I Just Wanna Make Grown Up Art Exhibition: Artists Interview
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On Tuesday 11th April, the grade 12 IB Art students had their final art exhibition, which showcased the thematic works that they’ve cumulated over the past 2 years. The exhibition was titled “I Just Wanna Make Grown Up Art”, and will be opened from the 11th to the 21st of April. In this article, we have interviewed the artists, who talked about their body of work and gave us insights of what it’s like to be an IB Art student. In case you didn’t get to see the opening night of the DP Art Exhibition, “I Just Wanna Make Grown Up Art”, here’s what you missed:
Photos by Tim Barnsley
My body of work is inspired by the idea of infinity through the style of minimalism. The title of my exhibition is “Everything and Nothing”: how the idea of infinity is contrasted between the use of circles and geometrical shapes that utilizes negative space. Ideas can be infinitely interpreted. I was intrigued by the idea of infinity because although you know what it means, you can’t exactly grasp what it is and what it looks like. Nature also inspired me, such as this piece of 3 artworks represented the different stages of matter: the circles representing the infinite atoms and its formation. The closer you look at the circles, the more hypnotized and intrigued you can become by the illusion of infinity. I was inspired by Yayoi Kusama and Mark Rothko among many others.
My artworks are about the female form and how they are differently interpreted. I illustrated this in many different mediums, for example, the soft sculpture with a boulder on top represents the fragility of a woman yet she can still withstand immense hardships. The soft pieces make the viewers want to touch the pieces but they can’t, just as how people want to touch and interact with women. The maternal state of a woman also intrigues me because it’s such a pure stage of a female’s life, also how you see a pregnant woman and think that she is the purest thing even though she might not be. By capturing the female body in this serene state, some works romanticize the female body but others, like the soft sculpture, are very hard and provocative but not romantic. My artworks have taken a lot of abstraction so that people can take different perspectives of the female body.
The theme of my artworks centers on females and female body, and the recurring motifs of water and plants. I tried to depict the actual state of things and what females look like. Especially with my largest painting, how a utopia for women would look like if they were free from the male gaze. These women are naked without being sexualized and the lotuses symbolize purity and enlightenment. Contemporary artists that influenced me were Petra Collins and Ren Hang, who question the stigma around nudity and sexuality. In the past, men have been the painter of nude women, so I wanted to take a feminine approach to it and paint women without sexualizing them. Some of the titles are in Vietnamese because I’m half Vietnamese and I wanted to re-contextualize the Western/ European oil painting styles using motifs and imageries of my own culture. I think that everyone should take art since it’s the only subject where you can decide what you want to do and what you’re tested on, it’s about what you create. The title of our art exhibition, “I Just Wanna Make Grownup Art”, was spurred from the concept of society questioning what “art” is and who can make it, and we, as young people, challenged the concept by making politically powerful and unexpected artworks.
Anh Phuong Nguyen
My body of work is about contemplating and using the hands to feel. I chose the Mobius strip as one of the main motif because I could meditate from looking at it and I could draw it repeatedly without having to think about the meaning. But I did think through it, and I was frustrated at times, thinking, “What am I trying to do? What was the big idea behind my drawings?”. Then I realized it was just a celebration of charcoal, brass and clay, materials which allowed me to live through the process. It was a celebration of materials, techniques and using my hands to create natural and alluring shapes. I enjoyed doing it and I didn’t want to force a meaning to it. “Sacrilege” is my most eye-catching display. I was inspired by the Tibetan singing bowls that people pray and meditate to, which created a surreal and ethereal feeling in me. Therefore, I started to make the bowls out of pinch pot which I then set up here for other people to go through this process as well. My work isn’t religious, it just tries to emulate the feeling that religion gives you without being strictly religious, which makes it spiritual. I want people to make bowls with me and undergo this process, because after all the process is the meaning of the work.
