With an intriguing and arresting brand of visual wit, newcomer Winnie Truong(pronounced Tron) brings her unique stylings to us in the form of a new seriesof works and a solo exhibition. Winnie’s latest works, a series of pencil crayondrawings titled “The Fringes,” explores the contrasting elements of beauty andthe grotesque. In her works, the main element of focus lies within the characterand positioning of the hair on its very specific subject, while also making strongreference to John Wyndham’s 1955 classic sci-fi novel, “The Chrysalids,” whichrevolves around the outcasts of society – mutants whose physical mutationswere considered “blasphemies.” Truong’s new works are currently on view atToronto’s Erin Stump Projects, and Hi Fructose takes you into the artist’s studiofor a glimpse into where she creates, as well as some of her sketches, processphotos and recent opening photos from “The Fringes”. – Nathan Spoor
We’d like to thank you for taking time out of your productive schedule totalk with us. So to begin, could you please tell us a little about where you’refrom and a little about your background?
I was born in Toronto and I continue to live and work in the city. I Graduated fromOCAD University a little over a year ago with a BFA in drawing and painting. Myart practice now consists primarily of drawing.
Was the decision to pursue fine art a choice that came to you early in life,or one that became clear during school?
When I was really young, drawing and doodling on any unmarked surface was agreat way for me to pass the time. It was also the cause of many headaches formy parents as some of my earliest works bordered on vandalism. It wasn’t until Istarted high school just north of Toronto, where I was enrolled in their intensivefine arts program that I was introduced to more formal training, and the love ofworking in studio. I think at some point I also figured out that math wasn’t aprerequisite for a BFA program that I really wanted to pursue art full time. It stillblows me away that I spend most of my week in the studio just creating.
Your works appear to just be on this side of figurative art from aconceptual standpoint. How do you start these pieces? Is it with a certaindesired result in mind or more from intuition?
I have a general idea of what I want a series to look like, and what part eachpiece in the series should fulfill within the final body of work. I am always cuttingout images from magazines and drawing in my sketchbook, where I put down thedifferent things I see, read or just plain inspire me. Otherwise, the work startswith developing studies from loose sketches and then into the larger sustaineddrawings. From this final stage I work intuitively allowing the use of color and thedetails of the hairy transformations evolve while I work.
It may seem strange to have to confront such a question, but what do youfeel your work imparts to viewers? Is it coming from a place of transferringspecific ideas or content to an audience, or simply creating an effect on theviewing experience?
I want my work to challenge our contemporary notions of beauty and thegrotesque by subverting our most basic assumptions of gender, culture, andbiological possibility through transforming hair and flesh. In creating each newpiece it’s not about capturing “sideshow” elements, but rather to create newdialogues and instigate new disturbances that make us question the nature ofour understanding of “beauty,” normality, and ugliness. I hope that my portraitsexist as personalities and creatures of my imagination, inventing and betrayingour common ideas of beauty as well as their own. Beyond that the audience isfree to draw likeness and associations with culture, trends, etc. I mean the workintends to be ambiguous enough that it can be examined from a variety of criticallenses.
Do you approach your work as an entire body of thought or a single pieceat a time?
The nice thing about drawing and pencil crayons as medium is you don’t have towait for the work to dry, and you can go at a piece for as long as you need to. It’sthis immediate and deliberate line work that encourages me to see the piecethrough entirely. I make a point not to stretch myself too thin across multipleworks, rather I commit to one piece at a time.
What do you consider your biggest influences in art and in life – the thingsthat really help to inspire you toward your work?
When I’m in studio, I’m usually half-watching/listening to shows on my laptopwhile I work. Series like the X-files, and Farscape really fuel my fascination withcreature of the week scenarios. I’ve been reading H.G. Wells, John Wyndhamand Frank Herbert lately, and I am fascinated by detailed worlds and charactersthat exist in those stories. I also follow a lot of art blogs, and that really keeps myfinger on the pulse of all the amazing work out there.How do you feel your studio space affects your work? What sort of setupdo you prefer or enjoy?I can only speak on behalf of my own work habits … creative energy is one thing,but having a dedicated studio space to get up and go to, and an establishedstudio routine really helps with getting into that productive frame of mind. Havinga really hard working studio mate like Kris Knight isequally as effective. When I’m working in studio, I have my pieces affixed to largepieces of foam core that get moved around while I work so I see what the worklooks like in different conversations with each other. I also have my laptop tokeep me company, and a tray full of drawing tools at my side.
You have a solo exhibition currently showing called “ The Fringes” at ErinStump Projects in Toronto, Ontario. Can you tell us about this work andanything about the space?
ESP (Erin Stump Projects) is curated by Erin Stump and is located in the QueenWest gallery district in Toronto. ESP offers roster of really great emerging artistsworking in various mediums. My show features a new family of portraits and istitled, “The Fringes” – referring to both ornamentation in hairstyle and fashion andreferring to a place in John Wyndham’s 1955 sci-fi novel “The Chrysalids” of aforbidden territory occupied by outcasts and mutants at the edge of society. Theshow opens Sept 8 with through to October 2nd. You can read more about ithere.
Thanks for letting us into your world for a peek. Where can we find you inthe future and what do you have coming up on the horizon?
I’ll be in studio making new work. You can also check outwinnietron.blogspot.com for updates and announcements as they come!