From a blue rimmed bowl of shrimp to takeaway goldfish suspended from pink thread, Keng Lye has been creating new worlds caught between painting and sculpture ever since discovering the works of goldfish artist Riusuke Fukahori.

Considerations of lighting and layers in precise brush stroke build up a physical presence. Part art, part trickery, the painted reliefs push the limitations of his chosen mediums, and in doing so breathe life into acrylic and resin. The resulting pieces are so real, so tangible, on first glance you see a shimmer of movement. And this, the hyper-reality of his work, is what has captured attention across the online world, and awarded him his first solo exhibition at the K+ inaugural show which opened this week.

Keng Lye spoke with us before the opening of his show about his techniques, his motivation, and his favourite amphibian.

To connect with Keng Lye, head over to his official website:

Anna Sanders: What was it about Riusuke Fukahori and his work that inspired you to explore your own project, ‘Alive without breath’?

Keng Lye: I admire Riusuke’s ability to make the goldfish come alive. I am in awe of Riusuke’s dedication and commitment to perfecting his art.

Which other artists do you admire?

I can’t think of any.

Riusuke Fukahori, 'The Sun', Acrylic on resin

Riusuke Fukahori, ‘The Sun’, Acrylic on resin

There is an element of displacement in your work, with your subjects finding themselves in bowls or cups, is there a link between nature and food?

I saw a food show on TV where the host had to eat a live octopus. It gave me the idea to paint an octopus in a bowl. I wanted to highlight the plight of the poor octopus in my own small way.

Keng Lye, 'What's it like to be an octopus', Acrylic on resin in a wooden sake cup

Keng Lye, ‘What’s it like to be an octopus’, Acrylic on resin in a wooden sake cup

Your earlier work began by building layers of resin and acrylic, then including objects such as pebbles and egg shells, how do you see your work progressing in future to further explore 3d possibilities?

I am constantly thinking of different techniques and ideas to make my work “pop”. Recently I started using artist gel to add a more glistening and 3D effect.

What drew you to exploring hyper-realism in your work?

After seeing Riusuke’s video, I was fascinated. It got me thinking and I started experimenting. I have never thought of my work being hyper-realistic – I just do whatever my heart tells me.

Keng Lye, 'Make the Ordinary Come Alive', Acrylic on resin

Keng Lye, ‘Make the Ordinary Come Alive’, Acrylic on resin

Would you consider yourself a painter who creates sculptor, or a sculpture who paints?

A bit of both?

What do you look to communicate within your work?

Calmness, peacefulness, tranquillity – making people feel good.

Keng Lye, 'Go On, Leave Me Breathless', Acrylic on resin

Keng Lye, ‘Go On, Leave Me Breathless’, Acrylic on resin

There have been comments on your social media channels asking to purchase your works, how do you feel about the possibility of working on commission and making your pieces commercial?

I am open to selling. Initially I did not as I felt that my works were not good enough. Last year I sold a few pieces at an exhibition at a pop-up event in Singapore. This year I will be exhibiting and selling my works at the exhibition. I am cautious about selling online as it involves too much administration, paperwork and time. I will explore setting up an online shop and it will happen – eventually – but I am not in any rush. I am open to commission work – only if it interests me and captures my imagination – and that I feel comfortable with the client, conditions and vibe.

Which has been your most challenging work to date?

Every piece is challenging in its own way. I can’t pin point one.

What is your favourite amphibian to paint?

This (below) is my favourite because it conveys feelings of calmness, patience and happiness. Creating this piece was particularly challenging as I had wanted to capture a particular moment in time – the scurrying movements of the terrapin as it chases a small fish around the bowl.

Keng Lye, 'Live and let live', Acrylic on resin in a plastic bowl

Keng Lye, ‘Live and let live’, Acrylic on resin in a plastic bowl

Keng Lye’s first solo exhibition will take place at K + Curatorial Space in Singapore from January 22nd until February 15th.

All images courtesy of Artist Keng Lye