An interview with Tran Nguyen

An interview with Tran Nguyen

Tran’s statement on her latest series of works for ‘Nurturing The Uneased Soul’:
Human distress and weariness of the soul are prevalent illnesses we’ve all encountered in our existence. It is ubiquitous to say that life is hard and it’s even harder to relieve ourselves of this chronic disquiet. It is my hope that the milieus portrayed in Nurturing the Uneased Soul pay homage to those who are facing everyday-life difficulties – you, your family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, or even strangers.

The visual metaphors that are depicted in my paintings capture our emotional turmoil. They embody someone that we can contemplate with, something that reorganizes our cluttered mind. It’s somewhere that nurses the unattended thoughts we’ve tucked away, deep inside our psyche. My imageries serve as a reservoir for the mind to collect itself, replenish itself, and resolve itself from its emotive tension. My hopes are that once the viewer has plunged into my oeuvre, they are able to emerge from the pilgrimage with a new, untarnished mindset. With whatever existent hardship you may be enduring, I deeply hope it can help nurture your exasperated soul.

For more, check out the following interview I just conducted with Tran last week…

Please talk a lil’ bit about the general concept behind your new series of works for “Nurturing The Uneased Soul”.
The new series of work furthers my exploration into therapeutic imagery. Each painting depicts a particular milieu of apprehension that conveys many of the prevalent distresses we frequently come across in life. Uneasiness such as ridding ourselves of wayward thinking or living a burdensome life can be abrasive to our soul, but these heavyhearted situations are what makes life even more precious. The adversity we deal with day to day are conducive to meaningful living. Thus, the intent of Nurturing the Uneased Soul is to act as a buffer or, as some have described it, “a squishy mattress” in overcoming these hardships.

'And Our World Came Tumbling After'

Do you use much photo reference or pretty much just rely upon your imagination?
Half and half — it’s used when needed. When I want a “real” feel to my figures, I’ll rely on photo references to capture those humanly imperfections or natural postures. I do try to limit myself from relying on them too much or else my surreal illustrations would end up overly “realistic.” So when I want to diverge from this tendency, I’ll let my imagination/artistic intuition resolve the rest of the painting.

Your work is filled with visual metaphors, please elaborate a bit if you can. Any significance to the recurring diamond pattern present in much of your work?
You’ve probably noticed that trees, birds, and other ornamental forms frequently reoccur in many of my paintings. I use the motifs to help embed the content’s general tone. Shapes such as the iridescent gold diamonds are not only used for aesthetic purposes but also to convey the duality of the complex emotions — the strenuous as well as triumphal aspect of confronting a tribulation. The haphazard of patterns also help create an ambiguous void for the figures to be cast into which furthers the surreal essence of my paintings.

'And She Said To Him'

What was the driving force in your life that led you to this particular direction in your narrative content?
Thus far, I’ve been fortunate enough to have had an easy life but I can’t say the same for others. I’ve witnessed many people that’s had their share of hardship, particularly my mom. I can’t help but feel compassionate to those whose life deviates from what they had hope for. I’ve always been interested in the welfare of others but didn’t necessarily know how to apply it to my career. Then, I came across Bruce Moon’s Art and Soul: Reflections of an Artistic Psychology, and his writings guided and synthesized my endeavors in a more concrete way.

What/who do you consider your biggest overall influence?
The people (and their situations) I cross paths with act as my muse. Their tense emotions and tribulations inspire me to compassionately illustrate these ineffable human conditions.

'Parting From Your Wayward Heart'

What’s your favorite thing about living in Georgia? What do you miss most about home?
Besides the fact that my family and friends are here, Georgia has a moderately paced lifestyle. Where I’m from, there’s a lot of the countryside and a little of the city side, which has been pleasant to be raised in. I live about five minutes from a vast corn field and the feeling I get from driving by it is overwhelmingly profound and unexplainable. Though it’s inevitable that I’ll venture to other places for work and personal reasons, in the end, I know I’ll come back home. It’s true what they say — “home is where the heart is.”

If you had an unlimited budget and time was not an issue, what grand artistic vision would you look to bring to life?
I’d open a public art studio that offers a variety of free workshops for people who like to draw, paint, print-make, sculpt, etc. In another section of the studio would be an open exhibit filled with a collection of art created by therapy patients — a kind of art that requires us to close our eyes and open our heart and soul.

What have you got coming up in terms of shows after your solo show with us?
I have some group shows that I’ll be participating in and an awesome collab show next year with a fellow artist. For now, I’m just taking it easy.

'The Color Of A Colorless Soul'

Tran Nguyen ‘Nurturing the Uneased Soul’ (in our project room)

Exhibition run dates: March 12th – April 2nd, 2010

Check out the works from ‘Nurturing The Uneased Soul’ here:

* This will be the last show at our Silver Lake location. We will relocate to Culver City this April.

