Marie Toh—A Stranger kind of Art
Do you remember the first thing you ever drew? Many of us might remember sketching that very first landscape draft in our kindergarten days—the luscious green grassy fields with stick-men dancing on them and the bright yellow sun sitting nice and comfortable at the very top right corner of the paper. The peak of simplicity.
Marie Toh, however, vividly remembers drawing a swan and being very proud of how she got the curve of the neck right. This marked her start in her life of art.
Marie is a visual artist from Singapore who is currently based in London. According to her website, she works with both digital and traditional mediums, such as embroidery. She also enjoys creating surreal imagery, putting soft subtle symbols to her work to evoke curiosity and the silent emotions within us.
Marie is also a storyteller, having her very own book published by Epigram Books in March 2017 titled, “The Boy in the Whale Suit”—based on one of Marie’s older works: her graduation film with the same title that has won many local and international short film awards including being “Best of Film” in the 2014 Crowbar Awards, among many others.
Marie specialises in surreal imagery which is basically throwing all logic out the window and creating the strangest things you can(or cannot) ever dream of—it is the stuff of nightmares, really. But, it is also very mind-boggling. Seriously, a little boy in a huge whale suit? Absolutely mind-bending. But who doesn’t mind getting their brain a little messed up every now and again, right?
Some of her “less-than-conventional” works include her embroidery on a pig’s heart. Yeah, you heard me. Here’s a picture.
Aptly titled, “Healed Scars”, this piece is really up to anybody’s interpretation. Either way, it is provocative and really makes one think.
“Drawing requires lots of thinking, which I really enjoy; it’s like figuring out a puzzle,” Marie told Actually in an e-mail interview. “It forces me to slow down and think, not just do, and the act of intentionally slowing down is both rewarding to me as a person and as an artist.”
And as for her reason getting into surrealism, she has this to say.
“I used to get weird dreams all the time, so surrealism was just something that spoke to me in a personal way. I like how there is usually a narrative, but it’s not linear, nor is it logical. I like how it plays with the viewer’s(and my) mind, and how there is never really one direct answer. Kind of like a labyrinth where the experience is more important than the “destination”.”
If there is anything worth waking up to every morning for Marie, it is expressing her experience in her dream-land onto her art.
On top of drawing, Marie also does quite a bit of embroidery. As previously mentioned with the Pig’s heart.
“Embroidery is more meditative, which is precious especially in this time and age,” Marie says. “I get my inspiration for stories everywhere, from movies to a photograph, music to random moments observing people or a dream I had. From these, I will narrow down to a visual or an emotion I want to convey, and that will be my muse for the story. There’s no one way or a step 1 2 3, it’s usually organic and time taken varies. But as they say, the medium is the message, and so the message usually comes first, followed by the choice of medium.”
No matter where Marie is, awake or otherwise, there will always be a spark of inspiration for her to start doodling on an empty space or stitching in her embroidery. And that is the coolest part of any piece of art—spontaneity. It can happen anywhere, anytime for whatever reason and you need not ask any questions, you just go ahead with what you have to do.
Marie is currently doing her Master of Arts Degree in Visual Arts Illustration and is happy to report that she is steadily making her way up in the world, which is always uplifting to hear.
Finally, to anybody looking to get into visual arts, this is a little nugget of knowledge from Marie.
“For anyone interested in getting into the visual arts, it’s ok to fail, and fail many times, it’s all part of the process of becoming a better artist and person. And try not to compare your works too much to others, the world does not need 2 Picassos, just be authentic in your work and cultivate it in your own unique way and there will be people who will appreciate and love it.”
Support Marie by ordering “The Boy in the Whale Suit” here: https://shop.epigrambooks.sg/products/the-boy-in-the-whale-suit
OR you could buy some of her stuff here:
Finally, check out her media links here:
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