One of the first things that struck me as remarkable about Shirley Tse’s sculptures – after their initial and persistent formal impact - was their function as indicators of a deeper and more complex understanding of this human/plastic relationship – encompassing and acknowledging plastic’s pop-humanist demonization as an important but reductivist aspect of a much larger, finely nuanced, multi-layered and multivalent narrative.
One aspect of this underlying narrative has been an engagement with the history of plastic in art, most conspicuous in Tse’s avoidance of the kinds of plausibly deniable irony that characterize Pop usages of this most modern of materials – as well as the mute fetishism of its Minimalist incarnations. But Tse has cast a much wider net. Before even leaving grad school she had identified the circulating global stream of cheap plastic consumer goods – in which both Los Angeles and the artist’s hometown of Hong Kong act as major hubs – as a central underlying motif in her work’s formal and conceptual gestation.
The geopolitical and systems theory implications arising from this specific template are extensive, yet only hint at the mycelium of interlaced ideational threads underlying the mandala of synthetic ‘shrooms that comprise Tse’s oeuvre. Through intentional research and reference as well as unusually lucid intuitive and associative connections, Tse has imbued work that reads at first glance as playful but enigmatic formalism - brightly colored inflatables, intricately incised slabs of foam, mutated beverage coolers - with the distinctive sense of elaborately interwoven symbolic sets lying just outside our comprehension, elaborately modeled entry points for a vast interdimensional metro system (if only public art looked half as good!)”