It was one of those gems of nights when Caliph8 was DJing and experimental and noise were on the program at Limbo, the quaking new midnight gallery at Poblacion, when Sherlaine Yap, model and artist, offered me a custom cocktail from a clandestine Coke bottle. (This kind gesture of booze offering will prove to be a recurring theme, as I find myself leaving Casa Yap some months later with Iichiko shochu from Japan in tow.)
“I’m good,” I said, convincing myself that I’m here for the art, not the alcohol, interchangeable they may be depending on the context.
I first met Sherlaine at the Proudrace campaign and lookbook shoot photographed by Paolo Crodua, the fated one that made it to the pages of Vogue Italia. Sherlaine was a pleasant sight, a buzz cut beauty in Proudrace’s SS18 pedal pusher trunks, back when I wasn’t yet acquainted with her art.
Fast forward to Limbo, Sherlaine and I got to talking about a common interest: zines and small presses. She told me about her experience working with Bad Student, the design studio that flourished from the acquisition of a second-hand Riso machine. I was delighted to have been schooled on how Riso works. We swapped convictions on the urgency of independent publishing, and the unreplicable aura housed in the tactility of the printed matter.
Then from her tote she whipped out a notebook (one of many, I would discover) that she brings with her everywhere. In it are notes, doodles, and sketches from life. Sherlaine the model is also a skilled illustrator and prolific chronicler of the day-to-day. Her handmade books are compendiums of spirited drawings of patches of wilderness and flash portraits of strangers coming, waiting, and going.
One Thursday that felt like a Sunday, I dropped in on Sherlaine and we talked about art, dealing with depression, and the curse of the rinsta, while rummaging through matchless Japan grails, including candy-flavored incense and a saké hoard.
JED: How do the drawings come about? And do you have plans on formally showing them publicly?
SHERLAINE: I always bring a small notebook with me. I bring it and try to draw whoever is sitting in front of me. When I’m traveling I just want to sit somewhere and draw. I’ll stare at someone and draw them until they notice and walk away. (Laughs) Lately I got sick of the small space, so I’m bringing my sketchpad around, which is more hassle. I wish I could make more large-scale stuff, more paintings. Even when I was in the psychiatric ward for two weeks, I would draw everyday. I would even smuggle my notebook to bed. As soon as I got out I wanted to publish it.
JED: What’s your take on the importance of talking about mental health?
SHERLAINE: I don’t mind talking about it. I was in a slump, I was very depressed. When I was in the hospital I was bedridden for two days. I miss the ward. I have friends who also went to the ward who say they miss it, because you don’t have anything to worry about, and you’re a little anxious when you’re out again. What I know now, with all the bad lows and manic highs, that it’s really like that, it goes up and down, and I keep telling myself that whatever happens I’ll be okay. I know my poor heart can only take so much, but whatever happens I’ll be okay! Just keep trucking. If I could talk to my past self about all the crap I went through, I’ll tell myself that. It’s just a weird life phase and you’ll get past it, and just have a little bit more self control.
There’s just so much stuff that could be art everywhere and I enjoy looking at stuff, or just being in a place with people I really enjoy being with.” —Sherlaine Yap
JED: People who know you on your finsta know that you’re very open about everything, and you don’t mind putting it all out there.
SHERLAINE: On my finsta, at least! I just need a random outlet, to post about things that I like or things that I’m doing, or how I’m feeling. If I quit modeling I want to quit Instagram because I hate it how my pictures gets more likes than my doodles. It’s frustrating. And then once you start posting not your face… I hate how it’s so convoluted. People talk shit all the time, all the social justice warriors.
JED: Would you say that you now have a better understanding of how depression works, what gets you in a low mood, and how to avoid it?
SHERLAINE: Right now I’ve been on a good streak. I just try to put in my head to try to expect it, so that when it happens I can catch myself and then I can deal with it.
JED: Can you talk about the art or artists that you like and what inspires you?
SHERLAINE: My mind suddenly blanked with who I’m inspired by and stuff I like. I don’t really have favorite artists. You know how some people can trace their roots back to the very first time they went to a museum and saw a piece of artwork and it stuck forever? For me everything comes and goes in passes and flashes. Everything is handheld, everything is on Instagram. Sometimes I don’t even know the artist’s name anymore, and I only remember the style because it sticks to my head. There’s just so much stuff that could be art everywhere and I enjoy looking at stuff, or just being in a place with people I really enjoy being with.
JED: Do you go on trips a lot? What’s one place you really like?
SHERLAINE: The only time I really get to travel is when my dad has an incentive trip. He’s in the appliances industry so he always has these things were suppliers get a free trip. Sometimes I tag along, like the Japan trip. It was the first time my parents didn’t go and it was just me and my sister on their behalf. First time in Europe was also because of those incentive trips. I like Norway, the people are just so beautiful there! And everyone just loves to stay outside no matter how cold it is, sit out in the sun, have a cigarette and some coffee.
Follow Sherlaine on Instagram: @sherlame
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