Soe Yu Nwe
Born 1989 Lashio, Shan State, Myanmar
Lives and works in Yangon, Myanmar
Ceramicist Soe Yu Nwe grew up in Yangon, Myanmar, and completed her formal education in the United States. She returned to Myanmar and set up a studio there in 2016. Myanmar has a strong tradition of ceramic work, although few artists venture beyond traditional utilitarian objects into a more experimental and contemporary domain. While residing in the United States, Soe Yu Nwe turned to ceramics to express her feelings of disconnection and to reflect on elements of her culture and heritage. Many of her works are based around the female body and are fragmented and transformed into visceral, semi-botanical sculptures that explore themes of anxiety and yearning for connection. She is also interested in folklore and Buddhist and animistic practices in her native country. Serpents, trees, houses, shrines and vessels frequently appear in her work as metaphors for the self and the feminine body.
Soe Yu Nwe draws on the folklore and vernacular arts of Myanmar, as well as Buddhist and animistic practices. Growing up in Yangon, she completed her formal education in the United States, and in 2016 returned to Myanmar where she established a studio. Working with clay allows her to express her feelings of disconnection when away from home, and to explore elements of her culture and heritage.
In her works, the female body is often fragmented and transformed into visceral, semi-botanical sculptures, resembling vessels formed from tangled thorn bushes, overgrown with weeds and flowers. The serpent is significant personally and symbolically, representing transformation and sexuality. In Myanmar, the goddess of serpent dragons is Naga Mae-Daw, often venerated in the country’s numerous pagoda temples. Said to be of pre-Buddhist origin, she rules over magical spirits known as Nagas, transformative snake-like beings that live in rivers, lakes, oceans and in the bottom of wells.
Painted wooden idols representing gods, goddesses and mythical beings; pagoda temples; marionettes; the heart-shaped leaves of the Bodhi tree; and ‘spirit houses’ shrines built to placate the spirits of trees, forests and mountains that have been disrupted by human habitation — all inspire her practice.