Vanghoua Anthony Vue

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Artist Name: Vanghoua Anthony Vue

What do you consider yourself? Artist, illustrator, painter, designer, other?

Visual artist.

What kinds of work do you currently do and/or what kinds of projects have you worked on in the past?

Over the past couple of years, I’ve dabbled in different disciplines in the visual arts. I’m not entirely sure which will remain as part of my practice in the future, but they have and may include paintings, sculptures, public and gallery installations, projections, community and participatory-based projects.

I’m at a point now where my practice has stalled a bit. I’ve given myself a bit of time to ponder and analyze the works and projects I’ve completed and sort out what has and what has not worked. So currently, I’m not really doing too many creative works.

Could you talk about how you got into art or doing what you do today? What’s your story? What made you want to pursue this path? Were there any challenges you had along the way?

Visual art has always been in my life in different ways, which has encouraged me to pursue this path. Although this has not been in the form of art exhibited in purpose-built art institutions, but the kind of art found in popular culture and daily life. This encouraged me to draw immensely when I was younger—where I found great joy in putting pen to paper to bring an image to life.

But the decision to pursue art in the sense of having a professional practice has been made with self-doubt, uncertainty and fear. It has always been a process of constant acceptance and denial, as it’s not a career choice that is financially secure, nor is there a well-trodden path that you can follow. I’ve tried doing other things, but the feeling that there really is nothing else I’d rather do keeps me coming back to making art.

Apart from that, it’s also the feeling that what I do may contribute something positive to the lives of others and to this world. But maybe not, maybe it’s just my way of justifying my time here.

Did you attended art school or majored/minored in Art or Design in college? If so, what were your experiences with it and would you recommend it? If you did not attended college or did not majored in anything art-related, what advice would you give to those who are in a similar situation and want to pursue art or improve their craft?

I have completed undergraduate studies in fine art, and currently towards the end of my PhD. My PhD is visual art-related and includes practical and theoretical work. I do recommend college, but that does depend on the different fields of art and types of artists.

For visual artists who wish to exhibit regularly, whether publicly or in purpose-built art institutions, I think college provides a basis to think about your work, about other people’s work, and how you fit, or do not fit, within the vast and multiple field and history of visual art.

In college, people are also paid (by you) to care about your work, to critically analyze it, and to provide you with feedback—whether you agree with these people or not. Outside of college, you may not receive that. Family and friends are great, but there’s only so much their encouragement and compliments can offer. Art college is a hub for critical ideas and conversations that is hard to come by elsewhere.

Some people don’t realize that many artists have day jobs in addition to their art career. Do you have a day-job or do you do art full-time? How do you balance art with work and life? How do you find time to work on art?

I’ve currently taken some time off from employed work to complete my PhD. Although I still do a bit freelance graphic design whenever the opportunity arises, which I have been doing for some time now. But before that, work included teaching and other unrelated odd jobs. I think I will always be doing odd jobs to sustain my practice. I have an aversion to office work, and prefer more hands-on work, so I’m not sure if academia will be part of my future.

I’ve had the privilege of spending a lot of time on my art practice recently, but I know that it will have to be sustained by working into the wee hours of the night, on weekends, during holidays, and whenever there is a spare moment. With the kind of work I make, which isn’t particularly commercial, I’ve accepted the fact that I’ll probably be doing two full-time jobs—my art practice and other work for income. It’s a selfish pursuit, because that is a lifestyle which leaves you with very little time for others.

Often times people associate artists with the “starving artist” mentality, even though we know this is not always true. How do you make money from your work?

I hardly ever do, not in the sense of selling an art object. I can’t really remember the last time I sold a work, sometime in 2009. A lot of the work I’ve made I’ve destroyed and discarded. Which I’ve been ok with, as I’ve never approached art-making as product making but more so as developing ideas, problem-solving, and communication, so I think a lot of times the work I’ve made haven’t always been easily purchasable.

But what money I have made have come from project-related work and artist exhibition fees. These have been great, but certainly not enough to keep me out of a day job. I’ve also received grants, scholarships, and residencies which have contributed to my practice and from ‘starving’. These take a lot of time and effort to apply for, and I’ve been rejected more than accepted, but they have been alternate ways to make money from my work.

