“Bird Vase–Grace” is a work by New York-based ceramicist Wee Hong Ling. When she left Singapore for the States in 1992, she did not have an art career in mind. She was going as a NASA research fellow to complete a PhD in Geography. She tells the incredible story of how she turned from space to clay in Raffles Alumni. It is a story of chance, and passion. Now she lives in Chinatown, in a fifth floor walk-up in an old tenement building. She does not have a living or dining room. She has, instead, a studio space and a kiln that fires up to 1300 degrees Celsius (2372 F). As she writes wryly, “I’ve always said that if my brothers were to see my living space, they’d laugh; but if my mother were to do the same, she’d cry.”
Why stay and work in New York? Wee is blunt in comparing the art scene in Singapore to that in the States. “Despite the fact that I have never had any formal art training and that I’m not a U.S. citizen, I’ve received numerous scholarships to different art schools to work alongside prominent American ceramicists. To my relief, as an artist lacking in pedigree and diplomas from world renowned art colleges, paper qualifications are secondary to portfolios. There is a greater willingness in the U.S. than in Singapore to support emerging artists. Art, especially the contemporary work, is collected based on how it appeals to the buyer, not so much on its resale value.”
Wee has exhibited not only in the US but also in Australia, China, Korea, Japan, and Singapore. Among her many accolades is First Prize at “Ceramics Biennial 2006” at The New Hampshire Institute of Art (New Hampshire, USA). The abundance of opportunities in the US is stimulating. She is currently in the “delecTABLE: The Fine Art of Dining – 2nd Biennial Juried Exhibit of Functional Ceramics” exhibition in Denver, Colorado, and she will be shipping works to the “Clay3” show in Warrenville, Illinois, next week. She is also working on some new pieces for a few upcoming competitions.
Verve Platter 1
Wee Hong Ling stands by her work “Large Vessels”
Images used with the artist’s permission.