Utong Aoieong is an embodiment of an eclectic artistic spirit, harnessing an array of disciplines to refine her art form. This artist, originally from Macau, found in the layered streets of Brooklyn not just a home but a crucible for creative expansion. With a background in architecture from Taiwan and a master’s in fine arts from Pratt, she hones her craft in sculpture, drawing upon a wellspring of diverse professional engagements to enrich her work. Her hands have contoured the cold metals at Enzo Metal, where as a fabricator she bends the unbendable, and in the collaborative spaces of UBR Studio, her role as an assistant has woven her into the larger fabric of the art community.
Utong’s journey through various vocational landscapes has broadened her understanding of texture, form, and the complexities of artistic expression. Metal fabrication, with its rigorous discipline and precision, has instilled in her work an appreciation for the tangible and the enduring. In contrast, her supportive role at UBR Studio offers a counterpoint—a place for dialogue, for the exchange of ideas, and for understanding the dynamic currents shaping contemporary art. It is this interplay, this balancing act between the methodical and the malleable, which drives Utong’s relentless pursuit of innovative expression.
Within this matrix of skills and experiences, Utong has forged an artistic language that is uniquely her own—a language that speaks to the convergence of material knowledge and collaborative insight. As she stands amidst her creations, one can trace the journey of a reflective artisan whose diversification is not merely professional but profoundly personal, culminating in artworks that resonate with the distinct signature of her multifarious journey.
Title: the ball (performance); Medium: wood, copper, fabric; Size: variable; Year: 2020; Background information: Created during Utong’s studies in architecture at Shih Chien, University in Taiwan.
From Macau’s melange to Brooklyn’s bustling art scene
Utong’s narrative is a captivating blend of East meets West, as she traverses the globe from the rich cultural landscapes of Macau to the avant-garde art scene in Brooklyn. This transition has been a profound catalyst for growth, providing her with a vast palette of influences that she masterfully integrates into her art. “Brooklyn’s diverse art scene, against Macau’s traditional backdrop, has expanded my cultural vocabulary,” Utong remarked. “In Brooklyn, you’re at the crossroads of the world—the immersion into varied art forms and philosophies has been exhilarating and humbling.”
The riveting cultural shift challenged her to redefine her artistic DNA. As she found her place within the tapestry of Brooklyn’s art community, her Macanese roots continued to underpin her work, enriching it with a depth and authenticity rarely seen. “My experiences in Brooklyn have shaped me, but I remain anchored by the cultural richness of Macau. It’s an infinite source of inspiration that I carry within me,” Utong confided. In Brooklyn, her art has found new breathing space—freedom to experiment and push the boundaries of medium and message.
Delving deeper, Utong’s trajectory is emblematic of an artist bridging worlds, not only geographically but also in thought and technique. “Every phase of my life has contributed a layer to my art,” she shared, “the delicate precision of Macanese carving, the bold strokes of Taiwanese architecture, and now the raw energy of Brooklyn—it all converges in my studio.” This cultural confluence is palpable in her works, where traditional motifs meld with bold contemporary techniques to create sculptures that are at once familiar and utterly novel.
Architectural roots molding sculptural truths
Utong Aoieong’s venture from the structured world of architecture into the fluid realm of fine arts is a rich tale of transformation and foundational strength. Bridging the gap between these two disciplines, her sculptural visions draw from the analytical rigor of her architectural education. “Architecture taught me to appreciate the gravity of the invisible—how the unseen scaffolding of a building is what defines its existence. I bring this sensibility into my sculptures, considering not only their outer form but their intrinsic architecture,” Utong reflects on her artistic evolution. These underpinnings shape her art into entities that are balanced and meticulously thought out, yet pulsating with a subtle vitality that architecture alone cannot capture.
With her understanding that sculptures, like buildings, inhabit space and interact with their surroundings, Utong constructs her pieces with an architect’s eye for detail and an artist’s passion for beauty. “The interplay of light and shadow, the flow of space around a form—these are elements I manipulate in my creations, transcending the physicality of the work to evoke a deeper emotional resonance,” she elucidates. The weightiness and permanence of architectural forms are translated into her sculptures, lending them a commanding presence and an unspoken narrative waiting to be explored.
Moreover, the sculptures are a testament to the harmony between form and function, a concept central to Utong’s architectural roots. “There is a profound parallel between the way an edifice occupies its environment and how a sculpture relates to its space. Each must converse with its context to truly belong,” she muses. In her work, one can sense the thoughtful consideration of how an audience will encounter and move through the art, creating an active dialogue rather than a passive observation—a dynamic engagement she regards as the cornerstone of her practice.
