Visual Female of the Month – May
– Jessica Singh
Jessica Singh is an amazing illustrator who creates wonderfully vibrant and exciting work. Strong women are combined with symbolism and myth to create intricate pieces you could stare at for hours. With an oriental spin, Jessica’s work is universal and one can imagine she draws inspiration from cultures, concepts and beliefs from around the world. Perfect for The Visual Female, I just had to get to know Jessica and her art a bit better. (And now you can too!). Enjoy the read.
Now for the interview….
Your artwork is incredibly vibrant, strong and colorful. What do you hope to communicate in your work?
I suppose it depends on the work! Sometimes it’s about the feeling of what I’m going through, sometimes it’s about the strange link between the objects and the girl in the image, the connotations it brings up. Sometimes it’s just simply about hey look at all this rad stuff that goes together. A lot of the references are really specific and personal to myself, but if someone else gets it too I totally dig that! I suppose at the heart of all them is colour, play & strangeness.
Where do you get your inspiration?
What I’m inspired by pretty much comes from everywhere! One of my main inspirations would definitely be music lyrics.The actual process of making them is connected heavily to how I feel at the time, and then finding the right song to fit that, and then being super inspired by the words or sounds. My other main influences include ceremonial design from different cultures (from costumes, symbols, textiles, rituals), esoteric references like rainbows, tarot cards, crystals, space etc. Window shopping, looking at trends also inspires me loads, I like to know what’s going on. Many many fashion and textile designers inspire me. Many many artists & illustrators. It’s really hard to pin point it down! Essentially all the rad things that I’m personally interested in, I put them together. That’s all really!
I love the concept of heroines or warrior-esses that you talk about in your bio. Can you tell us a bit more about these characters and your views on feminism (which is actually quite a hot topic at the moment).
Yes! I would definitely say I’m feminist in a broad sense. I’m not totally sure how helpful it is with everyone fighting over small details, just in general equality for women & men would be pretty sweet.
I really love this Ted talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Misogyny hurts everyone. There are so many super amazing talented women out there and the old-school kind of media particularly loves to pit females against each other, scrutinise their appearance etc. All of this stuff just seems like a burden, a distraction and a waste of time. But in general I just really hate any ‘rules’ that tell anyone how they should behave, be and act.
In terms of the heroines and warrior-esses. Well I’m really inspired by Indian comic books my Dad used to bring back after his travels. They always would have amazing goddesses who were fierce and in control, who took answers from nobody and those images always stuck with me. Consciously or unconsciously I just love to represent this strong female goddess / other-worldy power. I’ve come to realise in recent years that so many of my own works are central around the female gaze. Many of my heroines are not supposed to be a perfect image either. I like them to kind of look perfect on the surface, but they can be broken, depressed or feeling different behind the mask but in the core of their gaze they are strong.
You put a lot of detail into each illustration, does this require a lot of planning or does it come together organically?
Honestly it’s pretty organic! I kind of always start with the eyes of the girl and then work out from there, and I realise what combination of things need to be in the image as it builds up. For commissioned works it’s a little different, once I hear the brief I have ideas about what details could convey the objective of the project, so it’s a much more planned process.
What are your favorite symbols to use in your art and why?
I love symbols! When I write I love using metaphor, so when I draw I love putting in symbols. Sometimes they can be hidden and cheeky too. I use the moon a lot. The moon is always in there! I’ve always loved the Japanese idea of the rabbit in the moon, and I was born in the year of the rabbit so I’ve always felt the moon is my symbol. Of course I think rainbows and mountains would be pretty major too. Lately I love mountains, symbolising success and the climb and achievement but also strength and stability. With rainbows well, they just feel like a celebration or a sign of good things to come! I use a lot of animals and nature to show different things. Rabbits and deer to show innocence.
What is your biggest artistic accomplishment to date?
I really loved painting a 9 metre mural for Singapore Tourism Board on Southbank in Melbourne. That was a crazy project and one of my biggest so far. But I feel like I’m still going and there’s more coming yet!
If you somehow hurt your vision, would you choose to wear glasses or contacts?
I wish I could wear glasses – I’ve always wanted to wear them! But I’m pretty stoked on having good vision.
Excluding sight, what two other senses are your favourites?
Sound is pretty much the bomb! I’d be super depressed if I couldn’t hear music or the breeze or ocean waves. And I suppose taste because Avocados exist. Mind you, I would rather lose my ability to taste & smell over the ability to touch.
5 most pleasant things to look at:
- The ocean (particularly in my hometown, Perth & at sunset!)
- The night sky
- Anywhere forest-y with plenty of plant growth
- Looking down at glittering cities/towns from a plane
5 least pleasant things to look at:
- The inside of a plane cabin on a long haul flight
- The sidewalk near my flat in Berlin when street-cleaning day is 6 days away
- Dead plants or flowers (ok dead anything really)
I’m struggling with this one, I like to look at stuff!
Who is the most inspiring woman you know and why?
I would probably say Bjork or MIA. Both strong, brilliant, clever women with impeccable style & talent, who built their way up and are unabashedly true to themselves and their view of the world.
What is your favourite thing about yourself?
Probably my insane levels of optimism, and that I keep going, never give up on my dreams.
What is on your bedroom walls currently?
Not on my bedroom walls, but on my living room walls: Paintings of mountains, mother mary postcard, pictures of a cherry blossom tree from back home, postcards from a Japanese clothing store in Melbourne, ripped out pages of fashion catalogues and magazines.
Favourite clothing / accessory / product at the moment?
Ugh I love everything at the moment, probably these zodiac rings from Sretsis: http://www.sretsis.com/collections/view/10/accessories
Favourite artist at the moment:
My favourite artist constantly changes, but at the moment absolutely: http://maisie-cousins.tumblr.com/
And finally, any words of advice for people stepping into the creative sector?
Make sure you absolutely love it. Make sure you love making stuff so much that you would make things in your free time, that you live and breathe it. That you would keep doing it even if you were broke & starving & nobody knew who you were. Be totally honest! If you are just stepping in to get cool points, or kudos don’t do it. Do whatever it is that brings you joy, that makes your heart sing. The only way you can make an authentic expression is just be truly being yourself 100%, and that is the way you stand out from the rest. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true. Just make sure you LOVE what you do, and all the rest comes easy.