A Fruitless Pursuit | Interview with Andy Van Dinh
When an artist devotes all their energy into their craft, relentless in their pursuit of self-education and skill development, all the while producing thought-provoking work, one can not help but be inspired.
Here's a guy who accepts his creative gifts and uses them to expand his sense of self. Andy Van Dinh is emerging into the arts-sphere with themes of nostalgia, illusion and introspection. Born and raised in Calgary, Alberta Canada, where he got his BFA in painting from the University of Calgary. Now he lives and works in Brooklyn, New York where graduated with an MFA from Hunter College in 2018. Drawing is his thing, and we're happy to share this space with him, and to share him with our readers.
Andy, you moved from Calgary, Canada to Brooklyn NY. How has the change in environment impacted your creative career?
Moving to New York forced me to understand what I really wanted and redefined what success should look like for myself. It’s very competitive and the art world feels like it never wants you to be involved. I am faced with always adapting and readapting in New York. That being said, I have found people who are like-minded and are constantly adapting along with me. New York can make you feel like you’re constantly left behind, but the success is the ability to make work, and continue making work - that is all. New York taught me this.
You were actually a biology major in University before you moved into painting, how did that influence your art ideas?
I used to draw organs and body parts as a way to create synecdoches. Biology was always about looking at the microscopic in order to understand the whole. Learning biology allowed me to see the body in a very scientific way, but I was interested in evolving that perspective into something more social. My drawings became about a form of documentation of my own body and my place in the world.
Where and how do you get inspired?
I get inspired by movies. Lots of movies. Lots of food shows. Lots of paintings. Lots of conversations about the diaspora and colonialism. Lots of conversations about sports. Lots of time being with myself. Lots of decoding Lupe Fiasco’s 'The Cool' album. Lots of Horizons.
And if I’m feeling uninspired then I’ll do lots more.
Artists are often talented in many disciplines and are inclined to explore multiple mediums. This is something you do very well. How important is it for an artist to stick to one 'thing'? Is there a secret to exploring different mediums or styles and still be taken seriously as an artist?
I’m not too sure if I have explored too many mediums. Or perhaps I didn’t stick to them long enough. I do feel like having certain skills in my tool belt could or will come in handy in the future. It’s just important to realise what the limits are for each medium, and which one you can adapt with. Don’t ever feel like you need to stick to one medium, but also, don’t ever feel like you can’t stick to one medium. Just do you ma G.
What advice have you been given or do you have for artists just starting out?
I’ve been told not to make art out of fear of failing. I’ve been told to make lots. I’ve been told to stop making art that looks like art. I’ve been told to take time off from making art.
For artists who are just starting out: don’t forget the 10,000 hours rule, don’t take criticism so personally, learn to filter advice including this right now, the bad days are just as important as the good days, have fun, and it ain’t a race.
Can you give us a glimpse into what a typical day in your life looks like?
On weekdays I’m probably art handling making that bread so I can feed myself and pay for rent. On weekends if I’m not working a job I’ll go to the studio. I’ll be there from the morning to as long as I want (usually it’s dark out by the time I Ieave). I take lots of breaks and eat lots of snacks. Sometimes I don’t even make work, I just think or chill. Sometimes it’s a terrible day of trying to be productive but seems like nothing happens (these are most of my days). If I do find the flow, I’m in the zone until I get really hungry, aka lunch and dinner. If I’m satisfied with my time in the studio, I can’t wait for the next day. If I’m not satisfied, I still can’t wait for the next day.
Tell us about your latest project
I’ve been using tracing carbon paper to create drawing installations. It was a tool my mom would use as a seamstress to transfer clothing patterns onto fabric. It has a nostalgic feel to me, and I’ve been trying to find a way to link mom’s experience with the Vietnamese diaspora with mine. I feel like the tracing carbon paper has a lot of potential that I have not figured out yet.
What's next for you?
I keep exploring. I keep making work, and hopefully show my work from time to time. I can’t really see too far in the future, nor do I want to. But I do see myself being creative in one way or another.
Exhibition called My Inherent Obstructions / a Fruitless Pursuit at ADA Slaight Gallery in Toronto until July 4th.
Exhibition at Gallery Cubed located in DUMBO Brooklyn August 29th.
Wassaic Project residency in September 2019
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lauren was born in London, but grew up in Canada where she received her degrees with distinction in Fine Arts and Education from the University of Calgary. Now she's back, she continues her work in creative arts by making art and occasionally teaching it, while developing opportunities for early career artists as the founder of the online platform Dark Yellow Dot.