Leng Soh’s piece Entanglement is bewitching. It’s a simple white ceramic sculpture of a human heart, criss-crossed with red and blue strings. It’s somehow simultaneously delicate and robust, poignant and powerful.
The piece marks an important milestone for the Singaporean creative. First produced for a 50-person group show in 2015, Leng designed Entanglement to reflect her own inner turmoil as she swung between which creative passion she should pursue.
“It’s a portrayal of a heart caught in a conflict, stymied by a complex web of strings, red for arteries and blue for veins,” Leng says. “The idea stemmed from my personal experience of being torn between my work in design and advertising, and my love for art, having chosen the former out of practical reasons.”
Leng now combines her work as an art director for the always-impressive Singapore agency Kinetic, with her new career as a ceramicist. In 2012, she went down to a four-day week at work so she could concentrate more on her art. She finds the two complement each other perfectly.
“I wanted a medium that is more tactile, something that I could create using my bare hands. Something different from my work as an art director, which involves a lot of computer work.
What started out as a hobby quickly became a bit of an obsession as I was able to somehow articulate my thoughts and emotions through this medium.
She hasn’t looked back since, and has developed a visual language which combines exquisite craft with a sure-footed sense of narrative. And over the years she has seen her work evolve.
“My earlier pieces are more fluid and spontaneous, sometimes even letting the subconscious mind take over the creation. I was using more of the pinching technique back then and experimenting with various types of glazes.
“My current works are more conceptual and built around a theme. Although the form is still fluid, it’s more calculated. The choice of colours is kept to a minimum, focusing more on the form and the expression, rather than the use of glazes.”
She will also add another material, such as the string in Entanglement, where she thinks it improves the storytelling power of her pieces. In lesser hands the idea of “a heart in conflict” might feel over-the-top or clumsy, but Leng’s manages to take these big, bold ideas and render them with poise and subtlety.
As her careers both flourish, she is increasingly inspired by her local art and design environment.
“The creative scene in Singapore is definitely more vibrant and exciting compared to 10 years ago. I think there is a bit more emphasis on the arts now, be it government-funded or self-funded projects.
There are generally more arts-related events, showcases, performances, schools and more exposure to the public. Some of the local artists are also gaining international recognition, which is very encouraging.”