4210 Santa Monica Blvd. in Silver Lake area of Los Angeles (near the Sunset Junction)

Tran Nguyen digital preview ready…

Tran Nguyen - "And Our World Came Tumbling After" - 12x16"

Tran Nguyen ‘Nurturing the Uneased Soul’ (in our project room)

Exhibition run dates: March 12th – April 2nd, 2010

Opening Reception: Fri, March12th 7-11PM

So excited to share this with everyone… Tran’s preview is now ready:

Please shoot me any questions or requests to and I will get right back to you.

Note: all works are framed with a 2″ white matte with archival backing in a clean white beveled frame with standard glass.

Look for an interview with Tran to be posted here in the coming days.

* This will be the last show at our Silver Lake location. We will relocate to Culver City this April.

4210 Santa Monica Blvd. in Silver Lake area of Los Angeles (near the Sunset Junction)

‘Back Talk’ feature with Tran Nguyen @ Juxtapoz…

Juxtapoz just posted their new ‘Back Talk’ interview segment with Tran Nguyen here. Tran is quite the character and it really comes out in this fun set of questions.
If you haven’t checked out the interview I did with Tran yet, you can check it out here.

Check out Tran’s blog here.

Artist website:

View the work from ‘Portraits of the Unknown’:

Currently on view through July 3rd

4210 Santa Monica Blvd. (near Sunset Junction) in Los Angeles

Opening night pics from Sarah Joncas, Kelly Vivanco & Tran Nguyen openings at Thinkspace…

(l-r) Kelly Vivanco, L. Croskey (Thinkspace), Shawn Vezinaw Hosner (Thinkspace), Andrew Hosner (Thinkspace), Sarah Joncas, and Ann Kornuta (Sarah’s friend)

Check out a great video of the installation process for Sarah’s show as well as the opening night festivities shot and edited together by Sarah’s friend Ann Kornuta. Thanks Ann!!!

All shows are on view through July 2nd @ thinkspace

View a full set of pics from the opening night here. Thank you to all that came out to show support!!!

TONIGHT @ Thinkspace…

Thinkspace is proud to present, Beneath the Seams, the debut solo exhibition from Canadian artist Sarah Joncas. Her debut solo exhibition features 18 new works including oil on canvas and graphite on paper, as well as a very special installation in our front entry area, and marks her largest body of work to date both in size and scale. Next level in every regards, as Sarah has knocked the new works out of the park in our opinion.

Opening in conjunction with Joncas’ show is an exhibition from San Diego based artist Kelly Vivanco. This will be the artist’s first solo exhibition in Los Angeles and will be showcased in our project room. She has just done an amazing job and it’s been awesome to watch Kelly grow with us over the past few years.

Alongside Vivanco’s work in the project room we will also feature new works from Vietnamese artist Tran Nguyen as part of our ‘Fresh Faces’ series. This is Tran’s first showing with our gallery and we look forward to many great things to come from this young artist.

All shows are on view June 12th – July 3rd

Opening Reception TONIGHT – Fri, June 12th from 7-11PM
Thinkspace – 4210 Santa Monica Blvd in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles

Both Sarah and Kelly are in town for the opening, so please help us welcome both to LA!!!

Sarah JoncasBeneath The Seams PREVIEW:

Kelly VivancoThe Conservatory PREVIEW:

Tran NguyenPortraits of the Unknown PREVIEW:

If you are interested in any of the works, please get in touch via email at

Arrested Motion posted a lil’ preview of the show as well here.

As did Dailydujour over here and Juxtapoz over here.

Look for opening night action to be posted here this weekend. Interviews with each have been posted here over the past week, so please be sure to look for those and check ’em out.

Hope to see some of you tonight!

An interview with Tran Nguyen…

“Yoke” / 12×15″

An interview with Tran Nguyen
Tran Nguyen is a Vietnamese illustrator and painter specializing in fantastical and surrealistic imageries. In her work, she frequently visits themes that evoke introspection, combining the world of illustration and art therapy. Tran is fascinated with creating imagery that can be used as a psycho-therapeutic support vehicle. Based in Savannah, Georgia, she enjoys the aesthetics of nature and the out-doors which is commonly incorporated into her work. She is currently enrolled at the Savannah College of Art and Design where she will graduate with a B.F.A in illustration.
Artist statement for ‘Portraits Of The Unknown’:
My current body of work consists of traditionally executed illustrations based on surrealism. “Portraits of the Unknown” focuses on melancholy as an aesthetic emotion that evokes calmness, allowing one to reflect. I believe exposure to such imagery is a therapeutic vehicle for individuals in need of alleviation. It is my intent for the viewer to find a sense of self-connection with the image, in turn, foster recollection and well-being. To mirror the emotion’s complex traits, highly rendered figures are juxtaposed with graphic forms. As for media, I enjoy working with graphite, color pencils, and light washes of acrylics. This media is most crucial because of its subtleness and precision.The overall mood I try to convey is one that best illustrates a dream. I find that there’s little pleasure in drawing within the limitations of reality. Illustrating dreams and the unknown is what stimulates the mind. Like Francis Bacon has stated, the “job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.”The intent of my work is to create a place that easily invites reflection, where the viewer can recollect their own memories relevant to the image. This uplifting yet somewhat solemn feeling makes, what I believe, melancholy most astonishing. This series of work has furthered my endeavors in creating imagery that can be used as a mean of psycho-therapeutic support. I see art is a powerful tool that motivates others to pursue their life endeavors. Thus, my primary focus as an artist is to illustrate visuals that will educate, encourage, and inspire others who have yet to find their own purpose.