The alchemy of metal fabrication
In the sweltering heat of the metal shop, Utong Aoieong becomes the alchemist of art, transforming robust metals into delicate sculptures with a deep understanding of materiality. Metal fabrication is a dance with fire and strength,” Utong says, describing her process at Enzo Metal. It is in the forge that I’ve learned the true temper of metals and how heat can sway them to will.” Her hands, which once drafted the blueprints of buildings, now press, shape, and weld metals into forms that echo her encounters with the raw elements of nature. This juxtaposition between the rigors of metalwork and the delicacy of art creates a dualism at the heart of her sculptural expression.
Her experience at the metal shop has granted her an intricate knowledge of physical form and endurance. Working with metal has expanded my vocabulary of textures and finishes,” she shares, “and this directly feeds into the aesthetic decisions I make as an artist.” By embracing the material’s resistance, Utong’s sculptures emerge with a silent strength and resilience that symbolize her own artistic journey. Each piece is a collaboration between the artist’s vision and the metal’s inherent properties—an exploration of form that is as much about the process as it is the result.
Utong’s artistic philosophy revolves around the conversation between her materials and her message. “To me, metal is not inert; it has a voice, a grain, a direction,” she asserts. “When I work with it, I’m not imposing my will; I’m uncovering the essence within.” In these statements, one perceives the depth of her relationship with her medium. The hands-on, intimate labor of metal fabrication is not simply a means to an end but an intrinsic part of the creative dialogue that manifests in her sculptures. In this alchemical fusion, her work transcends mere metalwork becoming a distilled expression of the artist’s multifaceted craft and knowledge.
Title: intimate object; Medium: wood, cement, cable, metal; Size: 96x78x4.5”; Year: 2023; Background information: Created during Utong’s sculpture studies at Pratt Institute in NYC.
Synergy at UBR Studio
Utong finds a dynamic arena for collaboration that injects a communal essence into her usually solitary practice at UBR Studio. Here, synergy is not an abstract concept but the very essence of her role as a studio assistant, where she assimilates and contributes to the collective creative flow. “Assisting at UBR Studio has empowered me to embrace the fluidity of art-making,” Utong shares. “It’s where I weave my individual narrative into a larger artistic tapestry, challenging and refining my approach through the lens of collective insight.”
Her responsibilities extend beyond mere assistance; they encompass the sharing of skills, perspectives, and a willingness to support fellow artists in the gestation of their creations. There’s a unique energy in facilitating another artist’s vision—it’s an exercise in empathy and technique,” she reveals. At UBR Studio, Utong not only hones her tactile abilities but also cultivates her philosophical understanding of art. The studio environment, rich with varied techniques and discourses, allows her to delve into broader territories within the art world, thereby enhancing her own capacity for innovation and experimentation.
The mentorships and partnerships she forges in this space have a resounding impact on her practice. “I consider myself a lifelong student in the studio, absorbing from my peers, from the materials, even from the very space we share,” Utong intimates. She captures the essence of the studio’s ethos when she describes it as “a living organism, pulsating with shared purpose and passion.” The experiences gleaned here spill over into her individual work and are manifested in her expanded scope of expression and technique. Through her engagement at UBR Studio, Utong Aoieong personifies the idea that an artist’s growth is invariably entwined with the vibrant, interactive dialogues that only a collective workshop can inspire.
Communing with nature
Utong Aoieong’s residency in upstate New York represented a pivotal moment, a dedicated time for introspection and communion with the natural world. In this verdant haven, she stepped back from her urban artistic routines to engage with raw materials in their purest forms. “The residency was a dialogue with the earth,” Utong explains. “It was a chance to strip down the complex processes of my urban studio and rebuild my connection with natural materials.” This unmediated interaction with substances like wood, stone, and clay allowed her to develop a more intuitive approach to her practice, tapping into the elemental forces that shape creative expression.
Embracing nature’s chaotic order, Utong found a resonance with her own internal rhythms and cycles. “There’s this honest simplicity in nature that the city tends to strip away. Working with materials in their raw state reminded me of that essential honesty in creation,” she reflects. The tactile experience of molding these elements with her hands led to a series of sculptures imbued with the textured nuances and idiosyncrasies of their origins. Each piece I created carried the imprint of the land—a footprint of time and a whisper of the locale,” Utong recounts, her voice alive with the fresh memory of natural imbuement.
In these natural spaces, Utong discovered an alignment between her artistic sensibilities and the organic aesthetics of her surroundings. “Nature teaches you to listen, and in the quiet of the woods, I found my most authentic voice,” she says.