Where do you get your ideas from?

For me, most ideas, or inspiration comes from my personal experiences, the people around me, research, and from observing and understanding the lives and works of other visual artists.

What kinds of tools do you use to make your work? What is your typical artistic process like?

The tools I use vary and can be anything from traditional fine art equipment, to my laptop and digital programs, and to construction tools. It really depends on the work I am doing. But the process is very similar throughout. I usually begin with an initial idea, often visualizing and obsessing about this idea to the point where it becomes real in my mind.

Research into the work of other artists, materials, processes, and related contexts and theories may occur at this point. Preliminary plans or drawings are then executed.

But once making begins, I do let go and allow the process to dictate the work. I’ve come to trust the process rather than try and make the work exactly as I had imagined. This process also generates new ideas, initiate further research, or make you realize that some things are just not possible. These things change the work, and that usually makes the work much more interesting and rewarding to make.

Are there any artists you look up to or find inspiring?

I find a lot of artists and their works inspiring, perhaps a few too many to name here. Many of these artists are located within the Asia-Pacific region. I’ve often looked to the work of many Indigenous Australian artists for inspiration. There’s a few I’ve followed for some time now, including Gordon Bennett, whose work has inspired me since I was a teenager.

Bennett is Australian artist of Aboriginal and Anglo-Celtic descent. Many of his work explore the politics of identity, including the role of language and visuals in constructing racism and in contributing to processes of othering. Bennett also interrogates Australia’s colonial past and postcolonial present. There’s a lot of thought, intellect and emotional strength and resilience in Bennett’s work.

What is your ultimate dream project or something you’ll like to accomplish in your lifetime (could be art or non-art related)?

There’s plenty of odd things here and there swirling in my mind. But the ultimate goal I think is to spend a lifetime in pursuit of making meaningful art. ‘Meaningful’ being a subjective term—perhaps art that stays true to who I am, my experiences, and what I feel needs to be made. Aside from being able to make art, what’s important for me is also being able to create some space and opportunities for others—which is something that can be achieved in various ways.

Who would you like to collaborate/work with or work for, if anybody? Could be a person, another artist, or company.

Nobody or nothing specific at the moment. But I wouldn’t mind collaborating with people from other fields altogether. Maybe a research trip with scientists and environmentalists to create collaborative work in response to environmental degradation. It would be great to do some research and artworks about the blue whale.

I created a diorama about the blue whale when I was younger, which sparked my passion for blue whales, manta rays, mimic octopuses and other ocean animals. Anyway, if I wasn’t making art, maybe I’d be out in the ocean somewhere.

What advice would you give to young artists or people just starting out?

Experiment with materials, processes and ideas, and make work riddled with mistakes and which may be considered as ‘ugly’. Don’t intentionally make mistakes and ugly works, but don’t be restrained by the idea that good art is beautiful or technically skillful. Experimentation is usually messy and full of gaps, but they usually lead to works that are much more layered, complex, and reflective of the maker. And don’t believe the hype—you don’t have to be ‘talented’ to be able to make good art.

Find ways to show your work, even unresolved and experimental works. Show your works to family, friends, peers, mentors, your art community, and strangers. Don’t shy away from criticism—receive feedback, digest it and use what is constructive and valuable for your work.

If anything, remember to get lost in your work. Become unsure, frustrated, and confused about what you’re doing—challenge yourself to move beyond what you know and have some serious fun doing so! Never stop playing.

Do you have any favorite books, apps, movies, resources, or art tools that you recommend?

Not really. But I think for those who wish to engage in contemporary visual art, I would just recommend seeing a wide range of it. Information is so widely available now, so accessing this doesn’t necessarily mean seeing these in person, although that would be ideal.

 Are there any current projects that you’re working on or in the near future that you want to tell us about?

I’m currently finalizing my writing and working towards my thesis show in June. I’ve been editing and resolving pieces for this exhibition, and as of writing, I am tweaking a sculpture based on French empire chandeliers. The materials used to make this sculpture references French colonization and its legacy in Laos.

What is the best way to get a hold of you or view or purchase your work?