“I liked the way different parts of nature symbolized different parts of the human psyche and experiences from life to death” – Winnie Cheng, on Bornean mythology.
Through floating islands and intricate universes, Penang based artist ERYN (Winnie Cheng) attempts to visually communicate the less tangible aspects of nature and consciousness.
As a teenager, Eryn found that drawing gave her a cathartic outlet for the many confusing emotions she felt within. Now, as an adult, her art has developed into visual narratives, which invite viewers to connect with their own subconscious. Love, fear, and forgiveness are recurring themes in her works, as well as destruction of the environment and of innocence.
Eryn takes apart and rebuilds existing stories and myths that she has encountered and combines them with the products of her imagination to create her own intricate and colorful mythical landscapes. Her many worlds are essentially a conglomeration of past experiences, words and images, all molded into a single feeling which she then transfers onto paper, creating a visual realization of the original thought.
Eryn has been influenced by the myths and legends of various cultures. Despite being partial to European mythology when she was younger, such as Viking and Irish myths, Eryn is currently immersing herself with Southeast Asian myths and legends. Having spent a significant number of years in Brunei, she was first introduced to the beliefs of Bornean tribes there. She later developed these ideas for her Masters research thesis, which she completed in Brunei. Eryn received her bachelor of fine arts from the University of Toronto in Canada.
While Eryn’s works seem whimsical at first glance, they suggest an underlying darkness in nature. For example, in a piece titled “Rising Above”, while Eryn’s nymph-like characters reside in colorful little islands, they seem to be growing from the cracks in a human head, much like a bird in its nest, sheltered from the turmoil of the surrounding sea.
“Rising Above”, pen, watercolor & acrylic on paper and canvas, 2015.
The darker elements of Eryn’s art come with a touch of the whimsical such as in her series, “Strange Interiors” where she depicts melancholic fantasy creatures in their dilapidated nests of solitude, cut off from the world around them, much like how depression can cause people to feel isolated within themselves while the world moves forward regardless.
“Vortex House”, pigment marker on A3 paper, 2014.
In a related series, “Otherworld”, Eryn depicts mythical scenes from a bustling world only accessible through the pathways of her dreams. These worlds are populated by an array of fantastical beasts, going about their mundane daily activities within meticulously detailed drawings.
“The Adventure”, pigment marker and watercolor on A3 watercolor paper, 2013.
Most recently, after the completion of a 3-month long residency program called Sembilan Art Residency in Seremban, Eryn had her first art exhibition in KL alongside another artist, Ajeem Juxta who was her partner during the residency. Her works featured in this exhibition were comprised mostly of pieces she completed during her time at the residency. Most of her works are rendered in a combination of ink, watercolor, acrylic, and paper cutting.
The themes in her first exhibition reflect Eryn’s journey as an artist thus far. In her current series, one can find ancient krakens whose brains have turned into crystal, water nymphs riding on the backs of sharks on the way to a great quest, and tiny colorful cat guardians, who protect little children from stormy undercurrents.
In 2015, Winnie won the Gold Award in the category of Emerging Artists for the annual UOB Paint of the Year competition, for her piece titled “The Wondering Heart”. Eryn’s works can be found on her website, and her Facebook page. She has recently launched an Etsy shop for her paper cut crafts.
Billie Blue Blackstone is an aspiring writer who grew up in Northern Japan, Singapore and Malaysia, and is of Malaysian and American heritage.
She is currently residing in Kuala Lumpur and is pursuing a degree in Creative Writing from the State University of New York’s online degree program. Coming from a family of artists and musicians, Billie performs at various music venues around Kuala Lumpur with her folk-rock band, Billie Blue & The Nowhere Men.
Music, art, literature, and world cultures have interested her from a young age, and she hopes to continue to describe herself through her interests.