Art Radar catches up with artist Vanghoua Anthony Vue to talk about the influences of biculturalism in his work.
The exhibition “Ci-lines” at Gorman Arts Centre in Canberra uses unconventional and industrial materials to reinterpret Hmong textile traditions.
From 14 October to 19 November 2016 the Gorman Arts Centre in Canberra Australia houses the exhibition “Ci-lines” by artist Vanghoua Anthony Vue.
Vanghoua Anthony Vue, an artist based in Brisbane of Hmong heritage, works in a range of media including painting, 3D works, installations and street interventions. He has exhibited in galleries both in Australia and overseas, and has worked on numerous community and collaborative projects. His work has been collected in Australia, United States and China.
Vue’s eclectic and autobiographical approach draws from aspects of popular culture, with references to animation, consumer culture and street art. When explaining his practice to Art Radar Vue reveals:
The DIY ethic plays a major role in my creative process. The possibility that skills and knowledge can be learnt and put to task allows me to approach a diverse range of materials and processes with confidence.
Vue attributes this ability to make work out of a range of materials to growing up in a resourceful migrant family, particularly influenced by his father’s do-it-yourself projects and frequent trips to second-hand shops.
Hmong and Australian cultural influences
Vue’s Hmong heritage plays an important role in his practice. Vue was born in Sydney but was brought up in tropical Cairns. His parents felt there were similarities between Far North Queensland and their agricultural-based life in the hills of Laos, which they moved away from in the late 1980s after the ‘Secret War’. Vue explains to Art Radar:
My position as a Hmong Australian has played a significant role in influencing my personal perspective and artistic practice, with the Australian ‘way of life’ often a direct opposite to the values and perspectives of my Hmong heritage. My practice draws on this bicultural position, which exists on the margins of dominant positions, and with awkward feelings of almost but not quite belonging.
But this sense of belonging between cultures has also had a positive impact on Vue’s creative practice. He brings multiple definitions of identity into his work, looking to both Australian and Hmong culture and history, as well as investigating contemporary issues. He hopes to extend the understanding of what is Australian art or Hmong art through interdisciplinary art practices. He further adds that “having been exposed to contemporary visual art and the diversity of art being made, there is a sense from me that anything is possible”.
Language and textile design
One way these cultures have influenced his work is through language. The Hmong, with a strong oral tradition, have historically not had a written language. More recently there has been growth in this area, with a number of written language systems being developed. Vue expands on this idea of language creation by making ‘tape drawings’ or ‘tape writings’, such as in his work Paj Qhov Rais (1992-2016). He details this process of working with language, telling Art Radar:
I incorporate quite a variety of Hmong writing systems, which range from recently developed systems in the 20th century to systems which have been ‘deciphered’ by members of the Hmong community. I use aspects of Hmong textile patterns and motifs to ‘camouflage’ these writings, which is a reference to stories that Hmong women sewed Hmong alphabets into their textiles to avoid their destruction from outsiders. It is a very systematic mishmash of languages and codes, which also includes influences from typography, graffiti, Aussie slang, electronic music and other artists working in expanded drawing.
In using aspects of language, Vue doesn’t want viewers to try to read the text directly or decipher exactly what it says. Rather, his tape drawings are a personal and aesthetic engagement with aspects of the Hmong language.
Bright lines, rave culture and Far North Queensland
The exhibition “Ci-lines” brings Vue’s work into the gallery context. The industrial tape drawings made on fluoro perspex sheets have previously been displayed in public spaces, such as in a Brisbane alleyway earlier in 2016, and it is the first time this aspect of his practice has been installed in a gallery space.
The lines in the space will cover walls, floors and the gallery ceiling, creating a psychedelic sensory experience. Vue is influenced by popular and rave culture, as well as personal imagery from Far North Queensland. The title of the exhibition captures the spirit of his work, as Vue describes:
In the title of the exhibition, the word “ci” is written in Hmong Romanise Popular Alphabet, which literally translates to “bright” or “shiny”. For me, the desire for visibility, for being seen and recognised has been a core driving force to my practice, influencing my use of fluoro colours and high-visibility materials. “Lines” represents my own mark making and creation, which cuts across structures and boundaries which have been designated to order, separate, define, and ignore the presence and creative capabilities of other “Others”, who rework and reimagine dominant codes of language and culture in often subtle but very vibrant ways.
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