Thinkspace is proud to present “Remedy,” our fifth solo exhibition with award-winning illustrator and fine artist Tran Nguyen. Based out of Atlanta, Georgia the Vietnam-born artist’s paintings are traditionally made with acrylic and colored pencil on paper. She’s most known for her paintings of whimsical women and their melancholic landscapes, which often possess an air of fantasy and surrealism.
‘Remedy’ is a collection of work focusing on the complicated relationship between humans and nature. With striking paintings and illustrations that create a balance between the soft and beautiful and the borderline haunting, ‘Remedy’ creates a utopian world where a small human population and a variety of flora and fauna coexist in a symbiotic relationship, giving way to magical species and fantastical visuals.
In anticipation of the ‘Remedy’ our interview with Tran Nguyen discusses the inspiration behind this latest body of work, how she taps into creative flow, and what she has up her sleeve next.
This exhibition is your fifth solo with Thinkspace; when you reflect on the artist you were then and the artist you are now, do you have a place of unexpected growth?
When I first started out in 2009, I didn’t have a firm grasp of what I wanted to say with my work. Each painting was an experiment to explore intent. Nowadays, I’m confident with what I want to say and artistically well-equipped to express it in paint strokes.
What’s the inspiration behind ‘Remedy’ and this latest body of work?
I often go through color phases through my work. Previously, the dominant color in my paintings have been blue, purple, sepia, etc., but for the longest time, I’ve avoided a green palette. I love organic floral patterns and the overall botanical aesthetic, and decided this show would be the perfect opportunity to illustrate the theme and color. This led to building the narrative for “Remedy” and its world — a world inhabited by fantastical characters that are both part-human and part-nature.
Do you have any rituals that help you tap into a creative flow? Are you still a night owl when it comes to working?
Coming up with ideas is probably the hardest step for me. Sometimes, the best way to get the creative flow moving is to sit in my living room for a few hours without any music, noise or distractions. If I sit long enough my mind will eventually get bored and wander off, which can slowly get that little hamster wheel churning. I think this is what you call modern meditation? And yes, I still hoot at night.
What was the most challenging piece in this exhibition, and why?
“Hatchling” was a challenge. It’s multi-figured with 8 characters total which is the most I’ve included in a single painting. The more figures to render, the more difficult it is to create the illusion that they all co-exist in the same environment and ground plane.
How does your creative process differ from painting for an exhibition versus commissioned work (book covers etc.) where there is an outside vision?
Exhibition work allows me to have creative freedom since I am the sole creator of the narrative, and my focus is mainly on the painting’s emotion and mood. With commissioned projects, I’m working with a team and it involves other factors outside of myself to determine its intent. My focus here is design, and how to quickly and effectively communicate to the viewer.
What is one of your proudest accomplishments or something you’ve had the opportunity to experience because of your artwork that has really stuck with you?
I really can’t express how fortunate I am to do what I do. Because of my work, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to beautiful foreign cities, and partake in some of the most inspiring art workshops across the world. I’ve met countless inspirations and tremendously kind attendees at these events, which has helped replenish my creative reservoir.
What is a skill you’d like to have downloaded into your brain to become an instant expert?
If you mean an art-related skill — the ability to transcribe what I picture in my mind onto paper. If you mean any kind of skill — the skill to never be socially awkward, ha!
Where was one of your most memorable meals enjoyed? It could be the food or the company that made the meal unforgettable.
My family and I went to visit my uncle in Vietnam a couple of years ago. My uncle lives and works across the street where the Cai Rang Floating Market is and he invited us on a joy ride on his small sampan boat. As we floated down the river, we bought freshly cut pineapple and Vietnamese iced coffee from other locals selling food from their boat. It was magical.
A common misconception of creating art would be that it isn’t stressful; how do you decompress or unwind after a long stretch in the studio or working towards a deadline?
I thought the same until art school came and went. Then the real world arrived and it became a beast of its own. Usually, after a deadline, especially an arduous one, I celebrate by taking the entire next day off to simply enjoy good food, milk tea, badminton, and a movie, with good company.
Over the last few years, you’ve launched an illustration course, published an art book, and held a Kickstarter for a gorgeous silk scarf — what else is on the Tran Nguyen artist bucket list?
At the moment, I’m working on a few projects involving luxury apparel items and am hoping to share it with everyone soon. I’d also love to publish another art book in the near future as well as dabbling more with AR/VR illustration. There’s just not enough hours in the day!