Known for her use of eye-candy colours and figurative style reminiscent of cartoons and animations, Yeo Kaa explores themes and subjects in her work that contrast sharply from the pop vibe evoked by her imagery.

Considered one of the rising stars of the Filipino contemporary art landscape, Yeo Kaa recently undertook an A3 PROJECTS SUMMER RESIDENCY in Berlin, Germany. In the lead up to her first solo exhibition in Europe at Arndt Art Agency, Berlin, A3 Editorial spoke to the artist about her time spent away, her new body of work for her solo exhibition “Anxious Lustless Pechay”, and her upcoming artist project presentation at Asia Now Paris art fair.

Yeo Kaa

Installation view: Yeo Kaa, Anxious Lustless Pechay, Arndt Art Agency, Berlin, 2018

You undertook a 1-month residency as part of A3’s Projects Summer Residency. Could you tell us about how you used this valuable time to develop your work and resultant exhibition at Arndt Art Agency?
It was a different working environment, but my process remained the same as how I work when I am in the Philippines. The conceptualisation of my new body of work also took a long time even before I came to Berlin. But I think the time I spent during the residency challenged me to work outside my comfort zone. In Berlin, I was dealing with a different place, different brushes, a different working environment and different climate.

What did you enjoy most about your time in Berlin?
I enjoyed exploring Berlin and meeting new people. I was staying in the West. My friend made a comment that I didn’t get to explore the real Berlin, so I think I have to come back! I think it is a city that takes time to explore.

Yeo Kaa

Installation view: Yeo Kaa, Anxious Lustless Pechay, Arndt Art Agency, Berlin, 2018

This was your first solo presentation in Europe. How did you find the response to your work outside of Asia?
It was great. I made a lot of new friends. People were curious about my artistic practice and my paintings because it was something they didn’t expect to see from a conservative Catholic country like the Philippines.

Could you discuss the concept of your exhibition in Berlin?
The show was basically about my struggle with masturbation. I do it to relax myself. But there was a time when I was preparing for a local show where suddenly I felt I lost my sexual desire. It really baffled me and I began to worry if there was a problem in my body, my mind, my system. Masturbation is my way to lessen my anxiety, but during that time, it became the source of it. I thought self-pleasure was something that can be done easily, but stress and exhaustion can wither away lust and sexual craving.


Image caption: Yeo Kaa, “Darling, What’s Wrong?” (2018), acrylic on canvas, 152 × 183 cm

Do you always create paintings?
Yes. I paint almost every day. This is the main element of my practice, however, I do also produce sculptures from time to time.

You often explore quite deep, serious topics such as depression, suicide, and anxiety, that are drawn from both personal experience as well as general observations of human tendencies. Why do you use such a bright colour palette to communicate these subject?
Because it looks happy. Just like me, I often exude a happy vibe, however, this can at times be a facade.


Yeo Kaa, Anxious Lustless Pechay exhibition opening, Arndt Art Agency, Berlin: Charge d´Affaires Lillibeth V. Pono (leftmost) with (L-R) featured artist Yeo Kaa, Arndt Art Agency (A3) Founder Matthias Arndt and A3 Director Rachael Vance

What are some of your inspirations when making work? Do you have some favourite artists that you admire?
I have a lot of inspirations, but my current inspiration is my lack of desire to masturbate, like I mentioned. Some of my favourite artists are Yoshitomo Nara, Frida Kahlo and Yayoi Kusama.

You are also presenting an artist project supported by A3 at the boutique art fair Asia Now Paris, providing you with further exposure across Europe. Can you discuss this new body of work?
This upcoming body of works confronts materialism and consumerism in a straightforward, honest way. It’s all about the motivation to acquire material things, to buy something, to work hard to be able to buy it, something which is true to a lot of people. It revolves around the drive to do something because you want to possess something, like eyeing on a prize. I intend to fill an entire wall with symbols of currencies, then I will also be creating sculptures of expensive consumer items like designer bags and shoes. These are the things that admittedly I want to buy, and buying my art will make that a reality.

Yeo Kaa

Yeo Kaa, Anxious Lustless Pechay exhibition opening

Beyond this, what is your next project?
I have an upcoming exhibit in China which will showcase portraits. Many other projects are in development with my collective, The Working Animals (TWA), who are in charge of my programming and collaborations.

And finally, do you have any dream projects you would like to realise?
I’m conceptualising a show which asks people whether they would take the opportunity to inflict pain or cause harm. The works will be like outlets for anger-venting.


Image caption: Yeo Kaa, “Dry and Confused 2” (2018), acrylic on canvas, 152 × 122 cm