Today I thought I would share with you an interview that Amy Goh, who is a great artist and one of my Patreon supporters (yay!), invited me to take. She created a very personal zine, website and community called K4K (or kittiesforkitties.com ), which "was set up to help the alien citizens of the world to find other like-beings. We exist to connect and nurture these bonds and to show all forms of kitties that others beings like them exist that that we can, together, contribute our unique languages and world-beings to the evolution of the human race." The interview as well as my artwork will appear in the zine, which was presented at an exhibition/launch in Singapore this weekend. So exciting!
It's a wonderful project and I feel very grateful to be a part of it.
I thought you might like to know what motivates me and how I think about things, art and life in general. I've rarely shared such an in-depth perspective on what I do and why I do it. Since I'm more of a visual person, it's been challenging to form the words to explain my process, but it's also been super enriching and worthwhile, so thank you to Amy for 'pushing' me to put all these different thoughts into words
And without further ado, here it is! It's a lengthy interview, but I hope you enjoy it. :)
How do you describe your 'sacred space'? - - How do you construct it?
I have never thought about this in terms of a ‘sacred space’, but now, as I reflect on it, I realize I have many. I feel more comfortable calling them “ethereal spaces” (where ethereal means “extremely delicate and light in a way that seems not to be of this world”) or “meditative spaces”. These are the places I go where I feel safe and whole. I find them when I am alone, with music and books and creating tools, my pens and pencils and paper. I find them with others when we share silence that connects. I find them in nature, listening to the wind in the leaves or the chaotic movement of the ocean. I find them in the imaginary places I go to: forests with stars and soft wind brushing the trees, colorful nebulas circulating deep in the cosmos, underwater, in the deep ocean depths where wild and beautiful creatures exist — places that are hidden, peaceful and that reveal how we are part of something bigger than ourselves. I’m not spiritual in the ‘classic’ sense of the word, according to the definition “relating to religion or religious belief.” I’m actually quite rational and scientific. But within this reasoning-rational aspect of myself, I have a very strong sense of spirituality, in this sense of the term: “relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.” I believe in the beauty and importance of our intuition, our subconscious, the parts of ourselves that are mysterious, unknown and untamed. I know there is so much that we do not know – and there is beauty in that. I believe that we create meaning in our lives, and that we do this by coming home to ourselves, to our core, to our conscious selves and our subconscious selves. In doing this, we allow ourselves to connect with others, to reverberate with each other’s complexes and thus push each other to grow, to evolve, and to flourish. Adrienne Rich wrote that “An honorable human relationship — that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word “love” — is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.” I believe that this not only applies to a relationship between two individuals, but also our relationship to ourselves.
In these ethereal/meditative places I just described, all emotions coexist; they are loved for what they are and the truth they give. Happiness, melancholy, anger, sadness, bliss, serenity, are all present — but they are softened, and infused with beauty. Chaos and serenity intertwined, balancing each other out, giving each other space and voice, like the light and the dark.
In these spaces, there is connection between all things, a complex network of interweaving thoughts, ideas, feelings, images, and meanings. When the space I am entering is connected to art-making, objects and lines carry messages, symbols; they underline and reflect the complexity of who we are, which is as complex and shifting as the world we inhabit.
When I enter these ethereal spaces, there is a simultaneous presence within, a deep connection to who I am as a living, breathing individual, and a ‘radiation’ outwards, a connection to other people, to the natural world, to something much bigger than ourselves.
Tell me a bit about your art and process.
As you can maybe tell from my previous answer, the natural world is extremely important me. So is the imaginary, our internal worlds. A big part of my process is trying to get to the truths at our core, the truth of what it means to be human: connected to a natural world that is so much bigger than us, and yet also connected to an infinite richness within us – our capacity for self-awareness, for refining the truths we tell ourselves, for creativity, for building worlds from within. Our creative selves are deeply connected to the greater natural world, and this is perhaps one of the foundations of my work. It’s why I often mingle the real and the imaginary, the figurative and the abstract, the rational and the intuitive, the conscious and the subconscious. I’m interested in these liminal spaces, where boundaries dissolve and two opposing truths are brought together, sustaining and enriching each other. This is also why negative space in my drawings is as important to me as the positive space — there is equilibrium, truth, found in the boundary between the two.
My art is often delicate and dreamlike with a tinge of darkness. Darkness, and ‘negative’ emotions are inherently part of the human condition – but rather than shun them, I believe it’s important to integrate them, give them voice, space, and thus allow them to transform us. Finding beauty within the darkness, shining light on our darkest corners, is what allows us to transcend the darkness, to grow, to keep coming home to ourselves. And the natural world is a perfect illustration of this paradoxical truth, with its constant interweaving of life and death, chaos and serenity, destruction and rebirth.
How does environment change how you work?
When I was living in Montreal, I used my studio space to paint most of the time. Since my move to France, I’ve focused much more on drawing with pens or ink; or painting with watercolors (as opposed to acrylic paint). It might have something to do with my studio space here – I share the studio (which is called En Traits Libres) with 11 other artists, so space is a little tighter. I work at my desk every day, whereas in my previous studio, I would stand a lot, or sit on a high stool, at the high table or the easel I had set up there. In Montpellier, I’m surrounded by other artists who ‘draw’, which might have also influenced my artistic practice – though drawing has always been a big part of my work.
