Framed Interview: Sam Yong talks us through his upcoming KEEPSAKES exhibition
The Melbourne artist takes over Outré Gallery in Melbourne this Friday, August 26.
Words by Claire Pont & Nicola Mitchell. Photos by Loretta Lizzio.
Yong's new work explores the complexity of the human condition, will focus on how seemingly temporal emotions can manifest themselves as everlasting memories. The collection uses allegorical subject matter to take the audience on an immediate journey of emotion, evoking and creating memories on sight. Beyond the initial darkness, the drawings and paintings emanate a sense of courage, wisdom and calm.
Yong uses traditional painting and drawing techniques, presenting nature in ways that will resonate with the audience. "Painting for me is a cathartic experience and an intrinsic part of being able to express how I'm feeling or experiencing the world. This latest body is a personal journey, delving into the emotional aftermath of fleeting moments of different memories. For me, painting is release, therapy, expression and also reflection," says Yong of his process. "I hope the audience find their own form of therapy through my work."
The featured artworks in K E E P S A K E S are carefully crafted by Yong and involve countless hours of delicate work, and works will be available for sale.
Sam Yong is an emerging self-taught artist and illustrator from Melbourne. He works across different traditional mediums. As a self-confessed introvert, Sam has a love of nature and solo adventures. He is often found booking a last minute flight to a far away land. This love of solitude, the unknown and the natural world manifests itself through his artwork. Sam's work has been exhibited in Paris, The United States, New Zealand and Melbourne, along with a multitude of private commissions across the globe. And we took a bit of time with him to chat about K E E P S A K E S, his inspirations and more.
Have you always been an illustrator?
Yeah in some way or another I guess. I started out as a kid copying the artwork on the packaging of toys my parents would get me. Transformers, X-Men, Dinosaurs and Ninja Turtles were my fave. When I was a bit older I wanted to get into comic book illustration but I realised I don't have the attention span to draw the same character again and again. I worked as a graphic designer after uni, and then started moving into freelance illustration. I got sick of illustrating and now I'm concentrating on my own art and moving into painting.
New Zealand to Melbourne, what made you make the move?
I've always felt a bit nomadic, and things just started getting a bit too routine and stagnant so I just decided to shake my life up and also move somewhere that felt inspiring and supportive of art and creative endeavours.
What do you think of the local art scene in Melbourne, in particular, accessibility to affordable galleries for artists?
I really like all the friends that I've made through art in Melbourne. There's a lot of rad people doing rad things and most people I know are doing really different things, so there's so much good variety here. And because there's a lot of variety there's a few different local galleries you can get to with different price bracket work, so there's something for everyone I guess. The only thing I find which sucks about the local art scene is that there should be better access to atelier schools so people can get more formal training in painting or drawing.
How do you find the balance between doing things for money versus the love of creating?
I still work part time to pay my rent and bills and 4am dumplings. I've always been pretty detached from any day job work because it's not really the work I'm emotionally connected to and at the end of the day it's all just advertising which I have no real interest in. It's nice having a part time gig that's relevant to your field of interest so you can build up your skills but being able to separate your mind from the day to day stuff is useful. Having a steady income frees up the rest of my time to only make what I want to express and not work on anything else that doesn't fulfil my creative endeavours. I'd love to of course work less and paint full time for myself but I wonder if I would worry about making work that would sell and having to compromise the honesty and intention of the work being made.
Your work feels like a beautiful dystopia depicting nature and decay leeching together. Could you talk a little bit about where your ideas come from for your illustrations?
Thank you! I like to (try) make work that's kind of beautiful but also tragic. My work is allegorical, there's lots of hidden narrative of personal journeys or feelings that I'm trying to express which I can't use words to describe. I also like to try and explore the human condition using non-human subject matter. I like the contrast between how emotional people can be versus the cruel unforgiving reality of the natural world.
Do you have a process to your drawing, if so what is it?
I usually have an image in my head that I'm keen to explore enough to put it down to paper. After that it's usually either freehand or if I don't know exactly what it looks like in my head I will use a reference photo. I kind of like things looking a bit messed up though, the subtle differences between your image and reality gives you your own style. I'm not that interested in straight realism because the narrative in the image is more important than the image. I then just sit down and do the work until it's finished. My only other process I do consistently while I work is watch shitty reality shows, or 80s and 90s movies.
You did the Album Artwork for Lorde's The Love Club EP. Nice work, how did this come about?
I guess right place, right time. I was out getting some cheap Thai food at a food court and I bumped into an old friend that worked at the record label and asked me if I wanted to be part of this project that could be fun. We had a few meetings with everyone involved and then I did a drawing.
On your blog you touch on social media in the art world. What is your view on social media for artists?
For artists, social media can be the best and the worst thing ever. It's amazing for being able to connect directly with people who are interested in what you're doing, interacting with other artists and can be a great way to get work. On the flip side, it can be your worst enemy. If you care too much about followers and likes and wanting to be popular it's going to make you pander to doing what's popular to get the biggest reach of audience. And looking at your favourite artists all the time and comparing yourself to them is also a road that will make you hate your own work. So I would say in moderation, social media is a great tool that will help you connect with other people, but avoid getting into the mindset of making work just to get likes and followers.
Last year I travelled across through the US and Canada and used social media to trade art for places to stay, and meet up with other artist's I'd been in contact with online. This was an amazing experience, it was great to actually meet people offline.
You’ve got K E E P S A K E S coming up at Outré Gallery for their new 'Small Wall Project', which encourages local artists to co-curate their own shows within the gallery. Could you talk a bit about this and the work which you are are creating for it.
This latest body of work is partly my beginning of my departure from drawing into painting, which I've always been planning to do at some point, while also exploring some ideas and emotions of the concept of the show. "Keepsakes" are small sentimental objects kept in memory of the person who gave it or owned it. The work is a personal journey, delving into the emotional aftermath of fleeting moments and different memories. There's a lot of metaphorical elements that represent temporal beauty, ritual, and the lasting effects of a fleeting moment. I really wanted to create a cohesive body of work that would also satisfy me creatively and at the same time, be part of my cathartic process. Painting for me is therapy, release and reflection, and hopefully the audience finds a bit of catharsis too. In a way, through this body of work, I'll be presenting physical keepsakes based upon the intangible emotions on which they came from.