Singaporean artist gains international following for her sculptures of body parts

Ms Lim Qi Xuan's sculptures are made with polymer clay. PHOTOS: INSTAGRAM/@QIMMYSHIMMY

SINGAPORE - A Singaporean student has gained an international following on social media for her macabre sculptures of body parts, including a pie with little hearts for filling, tiny baby faces in pistachio nut shells and miniature brains.

Artist Lim Qi Xuan, who goes by the moniker qimmyshimmy online, has more than 57,000 followers on Instagram from around the world.

Her unique sculptures have drawn the attention of news sites such as Vulcan Post, Italian online publication Urban Contest Magazine and Taiwanese site ETtoday.

Speaking to The Straits Times from The Netherlands on Saturday (Nov 25), the 26-year-old said she started sculpting such items with polymer oven-baked clay around four years ago when she was under The Apprenticeship Programme by Noise Singapore, a youth arts platform organised by the National Arts Council.

"I was trying to showcase a future scenario of genetically modified animals, and started sculpting then," she said.

"I have always been quite fascinated with the tactility of flesh and skin," she said. Objects have two sides to them, she said. She mused that flesh is symbolic both of life and death, as something that can at once be capable of being alive and pulsing, but can in the next moment lose that quality.

Ms Lim said her work gained a surge in followers on social media only in recent months.

She adds that she "finds it weird" that people find her pieces, which take her about a week on average to complete, macabre.

"To me, they are not!" She said. "I have always been fascinated by art or objects that are both repulsive and alluring at the same time."

She compared it to how people find realistic dolls pretty but do not want to sleep in the same room as them.

"I like my art to have that similar tension; to present something precious and charming, but then there are these little elements that creep you out," she said.

The graphic designer is currently pursuing a master's degree in Information Design in Design Academy Eindhoven, an institute in The Netherlands.

She finds inspiration from everyday objects, and pursues her hobby despite being a graphic designer by profession as "there is a part of me that just wants to make things that express my inner world and strangeness".

Ms Lim takes commissions via her site but declines to reveal how much she charges.

The artist, who has two siblings, plans to return to Singapore only after she finishes her studies and spends a year in Europe learning about the design industry.

"At the moment, I am between starting my own studio, or working for a big company where I can work in a very specialised area of design," she said. "Of course, I will continue sculpting on the side, and take a few months off a year just to focus on my art."

Ms Lim has exhibited sculptures in group shows, such as at the ArtScience Museum for a pop-up showcase and at Deck, an independent arts venue in Prinsep Street, under The Apprentice Programme.

"Design has such a great impact on society and I feel Singapore has potential to learn and cultivate a stronger design culture," she said.

Ms Lim added that social media is "an amazing tool" to reach more people around the world, but she has to "constantly remind myself that it is not about the numbers".

Instead, real life is more important, she said.

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