Yeo Kaa is an artist who has made a name for picturing the disturbing and unpleasant in a strikingly contrasting aesthetics of pastels and doll-like figurations. In this seemingly naïve, jovial, and brightly colored world, she has portrayed the macabre and violent, confronted social taboos, and dealt with pain, anguish, and distress.
Whether it is the twisted irony, nonchalance, or irreverence of such a take on the unsettling realities of life that make her art arresting, she has nonetheless emerged as a distinct voice among artists of her generation.
In her recent works, however, the artist has significantly deviated from ruminations about the darker side of human nature and society to more uplifting intimations drawn from recent experiences and realizations.
This shift, though partly arising from her personal journey during the pandemic, perhaps reflects our collective change in outlook as we reconnect with the outside world after a prolonged period of distancing and isolation from social encounters. As the gradual recovery progresses, we ease our way into normalizing our lives guided by a renewed sense of optimism that naturally surfaces from overcoming the toughest of times.
This exhibition presents the artist’s spirited stance as she emerges out of the bubble. The pieces speak of gathering and cultivating strength – recognizing both its internal and external sources – and embedding cues on how to transcend trying moments filled with self-doubt, anxiety, or distress. Now, her candy-flavored palette and figures complement the temperament her canvases evoke, more attuned with its cheerfulness and youthful energy. A few titles refer to dispositions – peace, happiness, determination, freedom – perhaps describing states the artist now gladly finds herself in and thus worthy of being celebrated.
To those who extended understanding and remained patient at her lowest, she dedicates a
sweet embrace in one work as a token of gratitude. Others are straightforward declarations about taking charge and steering the course of one’s destiny, a direct expression of her newfound conviction and forward-looking frame of mind.
These works deliver empowering messages that she hopes to be contagious, which the title suggests as a kind of training or routine that forges us to become strong-willed and triumphant in the end.