Today we’d like to introduce you to Chau Ngo.
Chau, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I remember spending weekend afternoons watching television with my dad as the oily fragrance of Bánh xèo filled the apartment air. We sat on the floor with our backs against the wall; in one hand he held a bowl of over-ripe papaya and in the other, he held me. On occasion, he would catch my mouth slowly droop as I got sucked into Paris by Night, a Vietnamese musical variety show, and shoved a chunk of the fruit into my mouth – “it is the key to beautiful skin” he told me. Growing up, I also remember following my father everywhere he went. We drove to stores, picked up flowers and groceries for my mother to cúng or pay veneration to ancestors, and go to the banks, where I interpreted with the weight of my parent’s finances and money on my shoulders. When we ran our weekly errands, we also hunted for abandoned pieces of wood or furniture that we could recycle. Within seconds of our findings, it was expected that the car would halt to a stop or circle around the block. With this came excitement and adventure for the endless possibilities that our findings could have – in the mind of a 5-year-old, planks of old wood morphed into that rocking horse that was sold at Walmart or that skateboard that boy next door owned. However, Dad being Dad, he told me to be realistic and to not đưa đòi, or envy what others have because we can’t afford it. And so, those planks turned into new stools or cabinets that furnished our home. Although they never turned into any fun thing that my imagination had mustered up, I was still thrilled to help sand it and paint it. It was then that I began to discover the power of making and the power of art.
When I was little, I never thought art was an option for me. I was born a first generation Vietnamese American, which, for me, meant that I had to walk down the “practical” route. I joined clubs, learned the violin, played sports, stayed after school for extra help, and did whatever I could do to prepare me for that unknown career that will take my family out of poverty and difficulties. No matter what I did or tried to do, I always found myself back at the drawing board, where I let my 5-year-old mind roam free. There, I brainstormed and drew up fantastical ideas to make my parents’ lives better and happier. Because we were not too well off, I found myself making my parents gifts, during holidays or during the days that I knew they had to work extra shifts to bring home extra money. In hopes of brightening up their day and filling our homes with decor, I did as much art making as possible to liven up our space. It was around that age that I discovered that I could turn, perhaps, nothing into something. I could turn found objects and materials into something useful and beautiful for my family. Today, on our living room wall still hangs two paintings of shooting starts from elementary school that symbolizes the hope and excitement for our future.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
Forms of Relativity; Relativity in Forms
Space and time are universal forms of existence to help locate matter or objects, along with experiences, feelings, and thoughts. I create work that pertains to relativity or relationships with myself, others, and the world. I do this by layering oblong forms and figures to capture a specific time and space to map out experiences and locations in absence of the body. The layering and documenting should be interpreted as a way to physically and metaphorically relate oneself and their personal experiences to the artwork.
I use my everyday experiences and the alchemy of my medium to find a balance between reality and fantasy. I attempt to construct and deconstruct what I make by building up my painting surface to then scrub or blur it out. The push and pull conversation happens all throughout my process. I scratch, scrub, carve, and build up the surface. Through this method, I create a tension that is both immediate to the paintings and cryptic to experiences. This is not only found in my technique, but also in the shapes found in my work. In this process of creating abstract work, you can find my fascination in creating nothing into something, or that “power of making and art” that I spoke about.
Artists face many challenges, but what do you feel is the most pressing among them?
I can only speak for myself, but one of the biggest challenges I face as an artist is finding the time to continue my artistic practice. I just graduated from Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and am trying to find balance between work and art making. I am currently abroad on a Fulbright grant to teach English in Vietnam and it is quite difficult to find the time and supplies to make what I want. To combat this, I try to leave my art supplies and found materials out so that I can occasionally walk by to make edits or additions to my work.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
People can learn more about my work and what I am doing on my website and Instagram page:
- Website: https://chaungo360.wixsite.com/chaungo1
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: chaungo_art
Kirsten Agla, Chau Ngo