My artwork is a mixture of where I belong and fashion. My culture influenced me, as seen in these pieces, “Many Faces of Multiculturalism”, to show all the places that I’ve lived before. I chose a face because when you first meet someone, they seem different but that are all similarly in that they’re innately human. The body figures also represents a culture or a religion that has been misrepresented. Each of my artwork has a meaning behind why I chose the materials and symbols. Fashion is something I’m also very interested in as you can express yourself freely, and fashion may seem so innocent but each culture has a fashion that is very meaningful to its society or tradition. I’m very happy now that I see the outcome and everything altogether, and I see how my body of work is connected even though I doubted myself at first. Ideas are very hard to arrive to something concrete, and I spent weeks just sitting and thinking of ideas before actually being able to create something that is cohesive and meaningful.
My exhibition is inviting the viewer into self-discovery through the theme of hybridity, which I have experienced myself due to my Salvadorian-Spanish background. I had to accept both views and see that I don’t fully belong to one society at any given time. I focused on ceramics and clay because they were the traditional Mayan tool to capture the idea of an ancient culture. The painters that influenced were Pablo Picasso (Spanish) and Fernand Leger (French), both of them explored their own culture and society which was trapping and corrupted. I created my own style from these influences, connecting geometry and pottery. My artworks also serves as a protest against the misinterpretations that society has of my Spanish culture. There is a perception that Spanish are drug dealers and rapists, and I wanted to stand against the idea by showing the vibrant colors that associate Spanish people with passion in everything they do and how they are opened and friendly.
All my works are based on dark skinned people, but my favorite piece is a person of a different race and culture background. I wanted to show diversity, because my theme was based around the cracking down of stereotypes surrounding black people, and I wanted to show that there is also beauty and grace in other minority groups, like the Latinos. So often do I see White people usually taking the credit for beauty, but in actuality, we are all beautiful in our different skin tones. The design are specifically African patterns, and I chose them because of my own African background, and I know that it will always be a part of me. I decided to show, through the distinctive print fabric, this history of black people, which is unique to its culture. Markers are not really seen in the art work, and tend to be brought down, and I wanted to show that they are similar to black people, who are also not very appreciated at times.
My inspiration is from the psychedelic art of Tokio Aoyama and a bit from Yayoi Kusama; the theme of the whole exhibition is the struggle of growing up, and each artwork talks about a different struggle and about the flaws in our current society. My color palette is very surreal, and I chose a lot of vibrant colors that contrasts with each other. I am a very impulsive artist and I can’t plan things out, so whenever I have an idea I just start painting and working along with it. My favorite artwork is the one where you can see the water reflections up close, and then when you see it from afar, you can see the persona is drowning. I am not a perfectionist, so I want the audiences to see the flaws in the artworks because my theme is about struggles, but at the same time, there is also this sense of perfection in it.
The piece is very personal as I have taken inspiration based on my childhood, and I wanted to confront society as a whole because of it. My other source of inspiration also comes from the works of Francisco De Goya and Grayson Perry. When you look at my artwork, you would not think that they show a boy, and society may say something is wrong because the boy is wearing a dress. I believe social norm is just what we created, and not something innate. The title is “con trai” (Vietnamese for “boy”) because it would create that link with the boy in a dress. I chose oil painting because I haven’t done anything with oil painting before, so I started experimenting, and wanted to take what I learnt and put it into my work. The colors are very vibrant and bright, while the background is black. Because all my others works tend to be darker and duller I wanted to make this one so much brighter and more colorful to make it stand out.
My favorite piece would be the one of Afia; it’s called the Ghana Princess, it’s my favorite because it took me the longest, because all the details in the fabric, and how big it is. Charcoal isn’t something I’m used, as I tend to use pencil more, but I really loved working with it throughout the entire exhibition, and got used to it in the end. For all my art works, I drew people who I had a relationship, and because Afia is a good friend of mine, I decided to draw her while at the same time also to look at how her culture influenced who she is. I was inspired by this artist called Iris Van Dongen, who does similar life-sized kind of portraits. With hers, she also used clothing as a standout of the piece, so I wanted to change the focus onto the culture rather than person. I’m glad that I went through the course since it allowed me to connect all the pieces and see art, especially my art, as a whole.
Photos by Mateusz Dluniewski