Poh Ling Yeow
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Nexus - Poh Ling Yeow
Poh Ling Yeow
Poh Ling Yeow was born in Malaysia in 1973, spending the first nine years of her life in Kuala Lumpar. Her family then migrated to South Australia where she now lives and works. After completing a Bachelor of Design specialising in illustration at the Uni of SA. She freelanced as a graphic designer and illustrator. She has been painting full time since the beginning of 2002.
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POH LING YEOW: I think my creative journey began when I was about fifteen to sixteen years old. I went to an all-girls school where all the Asian students seemed to be quite highly accomplished in all academic, music and sport, and I wasn't really good at any of those things.

But, yeah, in Year Ten, I sort of started to get a little bit of attention in art classes with my painting and drawing. So from there, I sort of got an inkling that maybe it might be something that I should foster and, you know, might pursue sort of something related to that in a career. And then from there I went to university and studied illustration.

I grew up in a fairly strict home. I wasn't really allowed to socialise that much till I was about twenty. And I had to move overseas so that I could, like, socialise with boys. So, yeah, pretty strict upbringing with that regard. And it was interesting, because I went from like, looking back now, I went from this sort of fairly... I don't know if I'd call it repressive now, because I think you learn from all your experiences. But I was quite bitter about that as a child. Like, I really felt like I missed out on a social level because they were so strict on me.

Interestingly enough, I was raised also like, there was my mum and my dad and then there was also my mum's aunty, who I'm really, really close to. And I just call her Aunty, but she's really my great-aunt, I think, technically. She's been a really - I think unknowingly so - a really huge influence and inspiration to me. She came to live with us when my brother was born, he's three years older than me, and has lived with us ever since and hasn't had children or relationships of her own. So she kind of like adopted us as her family. So for that reason, I'm extremely close to her.

One of the pieces that reflects most strongly my childhood, but not in a literal way, is probably 'My Choice', which is the painting up behind me. It's just about having to have a fairly strong will and just having to have quite a defiant sort of attitude when it comes to cutting through that really traditional way of thinking, which is all about saving face and never about how you actually feel. And so, yeah, that painting is very directly sort of referencing that. And having a sense of individuality as well, because I think with my culture, it's so easy to do what your parents want, do what your family wants, do what's good for your family and everyone else around you.

So with that painting, I really... I guess it was, like, almost an assertion to myself - "Yeah, I'm, you know, paving my own path." This is probably one of my favourite pieces because it does reflect directly on my childhood in that the blankets that were used are from my childhood. So there's a lot of that sort of comfort feeling thing about it. The little girl in it is very close too, so it has a lot of sentimental value, this painting.

My sources of inspiration are quite diverse, because I think as an artist your job is to observe humanity and everything else that goes on around you. So, you know, I'm just like a sponge. So it can be anything from, you know, pop culture to performing arts to films. I think a major, major driving force is fairly unoriginal and a lot of artists tap into this, and it's just the human condition.

We were all a child and we'll all become old and frail and we'll all die and return to the earth. Desire to be liked and loved... ..our capacity to feel pain... Because, you know, no matter how wealthy or how successful, whatever your position in society is, everyone is susceptible to those emotions. So, yeah, just that - that links us all.
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