Soe Yu Nwe’s New ‘Serpentine’ works at Myanm/art

Contemporary Myanmar ceramist follows APT with a solo show at home
By Toby Wu

Soe Yu Nwe, ‘Serpent #1, Burmese Python’, 2018, glazed porcelain, luster, 160 x 20 x 101cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

Soe Yu Nwe, ‘Serpent #1, Burmese Python’, 2018, glazed porcelain, luster, 160 x 20 x 101cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

Soe Yu Nwe presents ‘Serpentine’, a new collection of ceramic works, featuring a wide range of wall sculptures. The show also features a variety of collaborative pieces made with the students of Yangon International School.

Soe uses the serpent motif extensively in her work as a way to manifest her fluid, fragile and fragmented identity. It was the alienation she felt as a cultural outsider in the United States of America, where she received the bulk of her formal education, and as a third-generation Chinese immigrant in Myanmar which prompted her to investigate her cross-cultural influences.

“At this stage of my career as an emerging artist who is learning, growing, finding my voice to explore the direction of my artistic career, reconnecting and searching for my roots —the metamorphosis and hybridization of the serpent serves as the metaphor for this transition”, Soe says. The serpent also reveals the flux between east and west cultures, representing wisdom and agility in the Chinese zodiac and deception in Judeo-Christian mythology.

Soe’s choice of medium bears the same self-reflexiveness and introspection. Noting the richness of Southeast-Asian ceramics tradition, Soe explores the potential of ceramics to bridge the disconnect she feels with her national culture. Crafting serpentine ceramics exemplifies her vision to introduce conceptual elements into their ceramic works.

The resulting experimentation is what she is now famous for – works that boast a familiar sheen of something classically beautiful, yet imbued with visceral details that prompt the viewer to question what we instinctively consider to be organic forms. This is seen in her new ‘Serpentine’ works as well, such as ‘Pearlescent White Snake’, which shows a spliced snake revealing sharp petals that resemble claws and border on an edge of abjection.

Soe Yu Nwe, ‘Pearlescent White Snake’, 2018, porcelain, glaze and oxides, luster, 160 x 20 x 101cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

Soe Yu Nwe, ‘Pearlescent White Snake’, 2018, porcelain, glaze and oxides, luster, 160 x 20 x 101cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

Recently listed under the Forbes 30 under 30 Arts and Style category, Soe has garnered much international attention for her work. She is the first invited member of IAC (International Academy of Ceramics) from Myanmar, and is currently featured in the 9th Asia-Pacific Triennale of Contemporary Art (APT) in Queensland. Commenting on being the youngest artist from Myanmar to have exhibited at APT, Soe says, ‘The inclusion at APT 9 is definitely a very important milestone for my career. I feel honoured to be the first artist to represent the younger generation from Myanmar.’

‘Serpentine’ is showing at the contemporary art space Myanm/art in Yangon, following her eponymous debut solo show in Myanmar just a year ago. The show will run from 15 to 29 December 2018, with works on ranging from USD500 to USD8000.