Play Hard

Take a peek inside the latest exhibition at The Biscuit Factory, Newcastle…

When it comes to art exhibitions, Newcastle always slays – and Belonging(s) by Millie Suu-Kyi is no different.

Written by Becky Hardy
Published 10.09.2022

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Belonging(s) – 10th September to 23rd October – The Biscuit Factory, Newcastle

Possessions. We characterise our lives by them.

The photo frames on the mantelpiece; the ornaments up the stairs. The brand of trainer we wear, or the watch make on our wrist.

Tattered teddies we’ve had since childhood, the newest car model on our driveway; TV screens that span full walls and hot tubs in our gardens.

Possessions are our way of showing the world what is important to us. And it’s a relationship that fascinates The Biscuit Factory’s newest solo exhibitor, Millie Suu-Kyi.

WHAT’S THE CONCEPT?

The multi-disciplinary artist and winner of The Biscuit Factory’s 2020 Contemporary Young Artist Award returns to the art gallery in Newcastle this month with her solo show – fittingly titled, Belonging(s).

A playful exploration of the relationships people have with their possessions and the influence brands have on the everyday lives of modern Brits, Millie’s exhibition explores a narrative that has woven throughout her work since she first left her family home to study towards her degree in Decorative Arts.

‘When I moved to university, I began to notice a few prominent styles of people,’ Millie explains.

‘I’ve always been interested in the possessions people choose to own, identify with and what they hope to convey through them. I find it fascinating how specific items can be used to both enhance one’s outward appearance whilst masking one’s hidden insecurities. I wanted to explore this further by developing my own characters and narratives.’

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR

Playing with the idea of people using possessions as representations or extensions of their own personalities, Millie decided to flip the tables for her new exhibition and make the characters themselves the material goods.

Belonging(s) is made up of five characters: all imagined but inspired by people Millie has previously encountered or observed. Formed in ceramic busts, these individuals are created simply to exist in themselves.

‘Unlike previous projects, where each character represented something different, these characters are meant to simply exist – but with each of them conveying a relatable thought, feeling or experience,’ says Millie.

‘I always tend to like the first character the best. I feel thankful to them for sparking the idea, they almost feel like an old friend. For this art exhibition, that’s Sol – with his kind face and big, green hat. But I’m also pretty pleased with the pink handbag as it’s probably the most technically ambitious piece I’ve made to date.’

WHAT NOT TO MISS

Alongside her ceramic sculptures in Newcastle’s independent art gallery, Millie’s collection also includes a series of illustrated prints relating to each character, designed to offer some context to each ‘individual’ and drawing on her practice of working across 2D and 3D disciplines.

‘I have always liked working in different media, having never seen myself as solely an illustrator or a ceramicist,’ says Millie. ‘I don’t believe my strength as an artist lies in my ability to use either medium, but rather in my ability to combine both to represent an idea.

‘Having worked in a ceramics gallery, I found that sculpture – although very beautiful – sometimes needs to be given a context. I realised that I enjoyed creating an illustration to establish a context for my ceramic pieces, and therefore generating a sense of cohesion between the 2D and 3D art worlds which I inhabit.’

WHAT THE CRITICS THINK

Speaking of Millie’s work, curator at The Biscuit Factory, Newcastle, Sam Waters explains why she succeeded in winning the 2020 Contemporary Young Artist Award.

‘We were won over by the spirit and moxie of Millie’s work,’ he tells us. ‘It’s heartening, satisfying anduncommon to see a young artist have the visual and emotional dexterity to be able to handle serious ideas with a lightness of touch and well-judged wit.

‘Millie navigates with great levity the complicated and sometimes competing or contradictory dynamics of socially-engaged art – being humorous, but not flippant; sincere but not earnest; warm but not sentimental; and critical but not unkind. Her work is coherent and straightforward, full of subtleties and complexities, and her strength of conviction and personality as an artist shine through it.’

WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS

Looking to the future development of her practice beyond Belonging(s), Millie’s hopes are to satisfy her own artistic ambitions while also maintaining and strengthening that connection she has with her audience.

‘The aim is to keep trying to make work that I like and which resonates with at least one other person!’ she says. ‘With every project, I feel myself improving technically, which allows me to get closer to reaching the ideas I hope to execute.’

 

 

Belonging(s) is showing at The Biscuit Factory, Newcastle, from 10th September to 23rd October. All works are available to own at the conclusion of the show

For more information and to plan your visit, go to The Biscuit Factory’s website and follow the gallery on Facebook and Instagram

The Biscuit Factory, 16 Stoddart Street, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 1AN 

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