In order for me to be able to thrive in my artistic work, I also need to regularly reconnect with nature – I do this by going climbing or hiking on the weekends, out in the countryside, or by paying attention to the trees, the plants and wind inside the city. More recently, I decided to create miniature moss and lichen gardens using moss I (sustainably) picked from nature. The two I made are sitting on my studio desk as I write — it’s a little absurd how much joy they give me when I look over at them. I imagine being a tiny little person walking in the mossy landscape and that makes me smile.
What conditions are best for you to work under? (music, light, rituals)
Environment definitely changes how I work, but there is a constant in terms of my ritual of art-making. I am most easily able to enter my ethereal art space when I’m listening to music. Certain types of music help me enter the art-making space more easily than others – they all share a melancholic quality to them. Colleen, Amon Tobin, Plaid, Mùm, Flying Lotus and Alela Diane have always been high on that list. More recently, I’ve also been listening to Daughter, Other Lives, The Chopin Project by Ólafur Arnalds and Alice Sara Ott, Foals, Alt-J, Sylvan Esso and Mountain Man. They all help me access that silent bubbling space where ideas flow, and lines drift out almost seamlessly. It’s a unique kind of space where there is an absence of thoughts and, simultaneously, very complex thought processes happening on a ‘lower’ level of consciousness – almost as though I were inhabiting a layer that floats midway between conscious thought and subconscious thought.
I then choose a tool, and a certain size of paper and start drawing. I often start out in this unplanned way, but as I start making marks on the paper, images start appearing in my mind – textures or structures that inspire me. It’s a constant conversation between what the intuitive part of me is making and and how it evokes objects, places or creatures in my mind. I ‘follow’ just as much as I ‘redirect’. Sometimes I stay in the realm of the abstract – but even these abstract shapes are connected to thoughts and are somehow visual ‘explanations’ of abstract truths. Other times, I very quickly identify the figurative elements that emerge and I continue to explore those.
Every once in a while, I will actually plan my drawing. When this happens, I usually sketch it out in pencil, do some visual brainstorming on the side, and then flesh out the idea more concretely with ink and color. This is usually the case for my more illustrative work.
I also have an ‘everything’ sketchbook where I throw down ideas, sketch things out, write little tidbits of inspiration down, quotes from books or websites, work on more technical things like perspective, make mistakes, scribble, create finished drawings, journal, basically anything and everything that will continue to feed my artistic process.
How do you see your evolution as an artist? / How has your work changed?
There have been many different parts to my evolution as an artist. Much earlier, when I wasn’t really drawing, my creativity expressed itself in a multitude of other ways – it tried to find an outlet through my clothes, the way I dressed, the walls of my room (I would spend hours decorating my walls, finding ‘echoes’ between different posters, images torn from magazines I found, little objects I found inspiring). Later on, after a long period of ‘dormancy’ in terms of (concrete) art-making (though I was feeding my creative soul and internal ‘bank’ of images by studying first biology and then English literature and film), I met Sandrine Gaudet, my art teacher and mentor — her way of teaching was extremely liberating and she allowed me to give free rein to what was within. After meeting her, I started making a lot of art. For a few years, I was exploring everything and anything: testing all kinds of materials and styles, seeing what was possible and trying to figure out who I was as a creative being. This was a time of exploration, of learning how to embrace the unknown, of how to love failure and see it as a springboard for growth, of how to experience fear and do things anyway, of how to allow myself to be. I started and completed a graduate degree in puppet theatre, which continued helping me hone in on who I was as an artistic being.
In the last two/three years, I feel like my artistic practice has ‘stabilized’ quite a bit. My identity as an artist has become much clearer as I’ve aligned myself more clearly with my core. There’s much more ‘space’ in my drawings, perhaps because there’s more space in my mind. Certain themes have followed me from the beginning and others have emerged: underwater creatures, trees and strange plants, abandoned houses, abstract thought maps, stars, skies and storms, maps, islands and paths, lost creatures, weavings.
I still strive to push boundaries and am looking forward to seeing where things will go in the future.
What do you think of K4K?
K4K is a wonderful project – creating communities like this where people can share their perspectives is so enriching. I’ve read a number of articles from K4K and it feels so good to read words that resonate with me, where I feel like other people would understand where I’m coming from and where I’m going. We are all different, but I do think that what binds a lot of the people that are part of K4K is their high sensitivity. I recently read about this, being an HSP (or Highly Sensitive Person), and though feeling deeply can often be perceived as a negative thing, it has so many positive enriching aspects to it. As a sensitive person, there is often a risk of overwhelm or overload, from your emotions, from others’ emotions, from external stimuli. But what it also allows is an understanding of different perspectives and layers and truths, a deep connection and empathy with others, and thus a capacity for helping others heal, and for nurturing creativity in the world. K4K does all those things.
For those of you curious to know more about being an HSP, click here.