April’s Featured Artist interview is with CAS Artist Kimvi Nguyen. Just when I was congratulating myself for being able to type at the speed people talk I encountered in Kimvi: a passionate bundle of nervous, creative energy. In other words, she is a fast talker!
Kimvi works as an Art & Design Technician at Andover College, who are very supportive of her art practise. During the holidays she travels to other countries to develop site-specific performances and installations. Last year (2018) she visited southern Italy, invited by LEIBNIZ performance group, and undertook a Residency in Northern Spain associated with la JUAN Gallery in Madrid, performed in Ghent, Belgium and was part of International Theatre and Art festival in Valladolid in Spain.
“If someone said 15 years ago, “this is what you will be doing”, I would have laughed. I started off with sewing and textiles, then I was recommended by a friend that I should consider studying sculpture. This evolved into my current focus of performance and live art.”
100% New Zealand lambswool.
Woven in Elgin, Scotland
Collaboration with Inigo Scout
What has been one of your biggest challenges as an artist?
For me it has always been in the making, finding space, time, resources and opportunities to try things out. Breaking old habits of thinking, exploring alternative approaches to existing methods and also bringing personal experiences into the overall outcome.
‘The greatest pleasure there is, is to define a problem, and solve it, and only you know whether it’s solved or not, that’s what’s interesting, and don’t let anybody tell you that they can judge your work – because they can’t’ – Susan Hiller
Black Balloons, Artist Breath. Paris, France 2014
I like the challenge of modifying and simplifying existing methods and mode of thinking. I am fascinated by alternative methods to tackle an existing process. To be confident with simplicity, to reinterpret existing language, processes, material. To create artwork that completely represents the experiences and the moment I’m in, and to learn through play and having fun!
I am constantly analysing situations to make things better, improving my understanding. Making things simple that would otherwise seems complex. The desire to use less elements and resources to strengthen the message/outcome/intent. This is done through constant rigour of experimenting, researching, observing, being active with ones thinking and making.
My practise is very much material led. I start with the available resources and existing knowledge, and build from this to investigate a new project or confronting a new challenge to create artwork, whether performance, sculpture, live art, installation, craft, textiles or design, or a combination. I love using techniques to capture a moment, like the photocopier, photography, mono-printmaking and recently photograms to create my work as well.
I work with what I’m not good at. I like the creative struggle – for me, this is a challenge that leads me to explore alternative methods and attitudes. This is seen in my lack of confidence in my ability to ‘draw’, rather than give up I have persevered with this discipline through the method of performance, by physically embodied the line itself .
I always go through doubts and reasoning for producing work, but I think it’s important for an artist to keep things in context. For me that’s a mantra and philosophy.
I am good at working between gaps, in spaces left by others, and being an ‘outsider’, as I pick things out that are often overlooked, this helps strengthen the work. Even in group residences I work with what’s left when all the other artists have decided what materials they will use, and what they will be focusing on.
(image: ‘Coppice Line’
Charcoal used are coppiced locally in the surrounding
woodland areas of Mottisfont, National Trust. part of ‘The
Observatory of 2 day artist in residency. 2016)
Why is engaging audiences an important part of your process?
Artists have a role as facilitators of community engagement because as an artist you are making art to be shown in public, to the public. That’s why you need to understand your audience and have relationship with them. It’s about context, and sensitivity to your environment. It’s a way of opening things up a bit and not being a vacuum in your life or practice. Travelling is not for everybody but it’s my way of expanding beyond what I already know.
How do you grow your audiences from nothing?
I built an audience for my work during month in Russia by talking to people in cafes, engaging with students, customers and staff. My audience comes a natural consequence of my art process, and whilst I’m sourcing materials and exploring the context in which I’m performing I invite the people along who I meet. It helps that I get on with lots of young artists and all ages really whilst I am traveling – my home can be anywhere, as long as I have my laptop!
How has your practice evolved over time, and what has been the main driver of that?
Travel , and how to travel as an artist was my main goal when I graduated from Fine Art Sculpture. The possibility to make portable artwork that were simple to install or carry in a hand luggage or ruck sack. I always wanted my art practise to make me move, navigate, I never wanted to be a static studio artist.
I feel my studio can be anywhere for my practise to reach a broader audience . Through this, travel was a natural solution , and for me to become a performance artist, I became the portable material itself. This Keeps my work fresh and constantly evolving through its geographical content.
The main driver of change has been putting myself out of my comfort zone, working in collaborations with groups and individuals from varied disciplines as well as Fine Art.
What have you learned from your career as an artist that you would most like to pass on to other practicing artists?
Work hard ! Be cheeky and be kind and keep practising ! See what’s available and maybe just ASK for things and see if you get them. And maybe don’t take no for an answer, find a way around the obstacles to make it work, be open, try things you’re maybe really crap at. Most importantly to embrace the artist community, and reach out for guidance and support.
What has worked best for you when it comes to sharing and promoting your work, and why does that suit your personality and practice?
I always make sure I’m there, physically, on the day. People believe in the person and the art together. I make an effort to go to meet people in their studios, join workshops with artists, learn new skills, share with other people. I love talking things through so I begin to understand my audience. In the end they are the ones who are going to support you, come to your gigs and pass the word on.
More insights from Kimvi Nguyen’s practice and philosophy…
1. Restrictions and scarcity can be used for inspiration. Work with it, start where you are, use it. Many of my projects are created on a shoestring budget, £5, £10, £20 or £50, a brown wooden hoop, a pack of 7 balloons, free coppice charcoal from the area – I tend to see what’s available. I love IKEA because it offers consistency in any country; I bought charcoal in a petrol station in Russia instead of an art supplies store. I encourage you to go and look at where things are, it’s good to see what’s similar and save on carrying it with you. Check out local resources and be resourceful with your time and energy by thinking localised.
2. You don’t have to worry about people copying your work or mirroring it. Maintaining the integrity of your own personal language through constant investigation and enquiry.
3. Use the internet, it helps keep relationships going and it’s free! Long gone are the days spending money on stamps, it saves on travel if you are not able to.
4. Be brave and do something weird and strange. As long a you believe in what you do and have integrity in your actions, you can go anywhere, meet people to learn, to understand the unfamiliar.
5. You can be anything at any time and still be you.
6. Your art needs a framework. To understand your practice is to set some parameters, or questions, rather than choosing every direction.
7. Be willing to say you don’t know and learn from the people around you, people often share the same knowledge but have a different take on it.
8. I’ve learned from working in a college environment you can learn something so many times and have a different experience. It’s ok to revisit stuff, because you’re re-learning. Identifying what it is you’re doing, learning more, re-doing things in a more sophisticated, less clumsy way.
9 . Its important to have interest outside your personal art practice. Having a job or family/friends commitments helps to balance the art and make it exist in the real world , otherwise you become a vacuum. You need to feed art with different perspectives, so it can be used to understand and question the world.
What are you working on next?
On the third weekend of May I will be performing in Madrid in the JUAN Gallery (17-18 May). Visitors will be invited to experience being part of the installation as my performative actions will extend across the floor and through the space, in an intricate web of chalk lines. The following week I will be in Evora, Portugal, enacting a drawing performance inspired by the ‘Manueline’ maritime architecture of the area.