Cai Yaling (China) was shortlisted for her work Goddess, which represents the generosity and dedication of women towards their families, which are often taken for granted. Behind these celebrated goddess-like bodies lies the encroachment and damage that has been overlooked.
Can you tell us what it is like to work with such a delicate sculpting material?
It has long been a tradition in my hometown to use dough to shape auspicious fish or flowers for festival celebrations. I learned to make scissors and combs from my grandmother when I was young, and the work was done by the female members of the family. When I studied sculpture at art college, professors always hoped that through learning technology we would create a full, real human body, and that in the process of steaming and baking dough it will naturally become full.
I use incomplete female bodies in my work, called Goddess. These swollen bodies are real women, the broken wounds and wrinkles of women who have been eaten away by daily housework, childbirth and domestic violence are expressed through this fragile material.
What is the significance of colour palette and charring in your work?
Chinese dough figurine art always has various colours. On the one hand, the colours in my work represent diversity – the different races and identities of women. On the other hand, they also hint at the colour changes of human skin that may be caused by external forces. The treatment of burnt black is not only a possible consequence of negligence in the cooking process, but also a real social event.