Artist In Focus: Thomas C. Chung
Time you met a clever new friend of mine…
1. Tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from and how did you start creating your art.
Hi Mac – thank you for having me here.
I’m originally from Hong Kong, but grew up here in Sydney, Australia. I started Art, like all kids, back at home or in school. But life has an unusual way of being distracting… It wasn’t until I had an art teacher by the name of Mrs. Rudzis in the second-half of high school, that I really believed that I could do this.
2. As a previous COFA student myself, how did you find the learning experience there?
I do think that a school is only as good as the students they are having, so in that sense, I learnt a lot more from my fellow classmates than the actual curriculum. I majored in painting/drawing, but have since branched out into creating sculptures and art installations too. I had a lot of fun, but to say I had even more fun since I left, would be even more true.
3. How did you develop your particular style of art creating?
The year of 2008 is when I actually believed I started my career as an artist. Everything before then, was just me fumbling around, learning as I was going.
Basically, I was still finding my ‘story’.
Everything made sense to me when I attended an artist’s residency in the Arctic Circle (Kemijärvi, Finland). I had arrived during the season of the ‘midnight sun’, a time when the sun never sets due to its location, and for about two weeks I had a lot of trouble sleeping. It all clicked into place when I re-imagined my life as an old man (I definitely felt like it), looking back upon his life beginning from childhood, all the while living it and still growing older.
4. Did living abroad in USA, Sweden, Finland and Norway have any impact on your art style or presentation?
The USA was my first place for an artist’s residency. It really helped open my eyes to the type of work I was eventually to create. It wasn’t until my trip to Scandinavia in 2008 though, that this all happened so quickly. I had found a place where people could understand me, where we listened to each others stories, all the while having an aesthetic which made sense to me. Scandinavians have an extremely developed sense of style and creativity, and being in this calm, melancholy and peaceful environment, it is as much a necessity for the people there as it is a part of my personality.
5. Your art is delightfully playful, is the art just as fun to create as it is for me to look at?
I’ve always liked how children have a hidden layer beneath their innocent exterior, and it’s with this in mind, that I try to give the viewer a playful outlook, while discretely hiding a darker side.
I love making Art very very much, but there are definitely days when my ‘zen’ is disrupted, but more so because of the process of being an artist. If it was just about being creative and having it shown, it would be easy-peasy. The middle parts of this is what is very difficult sometimes. Music really helps out when this happens. It makes everything all right again.
6. How long does an artwork take to create, for example my personal favourite the water bottle?
My paintings take approx. six months each, layering ten litres of acrylic paint on top of one another with the use of a toothpick as my tool. My drawings take a few days to a week. And as for your favourite piece, I can’t actually remember…….ironic isn’t it? Knitting and crocheting is my most ‘moody’ part of my artistic practice – some pieces can take a few hours, some days and weeks on end. Most of that comes down to my relative inexperience in it (…I’ve only been knitting and crocheting for the past 3-4 years).
7. Do you think the fuzzy line between craft and art is finally being crossed by gallery spaces, or do you still find a barrier when people see you aren’t making painting or sculpture?
Let’s just say the fuzzy line is still very fuzzy…but maybe less so with some people than others. I’ve found that different countries have varying perceptions of what is acceptable in Art, and this in turn gives their general public a more complete or incomplete view of what they deem as art or craft. Europe is more progressive in this way, but I think we’re on the right track…..and I think we’re going to see less of a barrier as people become more ‘educated’ about it. It all just comes down to seeing it, feeling it and becoming more familiar with it.
8. What is the greatest experience you’ve had as a result of your art?
If I’m to be honest, I’m hoping this will be something that hasn’t happened yet!
But to choose something from recent years, I’d say it’s just being able to connect with people who see what I see. When old couples cry, young couples leave happy, or little children dance in front of my artworks…….I know that what I do is relevant. I guess being understood is what makes me most happy. Finding others who feel the same as you do, is simply one of the best feelings in life.
9. Where do you see your artistic future going, or where would you like it to go?
I’d like to go as far as I can. If it means I can have my dream home of a lighthouse by the sea with a lovely family, and a seperate place high up in the city, I think I’d have achieved a big part of my dream.
I can’t speak on behalf of all artists (that’d be pretty stupid of me to do), but I make Art not to be famous or well-known. I simply want to do what makes me feel alive, feel whole, and if I’m able to continue to do this, for as long as I’m alive…….this is what I want. I want to be happy.