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Studio Visit - Vanha Lam

Studio Visit - Vanha Lam

Studio Visit - Vanha Lam

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Studio Visit

Vanha Lam

Welcome to the studio of Vanha Lam. Beauty in simplicity is an overused descriptor for minimalist tendencies, and often diminishes the complexity that can exist within saying less, visually and verbally. Vanha Lam’s work continues to prove this point, allowing the manipulation and reconfiguration of common shapes and linear patterns to represent feelings of discord or the need for recognizing what in society is now unstable.

 

Q.

Tell us about yourself and how you came to be an artist.

A.

I came from a working class, immigrant upbringing, which in many ways, created the ideal conditions for a young artist. It made me aware of social, cultural, and economic privilege early on. Art was a way to investigate that which unsettled me. Curiosity was a driver and being able to create from it a compulsion.

Q.

What is your creative process?

A.

I always start with limitations. This provides a structure for me to navigate within. I then establish a boundary and see how far it can be pushed. Or build a framework and see how many ways it can break. It’s a delicate balance between order and chaos, intention and intuition. First, set the scene, then let the materials, process, or environment intervene. This is what I mean by ‘a controlled collapse’.

Q.

What draws you to painting?

A.

I came to painting with no formal training, only a desire to extend concepts I had developed from my background in architecture and design into a new medium. It reacts in its own way, like all materials do, which is a quality I’m drawn to.

Q.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

A.

My path has never been a linear one. I studied fields ranging from literature, philosophy, science, architecture, to design, which led to the realization that vast networks exist between seemingly disparate fields. These invisible systems of potential are what inspire me.

Vanha Lam says

“MODERN CULTURE IS BECOMING INCREASINGLY PRECARIOUS. RACIAL, CLASS, AND ENVIRONMENTAL SYSTEMS ARE FAILING BUT WE RESIGN TO MAINTAIN THE PRETENSE OF A FUNCTIONING SOCIETY. MY WORKS EMPLOY GEOMETRY AS SYMBOLIC REPRESENTATION. THEIR DEFORMATION AN ATTEMPT TO DESTABILIZE.”

Vanha Lam
Vanha Lam

Q.

When do you make your best work?

A.

I haven’t.

Q.

What influence does modern culture have on your work?

A.

Modern culture is becoming increasingly precarious. Racial, class, and environmental systems are failing but we resign to maintain the pretense of a functioning society. My works employ geometry as symbolic representation. Their deformation an attempt to destabilize.

Q.

What is your relationship with social media?

A.

I try not to let it hold too much weight.

Q.

What influence does living in New York have on your work?

A.

What comes to mind is what I mentioned earlier about systems and networks. New York City has two lives: the one that was imagined by its makers (government, corporations, elite), and the one that came after, adapted by its inhabitants (working class, immigrants, transients). The afterlife is most fascinating to me because essentially these groups had to devise their own mechanisms for survival. And because they were restricted by an economy of means, they were more ingenious in their inventions. Reappropriation of public space in Chinatown, my neighborhood, is a beautiful example.

Q.

Describe your work in 3 words.

A.

A controlled collapse.

Q.

What do you listen to when creating?

A.

Basinski’s ‘Disintegration Loops’ (I-IV)

Vanha Lam

Q.

Are there any quotes or mantras that you particularly connect with?

A.

I’ve been reading Virilio, so the first quote that comes to mind is “The invention of the ship was also the invention of the shipwreck.” The notion of duality and causality.

Q.

What messages or emotions do you hope to convey to your audience?

A.

To question and imagine what different worlds could be like. It’s important for me that the audience is aware their experience matters. Art is what happens to the viewer.

Q.

Who are some contemporaries or figures in art history who have influenced you?

A.

Architecture perhaps has had more of a profound effect on me. I spent a lot of time studying brutalist, military ruins along the Pacific Coast and the qualities of light, space and decay. The structural and spatial quality of my work is informed by these experiences.

Q.

What makes you excited about the future?

A.

Breaking out of standards, conditions, and rules.

Q.

What makes you nervous?

A.

Standards, conditions, rules.

Q.

What makes you laugh?

A.

Random acts of humanity.




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