Best known as the Malaysian winner of the second season of Asia’s Next Top Model who now walks runways around the world, Sheena Liam has also crafted a name for herself as an embroidery artist. Her delicate, minimalist art is sewn through with images of freedom and self-care.
She first picked up needlework from her mother in childhood, but only later on in her modeling career did she revisit the old-fashioned craft. It started out as a peaceful, expressive activity to keep herself occupied during downtime between jobs, but she slowly began taking it more seriously, and before she knew it she’d made a series.
人们记得 Sheena Liam 这个名字，是在她荣获了第二季“超级名模大赛”（Next Top Model）马来西亚赛区冠军之后。她在追求全职模特生涯的同时，也为自己打造了一个刺绣艺术家的名号。她手下精致的极简艺术刺绣，一针针缝进了自由和自爱的女性形象。
小时候，在母亲的影响下，Sheena 第一次拿起针线。但直到后来她开始了模特生涯，才重新拾起了这门工艺。一开始，刺绣只是一种令人平静而又富有表达力的手工，Sheena 目的是让自己在工作间隙中保持忙碌。但渐渐地，她开始更认真地对待刺绣，不知不觉中一个系列的作品已经完工了。
“I was never really drawn to it as a practice until I started seeing all these other artists breaking boundaries with embroidered work, and I realized we weren’t bound to tradition and stagnant designs,” Liam says. Like the carefree movement of the hair detail, each piece is open to interpretation. “I’m not pushing any agenda on anyone.”
The figures in her works are often based on Liam herself, stitched with dark-green thread that stands out against the off-white linen. They can take anywhere from four days to a month to complete, depending on their size and complexity. “Sometimes I’m doing something completely new, so it takes some trial and error before I have a finished product I’m okay with,” she explains.
Each piece explores a moment in a woman’s life, from simple daily routines, like changing clothes or getting ready for a girl’s night out, to subtle moments of empowerment, like independently braiding or cutting off one’s hair for the first time. Just as she does in her modeling, her figures convey a mood or feeling through posture and pose. The free-flowing hair adds a gentle movement to contrast with the static figure, making the whole piece come alive. Though the style is minimalist, the figures are rich in detail.
“The actual embroidering is my favorite part of the process, so I try to prolong it by adding as much detail as possible,” she says. “The hair can be frustrating because I don’t have a set formula or technique. Every piece is different, and sometimes at the hair stage, which I usually do last, I might ruin a piece I’ve spent hours on.”
Inspiration comes from anything: a song, a general mood, or even a feeling. Liam compiles images from the internet onto her mini mood board and has even sought inspiration in life drawing classes. “You get to explore other different types of bodies and poses through the models,” she explains.
As someone who’s made a career out of being someone else’s canvas, here she has the freedom to express her own creativity.
对 Sheena 来说，灵感来自任何东西：一首歌，一种心情，甚至一种感觉。她把互联网上的图片编辑到自己的迷你心情板上，甚至还在绘画课上寻找灵感。“你可以通过模特来探索其他不同类型的身体和姿态。”她解释说。
In April 2017, Liam decided to share her work on Instagram under the handle @times.new.romance, a play on the name of the popular font. The handle suggests a romantic feeling of viewing peaceful modern moments fleeting by, in keeping with her art—but perhaps this writer has put too much thought into it. “I just thought it was a nice name for an account,” Liam says. The account eventually gained widespread attention from media, art-lovers, and fans, leading to her first solo exhibition, a milestone in any artist’s career.
In October, the embroidery works were presented at Item Gallery in Paris in a show also titled Times New Romance. As it happens, Liam dismissed the idea of a solo show when she was first approached about it. “I didn’t think too much of my embroidery to start with,” she says. “Honestly, it was a lot of people putting a huge amount of faith in me from the start that propelled me to work on a body of cohesive work. I had collectors and other artists who took care of me, so I could work in the capacity that I did.”
2017 年 4 月，Sheena 决定在 Instagram 帐号 @times.new.romance 上分享她的作品。这个名字让人联想到一种浪漫的感觉，当下平静的瞬间飞逝而过，与她的艺术同出一辙——但也许这是笔者过虑了。“我只是觉得这是个很好用户名。” Sheena 说。这一说法引起了媒体、艺术爱好者和粉丝的大批关注，也让她开办了首次个展，这对任何一位艺术家的职业生涯来说，都算是一个里程碑。
今年 10 月，这些刺绣作品在巴黎 Item Gallery “Times New Romance”的展览上展出。在 Sheena 第一次听说要办个展时，她却拒绝了。“我一开始就没有想太多我的刺绣。老实说，很多人从一开始就对我抱有很大的信心，这促使我创作了一系列的作品。有一些收藏家和其他艺术家对我很是照顾，所以我可以充分发挥我的能力。”
So what’s next for Sheena Liam’s art?
“I’m not sure. I’ve held out on a lot of projects because I wanted to be focused on creating pieces for my show. But maybe now I can relax a little and have more fun with it. If offered the right space and gallery, I’d consider a show in Malaysia. But I don’t have any pieces anymore, so it’ll probably take a few more years.”
那么对作为艺术家的 Sheena Liam 来说，下一步又是什么呢？