Movement as medium
In the realm of sculpture, movement can often seem an antithesis to the medium’s inherent stillness; however, for Utong Aoieong, it is a defining element. Her understanding of space and form, cultivated during her architectural studies, is beautifully interwoven with her sculptural expressions, resulting in art that transcends static existence. In Taiwan, where her journey with architecture began, Utong discovered the kinetic potential of structures—a revelation that would deeply inform her artistic trajectory. “Architecture is not just about stationary forms; it’s about how spaces perform when people engage with them,” Utong observes. Her sculptures mirror this philosophy, capturing the fluid interplay of human interaction with the built environment.
Utong’s work extends beyond the visual to encompass the realm of the performative. “I’ve always seen my sculptures as potential backdrops for movement, waiting to come alive through human interaction,” she states. Her recognition of movement as intrinsic to experience has transformed her sculptural art into a stage for performance, where the static and the dynamic converge. “My sculptural practice has evolved into these performances that are living sculptures. They are my silent pieces given voice through motion,” Utong elucidates, pointing to the kinetic energy that imbues her static creations with life.
The exchange between performer and sculpture is where Utong’s work finds its temporal dimension, allowing viewers to witness the unfolding narrative of shape and space. “The movement within and around a sculpture opens a new dialogue—a fleeting choreography that elevates the work to another plane,” she describes. This choreographed interactivity reflects her unique artistic vision, where sculptures become participants in an evolving story of human expression.
Title: random object; Medium: wood, found object; Size: 40x60x65″; Year: 2023; Background information: Created during Utong’s residency at Arts Letters & Numbers in Averill Park, NY.
Mirroring truth in art
Objective observation is a cornerstone of Utong Aoieong’s approach to performance art, where she seeks to capture the spontaneity and unfiltered reality of the present. “In my performances, I aim for a purity of experience, distilled to its essence and presented without pretense,” Utong explains. This philosophy underscores her belief in the potential of art to mirror truth, by stripping back the layers of narrative and allowing the rawness of the moment to speak. “There’s something profoundly real about observing actions as they unfold, without the veil of storytelling. It’s an honest encounter between the audience and the art,” she reflects.
Her performances are constructed around this core concept, working to ensure that each movement and each moment is a direct conduit to the truth as she perceives it. “My work is an invitation to witness a segment of life, unembellished and genuine,” she states. Through this lens, the art becomes a shared space for authenticity, where artist and observer are bound in a mutual recognition of reality. The authenticity radiates from the work—it’s like holding up a mirror to the audience where the reflection is not just of themselves, but of the prevailing truth within each of us,” Utong muses.
Utong’s work in performance art is a testament to her commitment to this form of unadulterated self-expression. By employing objective observation as a creative process, she challenges viewers to confront the purity of her artistic intent. “There is no room for misinterpretation in the immediate now—what you see is the raw narrative of existence,” Utong declares. This approach not only defines her work but also demarcates a visceral space within the art world, one that calls for unguarded engagement and offers a profound, unvarnished connection to the artistic experience. Through her art, Utong Aoieong provides a gateway to honesty and directness, championing performances and sculptures that unabashedly reflect the veritable essence of our shared human condition.
The future of artistic diversification
As Utong Aoieong stands at the crossroads of her multifarious artistic journey, she casts a visionary eye toward the horizon of contemporary art. Her commitment to professional diversification has not only shaped her past and present but paints a bold trajectory for her future endeavors. “I anticipate a continuous evolution of my artistic practices, drawing on my diverse professional experiences to challenge the status quo of conventional art forms,” Utong envisages. Her future projects embody the spirit of this evolution, seeking to meld her skills in metal fabrication and her collaborative experiences as a studio assistant into groundbreaking works that defy easy categorization.
Utong’s vision is to cultivate a legacy of artistic ingenuity that bridges gaps between disciplines, creating a harmonious dialogue where once boundaries existed. “In the coming years, I aim to further dissolve the lines between craftsman, assistant, and artist—embodying these roles simultaneously to create art that is responsive, innovative, and deeply textured with life’s multifaceted experiences,” she shares with conviction. It is this enduring openness to growth and learning that Utong believes will carry her—and the art world at large—into new realms of exploration and expression.
She perceives her artistic future not just in terms of personal achievement but as part of a larger movement to redefine what it means to be a creator in today’s society. “The impact I wish to impart on the art world hinges on blurring the edges—pushing the envelope so that diversity in skills and thought is not merely encouraged but expected,” Utong asserts. In this declaration, there is a promise of creative revolutions to come, a hint at the new ways she intends to engage with audiences and materials alike. Utong Aoieong’s story is one that will continue to unfold across canvases yet unpainted, in metals yet unshaped, and in performances yet unstaged—a narrative of perpetual artistic diversification that knows neither confines nor completion.