Ladies and gentlemen: We bring you the graphite obsessions of sublime Canadian Artist Andy Van Dinh…
Hi Andy! Could you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
Hi, I am an emerging artist from Calgary Alberta Canada. I imprint internal thoughts, known text, used irony, and subvert specific motifs in mythology/classic-metaphors to assert my own idiosyncrasy in a visual language.
Could you tell us about your creative process, from the initial idea to the finished piece?
The initial idea has to be delusional and strange before it can flourish into something unique and powerful. So majority of the time I’m just thinking of ways to distort images and ideas. However, things tend to go very differently when I actually make the artwork, so I improvise and learn as I go. Usually the finished piece is far from the initial idea, or perhaps the idea was undeveloped or lacked clarity to begin with. Basically, my process is a struggle to convey my interior sense in an empirical world.
What particularly appeals to you about working in graphite?
I enjoy the fragility and intimacy of the paper and pencil. It’s direct and not convoluted. It’s easy to use but hard to master. It can be used to render a quick sketch, or an elaborate drawing, or used as a mundane tool to inscribe thoughts and messages.
How do you conceptualize/construct a piece? Do you think of it as a story, snapshot, or abstraction?
I try to look at my work as if it is manifesting into one colossal conversation — a conversation between the artworks, the viewer, and with myself. Each work adds another layer to the overall dialogue. So the most recent work guides the next art piece.
I think I see my work more as a narrative than anything else. Or perhaps a map, and I’m the cartographer.
Favourite pencil: Wood? Mechanical? Other?
I have more control with a wooden pencil. I can make it sharp or dull according to my preference.
What other materials do you enjoy using?
I enjoy painting when I’m impatient. I’ve also used photography, video, installation, and even performance art to depict ideas. Lately I’ve been trying out printmaking.
What size do you tend to work at? Do you have a preferred scale?
I pay close attention to what scale I use. I use both extremes of the spectrum (the gigantic and the miniature) to exaggerate my perception. However, when it comes to drawing I usually use a 30’x22′ sheet of paper.
What’s your favourite subject-matter? What’s the particular attraction?
I’ve always been obsessed with the sublime, specifically the sublime from trying to comprehend death and the infinite. As a kid I was very curious about outer space and how it never ends.
What has most influenced and inspired your vision?
I romanticize every miniscule thing. This is my greatest artistic device.
Can you tell us about a favourite piece of yours, or a favourite creative experience?
I once created a giant cardboard fort and inscribed my thoughts of my childhood and adolescence on the inner walls. It was interesting to see people crawl into the fort and exit with a smile from remembering their own youth. It was the first time I constructed an experience rather than just illustrating one.
What are you early memories of drawing like?
My mom put me in a lot of extra curricular activities such as soccer, skating, and computer classes, all of which I would try to make an excuse to not go. I never complained about attending drawing courses.
Do you keep a sketchbook?
I usually have some sort of sketchbook on me. I mainly use them to document my disjointed thoughts.
A lot of your work focuses on deconstructed human anatomy. Did you ever foster a desire to work in science/medicine? What initiated this attraction to the innards of the human form?
I did three years of a biology degree before I switched into Fine Arts. The plan was to be a doctor, but that’s not what I truly wanted to be.
I started using isolated organs to create a synecdoche to the whole of the body, the human nature, and/or the selected narrative. The use of internal organs is to exaggerate the concept of being human and human beings (“we’re all the same inside”). However, I have ironically personified these organs.
The organs also furthers this idea that death and decay is inescapable, and immortality is a fool’s dream — Flesh is the very death of the body.
Can you describe Alberta for those of us who’ve never been there?
The air is always fresh. The sky is so large and blue here. If you drive half an hour from my city you can find yourself in the middle of a forest, or lost in the endless prairies, or engulfed by the Rocky Mountains.
Do you conceptualise your installation work in the same way you would conceptualise a 2D drawing/painting?
I haven’t had too many opportunities to exhibit or create installations. Every medium has its own language. Drawing has a language. Painting has a language. I’m still learning the language of installation/sculpture and how I can use it as another outlet. With installation I’m more aware of the relationship between the piece and the body of the viewer. I like making people feel really tiny or really large, and creating bodily experiences.
What’s the attraction to notebook paper?
The notebook paper is reminiscent of high school. I use it to reference when feelings were over-exaggerated; when we were stuck in limbo between growing up and holding onto childhood; when we had a naive idea of love; when we would scribble and write notes rather than pay attention in class.
Does language help form the images of your work, or do the images provoke the text?
I think it’s both. Many times the language will inform the imagery, but then that imagery will inform other text. I also see text as image, and I’m always trying to change the context of either the text or image to scrutinize the relationship between language and experience. So many times the language and imagery becomes the tools for creating new linguistic systems.
Right or left-handed?
Coffee, nicotine, or booze?
“Sippin’ on gin and juice”
Last film you saw in the cinema?
What books are on your bedside table?
Currently they are, Six Memos for the New Millennium by Italo Calvino; The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery; and Art Objects by Jeanette Winterson
Favourite city in the world?
It’s a tie between London and New York City
Favourite city to draw/sketch/illustrate/create in?
I found myself sketching a lot in L.A. I would love to do an art residency in Hong Kong.
What directions are you interested in taking your work in the future?
I will be attending Hunter College in NYC for a Masters in Fine Arts in the fall of 2015.
I’m excited to see how my work will change in a new environment that’s full of art. I think I will continue to draw but it may no longer be on just paper. Drawing does not need to be confined to a sheet of paper. I want my drawing to be absolute by incorporating video, installation, and performance.
Thanks Andy! Keep up with Andy and see more of his work here:
Andy Van Dinh features in Issue 4 of Tiny Pencil: The Death & Resurrection Issue! Available to buy here.
This interview was brought to you by Heather McCalden and The Tiny Pencil – fine purveyors of the pencil arts. Follow us on twitter @TheTinyPencil, Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram for the latest news on all of our new anthology artzines.