'Cute and creepy' figurines by Tina Yu are ornate, lifelike and deeply personal

Koko, (WIP) © Tina Yu. All images courtesy of the artist and gallery.

Inspired by her childhood, fashion, film, and nature, New York-based artist and designer Tina Yu creates colourful and detailed sculptures using epoxy clay. Her figurines are painstakingly sculpted into mysterious creatures that are ornate, lifelike, and personally meaningful, following her "Double C" (cute and creepy) guiding aesthetic.

Although we can see the influence of Japanese anime and manga on some of her pieces that feature big heads and kawaii facial expressions, Yu explains that this is influenced by embracing the childhood insecurities she had about her size and the size of her head.

Yu's latest series, A Journey, is a fantasy world centred around her own rumination on childhood and a celebration of growth. "The world was smaller and brighter when I was younger, and I want to capture that with my art. As a teenager, my biggest challenge in life was not knowing who I was or who I wanted to be. I felt like I was living up to other people's expectations, whether it was a family member or a teacher, and that has subconsciously affected my artistic identity.

"Slowly, art becomes therapy for me, a way for me to escape reality and roam around in my imaginary world. In 2016, I graduated from art school, and the same year, I made the biggest and scariest but yet, the best decision of my life - to become a freelance artist. For the first time of my life, I felt like I was following my heart and doing something for myself.

"I think I have found my calling. Gradually, I started developing my own identity in art through sculpting. However, sometimes I feel a little dissociated from my younger self. In the past year, I realised a big part of who I am today has a lot to do with my youth growing up in China."

On show at Downtown Los Angeles' Corey Helford Gallery from Saturday 11 July, the characters are based on my family, friends, childhood imagination, and things that Yu loved as a kid. "The animal characters in the show have some correlation with my last mini solo show Animal World. I created a series of zombie animal characters who died from being abused, and then they came back to life as zombies to seek revenge on those who made them suffer. For this show, I've recreated animal characters with new identities. They have been reborn into a new colourful fantasy world where there is no pain and suffering. I hope this collection can remind the audience of the small good things in their lives."

You can watch Yu at work or find out more about her latest sculptures at www.tinayuartist.com. She's also on Instagram.

Don't Mess With Me © Tina Yu

Don't Mess With Me © Tina Yu

Playtime © Tina Yu

Playtime © Tina Yu

Koko © Tina Yu

Koko © Tina Yu

Sweet Summer  © Tina Yu

Sweet Summer © Tina Yu

Work in progress © Tina Yu

Work in progress © Tina Yu