Qimmy Shimmy: An Interview with Qixuan Lim
TURNING THE SWEET AND FAMILIAR INTO SOMETHING STRANGE AND UNEXPECTED, AN "ATYPICAL" ARTIST, AND HOW OBSESSION CAN LEAD TO CREATION.
There is something incredibly disarming about Qixuan Lim’s (aka Qimmy Shimmy) macabre sculptures. They provoke an array of emotions from viewers ranging from delight, admiration, horror, to repulsion. Some recoil with horror upon seeing her works, while others marvel at the artistry involved. Qixuan’s works can be categorized under the “creepy cute” art genre but unlike other creepy-cute works I’ve seen, her works have been known to stir some controversy. Fake news have used some of her works to propagate their agendas. Some viewers have inquired as to whether her works featured “real” babies. A few others have gone as far as to proclaim that Qixuan encourages violence with her art. Truly, what is it about her works that can provoke such gut and at times, explosive, reactions?
Combining representations of babies, food, and sweets which we normally associate with positive connotations with the morbid connotations conveyed by that of blood, organs, and death can be difficult to negotiate or comprehend. The realism of her works further makes it difficult for viewers to engage with her artworks passively. Her sculptures beg the question - why do we react to her works the way that we do? It is difficult to view her works without bringing in our preconceived notions. In the end, Qixuan’s art excels in conveying how art can be an inner reflection of us - the viewers - our beliefs, fears, and desires, as much as they are also an outer reflection of the artist.
I had the opportunity to ask this talented artist from Singapore some questions about her art works and her life as an artist.
What inspires you?
Everyday life! My works often treads a twin line between reality and dream-state. That is the reason why I pull most of my inspiration from things around me. I like to work with objects that are familiar to people, so there will be a twist and an element of surprise when these objects become something less ordinary. When I was working on my first complete series, SweetTooth, I worked with sweets and pastries because they are things that people find desirable, and I thought it would be fun to turn this familiarity and sweetness into something strange and unexpected.
What inspired you to incorporate a "cute and creepy" theme to your artwork?
I have always loved creepy-cute art! Too much of either can feel a little one-dimensional and forgettable. Creepy-cute has a pull/push effect on people that is hard to describe, and I have always found that tension very fascinating. I always strive to find that fine balance between sweetness and horror with my work, such that it is both enticing yet repulsive to the viewer at the same time.
What is the most challenging part about creating your works?
Coming up with an idea! I am a huge planner, so I usually spend a long time conceptualising my work before actually executing them. And like many artists, I am my own worst critic, so I tend to overthink and shoot down my own ideas even before trying. The process can be mentally excruciating, but also very fulfilling when I get things right eventually.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
That I am actually such a boringly normal person! I have been to shows before when people came up to me and said they did not expect me to be so “normal”! I have always identified and carried myself better as a designer than an artist (I work full-time as a designer afterall!), and I can be more logical and pragmatic than the typical artist stereotype. I think people are hoping that I am a little more eccentric!
Can you tell me a bit more about your artistic process when creating your sculptures?
I plan my works as a series. So I usually sit with the concept for some time and play around with it. I will spend weeks being obsessed with a particular item and think about many different ways I can incorporate it into my works. When I was working on my canned series I was eating canned food for weeks! I am quite efficient when I work so once I have settled on my concepts I will enter “factory production” mode and just work full-on for days.
What's the best piece of advice you've been given?
Many years ago when I was still starting out as a young creative trying to find my style, a mentor of mine told me, “Do not settle for anything until you find that one thing that you can’t and won’t stop doing. Even if someone threatens to beat you with a stick and you still want to pursue it, then you know you have found your voice.”
Hardest lesson you have ever had to learn as an artist?
That my art is not for everyone and that is perfectly okay.
Are you working on anything new at the moment?
I am taking things a little more slowly this year due to the pandemic. I have shows scheduled for the states and a few more next year, but I am not very sure that they will happen eventually with so much going on. I feel that the world needs time to heal and the pause is also giving me an opportunity to reflect more instead of charging ahead.
What is the most bizarre question you have ever been asked regarding your artworks? (if there was one that is)
I get heaps of weird questions about my art! I think the one that baffles me most till this day is “Are these real babies? You must be sick to do this to babies”, I know there is a degree of realism to my works, but how can anyone in this world possibly think they are made of real babies?!
You mentioned on your website that you collect curiosities, can you tell me about one (or some) of them?
I think my favourite are these little glass vials of water that I collect from my travels! They range from melted snow from Hokkaido, to fairy streams in the Highlands, to the canals of Venice! I am quite a sentimental person, so I really like the idea of collecting memories.
Why do you think there is a growing interest in macabre art? (or do you think there is?)
I think the interest has always been there, but it is because of the internet and social media that it became much more visible and better documented. I think people who like macabre art tend to be quite discreet about it, just because they know it might not be to everyone’s taste. But because of how much more connected and vocal everyone is today, it becomes easier to find like-minded people!