“If Time Progresses Without Me” process sketch

Please talk a lil’ bit about the general idea/vibe behind your new series of works for ‘Portraits Of The Unknown’?
Portraits of the Unknown explores the countless incidents of melancholy that individuals, such as ourselves, may encounter in daily life. Whether it be the inevitable departing from a dear friend or lover, our innate yearning to hold onto youth, or the manners of losing ourselves in the chaos of uncertainty, it focuses on the positive as well as negative aspects of heavyhearted occurrences. In summation, the series is intended to unveil an eerie realm of glum that contrastingly evokes feelings of nostalgia, contemplation, and hope.

You were born in Vietnam and currently reside in Savannah, Georgia where you are finishing up classes at The Savannah College of Art & Design. What made you choose Savannah? What are your plans for after graduation?

Besides the alluring scenery, architectural designs, and art scene, Savannah has some of the darnest awesome-looking dogs. I mean, man, they know how to groom their dogs here. Sometimes, better than themselves. As for graduation, following it is a desperate search for employment due to the thousands of dollars I accumulated in the past three years at SCAD. Would you like to hire me?

“If Time Progresses Without Me” progress shot

What’s your earliest memory involving art or creating art?
It was a horrific drawing of my mom with the letter “w” forming the curvature of her boobs.

“If Time Progresses Without Me” / 12.5×16.5″

For those new to your work, can you give us a lil’ background on where you are aiming to take your work and what you hope viewers gain from it?
I’ve always been particularly interested in therapeutic imagery. I think art can be used to better lives rather than pure aesthetic purposes. As a person and as an artist, being able to create something that can bring about well-being and contentment is all that matters. Life is stressful enough, so I guess you could say my work could serve as one of those Tempur-Pedic beds.

“As I Lay Here, Dying” / 10.5 x 8.5″

Please tell us a lil’ something about yourself that someone would never guess in their wildest dreams.
I’m quite the closet geek: Video games, Dance Dance Revolution, Magic: The Gathering, Street Fighter, Harry Potter, various Anime, Tetris, etc. I despise people that take things for granted. They make me want to hadouken them into the next Street Fighter generation. Oh, and I’ve eaten chicken poop before.

“For The Lost and Unfound” process sketch

Do you listen to music while painting/drawing? If so, do you have a current favorite that inspires?
Of course. No matter what mood I’m in, I always find my way back to Augustana, Keane, and Coldplay. It’s feel-good music that makes me feel like I’m riding on a Care Bear cloud.

“For The Lost and Unfound” / 13×17.5″

Are you reading anything right now?
Where the Wild Things Are. I’m very much looking forward to the movie adaptation.

“Furiae” / 16×10.5″

When are you most productive / when do you normally work on art?
Because I love the outdoors, I can’t bare to spend my days inside unless I have to. Thus, my mind schemes the best around the early AMs. Coffee around 5pm, then work, bed at 4am, then a torturing wake-up for 8am classes.

“Hello and Goodbye Is What They Said” progress shot

Favorite artist (living or dead) and what makes them special to you? Biggest overall influence?
It’s a tug-o-war between Gustav Klimt and my older brother. Though my brother didn’t pursue an artistic degree, he introduced as well as taught me the art of image-making. Later on in my early years of education, I stumbled upon Klimt’s work. His juxtaposition between surrealistic figures and vibrant shapes are just stunning.

“Hello and Goodbye Is What They Said” process sketch

We are very much looking forward to hosting your debut Los Angeles solo show next year. What have you got coming up in the meantime in terms of shows after your small showing with us this June?

I haven’t got much lined up…yet. hint hint.

“Hello and Goodbye Is What They Said” / 13.5×10.5″

What are you doing right after this interview?
Awaiting the final diagnosis of my computer, who decided to abruptly end our three-year relationship the other day…and he wouldn’t give back any of my belongings either.

“Wrath In Disguise” / 8.75×18″
Check out Tran’s blog here.

Sneak Peek at ‘Portraits of the Unknown’:
View the work from ‘Portraits of the Unknown’:
If you see something you like from the show, please shoot us an e-mail to and we’ll follow up asap.
Opening Reception: Fri, June 12th 7-11PM
4210 Santa Monica Blvd. (near Sunset Junction) in Los Angeles