepy or a little bit scary, they were a little hesitant about what I was doing and questioned what I was making. My dad sometimes outright tells me, ‘Don’t do such scary things!’” she said.
She also once alarmed her mother accidentally by forgetting to remove some babies’ heads that had been baking in the kitchen oven. Uncomfortable as they are, they make the effort to attend all her show openings, she said.
“I think I’m one of the lucky few people of who are encouraged to pursue what I like and what I’m interested in. So I really think, underneath all that typical Asian parenting, where they tell you certain things and criticise, they still show their support and encouragement in another way.”