Sarah Tse is a Hong Kong-born artist internationally recognised and celebrated for her fantasy-themed pencil drawings.
Hi there. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us about your work. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
I am a traveller, I journey every month to different cities with my pencils and papers. I used to live in London, Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Beppu (a hot spring district in South Japan), Shanghai and Taipei before. I spend most of my time in New York nowadays.
You’re clearly a pencil specialist… what is it that you love so much about the medium? What are your favourite materials to use specifically?
I use pencil drawing to communicate, as it is the most basic and honest tool in the visual arts. I also appreciate the hand-made qualities of pencil drawings also reflect the uniqueness of the individual, a narrative that can only be produced by myself. Recently, I am obsessed into aquarellable pencils and super dark 9XXB pencils.
You seem to have a fine art background, do you produce most of your work for gallery shows?
In recent years, I hold a solo show every year, so I have been drawing for my exhibitions as well as group shows and art expo such as ‘London Art Fair’, ‘Art Taipei’, etc.
Tell us about your creative process, from the initial idea to the finished piece.
The process of producing my drawings begins by my collecting images of animals, erotic plants, vintage machines and vehicles, toys, architectures, tablewares. I then start to play with the juxtapositions and scales – tiny architecture placed alongside a huge downy rabbit, antique cameras with cup cakes, etc. Through my drawings, the meanings normally associated with these objects are re-examined,
transformed the ways that make us look at the world in a slightly different way, helping us to rethink how we interact with our surroundings and the objects that we find within them. My personal travels and what I have seen during such travels also play a prominent part in my work. I often include in my drawings buildings that I closely associate with a particular journey and or those commonly associated with a particular place or culture. Moreover, some of the chosen objects such as shisha, oxthodox church, perfume bottles which I have previously included in my work were inspired by my childhood and my recollections of particular childhood dreams They all overlap to create ‘another world’ – a state where we (especially myself) can explore a different form of reality, often dreamlike innocent childlike dreamscapes.
What is your favourite subject-matter and why?
My theme is about ‘escapism’, ‘childhood’ and ‘dreamscape’, they are all about myself!
Can you tell us about a favourite piece of yours, or a favourite creative experience?
‘Masterpiece’ is indeed my masterpiece so far.
‘Masterpiece’ is a candid portrayal of Mr. Leung fully dedicated to his work. In this era of cost-effective mass garment production, the 65-year old tailor in Bowrington Road Market in Hong Kong insists on tailoring only suits of the highest quality for his clients at affordable prices. Amidst the crowded and noisy surroundings of the market, Mr. Leung remains calm and focused – selecting fabrics, cutting patterns, stitching and ironing – with only one goal in mind: perfection. He calls each suit he tailors his “masterpiece”.
Mr. Leung’s hand-operated sewing machine and most of his other tools are antiques; the shop possesses a strong aura of nostalgia. I am moved to add to Mr. Leung’s well-aged work desk a sentimental, playful, yet surrealistic ambience with my “dreamscape and fairy-tale” drawings. From my lead tip flows miniatutre antique furniture, towering architecture, innocent woodland creatures, and an erotic, blooming lady slipper. The paradoxical objects and monochrome patterns are inspired by my childhood memories, travels, and dreams, overlapping to create an alternative realm – a world in which humans can escape from reality and remain free and innocent.
Do you have any early memories of drawing?
I didn’t have a chance to learn art until studied abroad UK when I was 17. I remember my high school was surrounded by mountains and lakes in Tavistock, West Devon in the UK. Compared to my busy city life in Hong Kong, Tavistock is indeed the perfect place for retirement. I felt so boring, thus I took art as one of my A-levels. Once I started to draw, I could not stop… until now.
Do you keep a sketchbook?
No. I brainstorm in my mind and in dreams.
What size do you tend to work at? Do you have a preferred scale?
I mainly work in 60 x 80cm as I can carry my work in a tube when I travel. But I also draw in big scale on walls for exhibitons.
What directions are you interested in taking your work in the future?
I want to investigate into ‘Narcissism’ and abstract work in the future.
Lastly, what’s else do you have in store? Where will we see your work next?
I will have a two-person exhibition this year at Artify Gallery in HK with a Japanese artist, who always specialises in pencil drawing. And I will also have a residency programme in Argentina, probably in December.
This interview was brought to you by The Tiny Pencil – fine purveyors of the pencil arts. Follow us on twitter @TheTinyPencil and facebook and tumblr for more artist interviews and how to buy our deliciously new anthology zines.