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Meet Jessica Goh

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessica Goh.

Jessica, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’ve really just started my story! I spent my childhood going to fine arts classes, and by the time I was 14, I realized my future was absolutely in animation. It had been a gradually growing interest; my mum’s a writer, so I was raised on storytelling media, consuming TV shows and movies and absorbing their plots as life lessons. Meanwhile, I disliked the art I was making – stagnant pictures that went nowhere and felt like soulless repetition of established drawing conventions. There was no point in making art if it didn’t sound like me. Animation came to me naturally as the next step in a journey towards self-expression – if you can’t express what you want in one picture, do it in 24.

My art has always been about childhood. It’s my way of reclaiming the sense of disempowerment I felt as a kid growing up with anxiety; the frustration of not being heard, but also not being able to articulate, feeling complex emotions that were beyond my capability to process. As I grow older, this reclamation has evolved into a protective care for children and interest in child pedagogy, so I dedicated myself to teaching for half a year after I graduated high school. In 2018, I started my undergrad in Experimental Animation at CalArts, which has been absolutely pivotal in elevating my practice and brought me to where I am now!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It’s been rather smooth overall! I’m incredibly blessed to have been always supported in my art pursuits! Attending an art school back in Singapore and college here in the US were precious opportunities that my family was able to afford, and I’m forever grateful for that.

My biggest struggle has rather been in self-expression. Growing up with anxiety issues, art class was stressful as it rendered me vulnerable before an audience and invariably mandated adherence to a specific standard, so I had to justify every decision I made. While this definitely honed my ability to look at art critically, it also meant that I developed my own idea of what “correct” was, so I obsessively self-critiqued in order to reach an impossible ideal. It took years of steadily cultivating self-confidence for me to understand that an art practice is exactly that – practice. Making art intuitively has become my new norm, and it feels incredible to follow my impulses because with curiosity nothing ever leads to a dead end.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I make works that invite viewers into a safe space. These are usually intimate vignettes of known comforts, close-ups of affectionate gestures; wrinkled hands combing hair, tucking someone into bed. A distant view of a child playing in the backyard, lush garden under the slowly-moving sun, framed by the coolness of an open patio. Quiet scenes of specific familiarity, yet vague enough to allow the viewer space for projection. Aiming to elicit visceral reactions, they engage the viewer sensorially by immersing them in a sea of light and textures.

Right now, I’m an artist who primarily uses stop-motion animation as a vehicle to explore the idea of materiality, technically and conceptually. By technically exploring with materials to create different textures – clay, sand, stained fabric, tissue paper – the resultant animation becomes something a lot more layered and destabilized, allowing me to navigate abstract concepts of memory, identity, and desire. Thoughts and feelings that are difficult to verbalize. It’s important for me to be able to physically contact my work, firstly because that’s just super fun, but also because that sort of artistic intimacy will show in the flawed finishes and organic motions.

What I find the most rewarding is when people who’ve seen my work say it made them feel something. I make really self-reflexive works, so it’s important to me that the stories are accessible to others, able to resonate differently with every person.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success is anything that fulfills me. I’m a short-sighted optimist, so I take every small achievement as a defining success on an infinite growth scale. Rather than working towards a specific big goal, to me it’s always made more sense to just keep moving forward, taking notice of all space I’m traveling, rather than focus on a fixed point on unpredictable terrain. That being said, right now the direction I am working towards is financial independence while also maintaining artistic and personal growth. I’m still growing up, and have a lot of work to do.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
(First photograph) Emily Lew

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