Shereen Yap is a Creative artist and writer from Sydney who presents stories and journeys through paintings and words. Her original works can be seen through digital illustrations/modifications, acrylic paintings however recently her focus is on oil paintings. CHARLIE is her debut collection of poetry where the stories within it are not titled with the intent for others to relate on their own and undertake their self-discovery journey without the imposition of the author.
During my conversations with Shereen Yap, we spoke about her artistic universe, her poems, paintings and the famous “Charlie”. You don’t know who’s Charlie? Read this interview and discover a creative world of poetry!
Shereen Yap Interview
In hindsight, Charlie is me
Please Shereen Yap, tell us a bit about yourself and your universe?
I’m an artist and writer – it’s strange, I’m never quite comfortable when I’ve been asked what is it that I do and I say this, for I never seem to define what I paint or what I write. I do believe in that there is more than what we can see, our one world that we obviously go through the motions everyday – I believe that if you do tune in enough, you are able to see or hear some things that may not be within this world. Not a lot of people are able to accept that my perception of reality may be slightly different, but it’s who I am, but that’s just it right? A lot of us who dabble in works of writings and art challenge the boundaries of perception outside of the norm. I see hearts everywhere too! Mostly on the ground and this started a few years ago when I decided to document it, so each time I see one I will snap a photo of it to share.
When did Art become a part of your life, how have you been influenced? Who are some of your favorite Artists?
I’m not quite sure, I did write when I was younger and was able to mimic drawings to the tee so perhaps it’s always been part of my life. I’ve only started to dabble more into it in the last few years. A lot of my influence now and artists that I draw inspiration from come form individual modern artists – ones whose work are colourful and whimsical (although mine may never quite seem so). Instagram is definitely a world of many brilliant artists with so many great talents. There is a quote by Pablo Picasso that says “Inspiration exists but it has to find you working”- it’s one of the quotes I’ve gone by – lately I believe while that is true, there are times when I am stuck in creativity, so I would say it does exist, but it has to find you receptive and listening well.
Where do you derive your influence? Do you have a favorite place or technique that helps you find inspiration?
There is no set source – inspiration can come to me in the oddest of moments, when I am not doing anything in particular or when I could be walking down the street. Or subject to a moment, say a conversation with another that may be inconsequential at the time it is happening but resonates much stronger later on. I do like to have music on when I am painting, not so much when I am writing and most of the time there may be a certain song that sticks with me throughout that one painting. I start off with a very small idea and once I start the brush I just let it go from there, I don’t ever have a complete idea etched out to paper before I begin.
Your artworks seem beyond reality but is there any real-life situation that inspired you?
Hahah they’re definitely not whimsical for sure even though I am absolutely fascinated by whimsical works. There are always inspiring real life situations, it won’t stick during that time – but there will always be a voice later on telling me I could use it. Real life situations manifests more I find in my written works than paintings. Inspiration comes more often during the toughest times, so I am a strong preacher in that I couldn’t change what is happening or has happened or how I feel, I will use it.
How do you swing between visual arts and writing? Do you have a guiding thread?
This is the exact reason why I will never choose to define myself and what I do. Some moments and it could be months, I would never be able to paint, but yet I could write every day. Some moments, it’s the exact opposite, some times I could do both. Its extremely frustrating and this gets the better of me sometimes, but I have to remind myself that I will have to just have to ride it as it comes. If the two are blocked at the one same time, then perhaps I’m just having one of those moments when I am not looking hard enough, it will come when it’s time.
How do you come up with your first book “Charlie”, a love story told with poems?
That does seem to be the common conception that is concluded upon reading Charlie. Charlie was never written as a love story, in fact, if you look beneath the layers of what is black and white, you will find that Charlie holds significant deeper meanings such as the struggles of the mind living in the modern world. It is a bit of a challenge, I mean, as we know there is always stigma surrounding a story of mental health – and Charlie is exactly that. It’s a depiction of a mind who may not be so healthy – it’s raw, unfiltered, vulnerable – and my wish was for someone to read it and perhaps have it resonate within themselves a certain kind of hope to keep going, to hold on a little bit longer.
Give us an insight into your main character “Charlie”. What does he do that is so special?
In hindsight, Charlie is me. He was born out of a conversation that I had with someone a long time ago and as a character, always stuck around. When I decided to publish a set of writings that are so intimate to myself and deciding upon a gluing theme and title, when I thought of Charlie, there was no hesitation after that. If you do happen to have read Charlie, he does end on a positive, and Charlie is on his own journey at the moment. I’ve had a number of people ask if there will be a continuation to Charlie and I don’t know. He’s still off on his own, perhaps one day he will be back. He is not gone, that is for sure.
What are you currently working on?
No specific project – I have still been writing small pieces here and there that are published individually on my website as well as on Instagram. Not painting at the moment, since I have finished off the last piece a few weeks ago but I’ve actually just had a small snippet of a budding idea for a painting that I’ve noted down, so I’ll see how it develops (if it does).
What is your dream project?
I’d love to collaborate with others, always curious to see what the end product will turn out to be. It’s the unknown that will be a dream in my eyes. Like say I would love to be privy to a photographer’s journey and how they would capture emotions without once say showing the subject’s faces.
Is artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
Most times, quite. Living in the moment takes a whole different meaning for me. I could be with you, and I am there but there will always be some parts of me that are off in another world, hearing something and seeing something different. Catching up with good mates here and there will definitely help combat it. I am so used to it by now that going for weeks alone does not faze me.
Finally, if you could pass on a single piece of advice to authors out there reading this interview, what would it be?
Be so raw in your works (even if they are screaming in agony). Our words are a mask in itself, but you never know when someone else reading it will latch on with hope believing they just found a kindred spirit.
If you have any question, don’t hesitate to let a comment below, Shereen Yap will be happy to answer you. And don’t hesitate to visit her universe of poetry.