If you found tiny little heads of babies in a machine or eggs hatching with human-like creatures coming out of them, what would you do? Run away, sure. Who wouldn’t? But take a closer look at Qixuan Lim’s work and you’ll probably give it second thoughts.
By uniting the cute and the creepy, the Singaporean artist affects the viewer’s sense of comfort and reality. All things pink and soft turn macabre and uncanny. But being an oddball is cool, as Lim shares with us. She discovered sculpture accidentally and found a way to develop her inner interests through it: since then, she has built a universe full of babies and mini sized figures. Get ready because you’re about to discover the surreal and ‘creepy-cute’ universe of Qixuan Lim, where reality and fantasy become one.
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“I like unicorns, poetry and reaction gifs” and “Accidental sculptor” as your biography on Instagram. Could you tell us a bit more about you?
I am a 27-year-old artist born and bred in the Singapore city-state. I call myself an ‘accidental sculptor’ because it was not something I intended to do when I started my creative journey. I was formally trained in graphic design and am working full-time as a UX designer. Everything that I know about sculpting was self-taught.
What lead you to do sculpture? You do illustration too. What do you enjoy the most?
I was experimenting with many different kinds of art forms growing up but was never really able to find my personal style until I discovered sculpting. Before that, I illustrated a lot more as I have always been into pop surrealism and looked up to artists like Mark Ryden, who primarily painted. But eventually, I moved to sculpting because the medium helped me to bring my ideas into a new dimension and reality.
Your sculptures really affect the viewer’s sense of reality and comfort. Your artistic universe includes references to fantastic and creepy worlds with a real sensitive and humorous vision. How did all start? What pushes you to keep creating?
Thank you so much for that! I think you really captured what I try to do with my works, so I am very comforted to hear this. I grew up quite an oddball with an overly imaginative mind and wonder if things are more than what we think they are. With my work, I try to push our preconceived ideas and associations with objects, which dark humour seems quite effective in doing so.
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Mini-sized nipples, brains, meat cake with breasts and jam on the top, or hearts inside the typical American pie are some of your works where reality and fantasy merge into one. Your work is surreal and provocative. People usually describe your work as ‘cute but psycho’ or ‘creepy-cute’. Are you okay with it? How do you feel your work is received?
Definitely! I am fine with any kind of label people choose to attach to my work because for me, art should not be one-way, it becomes more meaningful with reactions and conversations. Once I put my works out there, it is up to whoever views it to receive it in their own ways. I have been called many things but it does not usually affect me.
The Anatomy of Wonder, in which you brought nature, animals and organs together inside lab recipients, unites science and art. As if it was a reflexion/analysis about where our planet is heading to. Are you trying to send any critical message with your pieces?
I have always been intrigued by our relationship with nature and animals. Living in a city makes us forget how much we have manipulated and exploited nature for our own gains and comfort. However, I do not think that the project is meant to send a critical message as I am not for or against it. It would be hypocritical of me to be critical about issues like these when I eat meat and wear leather shoes! Many of these conversations are difficult to have, which is why art becomes a good platform to probe and spark new dialogues.
“A small dosage of strange keeps the world rich, colourful and wonderful.”
Food is an important, recurrent issue in your work. The Sweet Tooth series consists of mini sweet pieces put in a funny and slightly macabre way: tiny baby head sculptures as lollipops or bleeding hearts inside a bubble gum dispenser. Breasts and broken body parts as canned food, teeth as if they were popcorn inside the machine or a mixer with eyes, more breasts and brains. What’s your favourite candy?
This is the first time anyone has asked me that. My all-time favourite will be gummy bears, I think! Not to sound like a creep, but who does not like chomping their little heads off? They are squishy, really pretty, and really chewy. I can inhale an entire pack in a few minutes, especially when doing something that requires a lot of brain power.
Babies, babies, babies. Many tiny baby faces as the top side of an ice-cream, as pralines, and even packed as medicine pills or sweets. They appear as the top of French macarons too. And even, eggs hatching with babies coming out of them. Or babies bounded inside condoms. What’s your ‘obsession’ with babies and putting them in these rather polemic situations/artworks? Where does this interest come from?
My works have always been about finding the balance between sweetness and horror, and for me, these little baby heads help me achieve that. When we look at these little figures, they tend to make you feel protective of them, but you also feel a little repulsed because of the context in which they are placed. Because my works often play with this tension, it became a common motif in many of my creations.
You say on Instagram that your babies are painted with the same makeup as you use. Who wears it better?
You ask the best questions! I will give it to them, they definitely wear it better. I am just waiting for MAC and Bobbi Brown to notice their modelling potential.
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Your work Neverland is a bunch of little fairies with their wings taken away. This is because every time any kid says she/he doesn’t believe in fairies, one of them dies. These are inside Peter Pan. Do you believe in Peter Pan? Do you believe in unknown magical species?
I believe that there are many things that exist in our reality that we have not discovered or cannot be explained with science, but they probably do not exist in the form of little people with wings. The realist in me does not believe in magical species, but the romantic in me believes in the importance of dreaming that they do.
Your little pieces always seem so realistic and even have a characteristic glow. Do you want to try something new or do you feel like you’ve found what perfectly fits your work? As a multimedia artist (sculptress and illustrator), how important is it for you to try new things?
Definitely! I feel that sooner or later I will outgrow my style and will like to move on to something different. But I think now I am still exploring how far I can push my themes and style and see myself doing that for a few more years. But there are definitely no restrictions I impose on myself. I am an artist and not a brand, so I feel that I can take my art anywhere my heart feels is right.
“Don’t ever be ashamed of loving the strange things that make your weird little heart happy” appears on your website. Have you ever been afraid of showing your insides? If you look back, even though you’re so young yet, what were your fears as an entrepreneur artist?
I do believe that everyone, no matter how normal they think they are, does have a liking for strange things. A small dosage of strange keeps the world rich, colourful and wonderful. Despite the darker nature of my art, I am not really a devious or evil person, so I am never afraid to be my true self. I do not know if it is right to call myself an entrepreneur artist as I have zero business planning. I think my number one fear, like many artists, is to lose my sense of self, to lose purpose or meaning in my practice.
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You’ve written a few times about how much you love travelling and even travelling alone. How do you think this affects/influences you as a creative being? Do you collect old, creepy items or have any kind of ‘ritual’ when travelling?
Yes, definitely. I am quite a sentimental traveller and I do collect many oddities and curiosities to remember places by. Travelling alone gives me space to reflect on the things I see around me, and it can be very inspiring. I love antique stores, thrift markets and places selling quaint sculptures by local craftspeople.
What would you like to do with your work? Where do you want to get?
Because I am juggling both my design career alongside my art practice, it has been quite difficult planning ahead and initiating new projects. I will definitely like to do more shows and find ways to expose my art to more cities around the world. I think collaborations will be very fun too.
Is there any item you are really into lately? New stuff on your mind? Surprise us.
I am going to have to keep this a secret! I try not to reveal my new projects so I guess you just have to wait to be surprised.
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