Friday, August 01, 2008

Art Space Talk: Troy Gua

Troy Gua states that his art is fueled by an innate introspection, and influenced by pop-culture and a working-class upbringing. He is an artist that is intent on self-expression and self-discovery. Troy is impassioned by the bold simplicity of fundamental shapes, sharp lines, solid colors, purity and precision, and he strives to create work that reflects that. His work is intended as a visual, meditative antidote to our society’s sometimes excessive, over-stimulated and chaotic tendencies.

Brian Sherwin: Troy, I understand that you are self-taught. At what point did you decide to pursue art?

Troy Gua: Well, I think I've always been in pursuit of art - I've been in constant hot pursuit since I was a young boy. I’d like to think that everyone has something that they're good at or are complimented on as a child, whether it be sports or singing or whatever, and I think that any kind of positive reinforcement really boosts you up as a kid. Mine was drawing. I was a pretty quiet, shy kid and I just loved to get inside myself and draw as much as I could. My parents and teachers really encouraged me. College didn't work out for me for various reasons and I feel I'm the better for it - free-er in my methods.

BS: Troy, it seems that you enjoy working in series. What intrigues you about that practice? Would you say that you like to push an idea as far as you can? Are they ongoing? Do you ever go back into a series?

TG: What intrigues me about working in a series? Umm...I guess it comes from my mild case of o.c.d. Ok, maybe it's not so mild. I just like order, need order. And I like things that can be viewed as a cohesive work. I envision these grand exhibits of my work lining the walls of a big city gallery and I see these grouped pieces working together and working off of each other.

I also love collections. I've had many different collections over the years, and I just love to set them all up together and look at them, admire them as individual pieces making up a larger whole. As far as pushing ideas, I suppose that’s exactly what I'm doing, although I never really thought of it that way. I think I just do it until I feel I've either perfected the look or concept I'm trying to achieve, or it just starts to bore me. Sometimes that happens simultaneously.

Some series I do intend to continue, but I find it difficult to do that when I'm deep into a new one. Some series I really don't care for any longer and have absolutely no interest in once I'm finished.

BS: ‘Your Face Here’ and ‘Labels’, part one and two, are interesting due to the social implications that one can ponder as to the meaning behind them. Can you discuss these works and the themes and issues that you explore within the context of your work in general?

TG: Sure. ‘Your Face Here’ simply deals with America’s – and my- obsession with fame. I don’t care who you are, I think everyone wants to be noticed and acknowledged to some extent. People fight to get in front of the camera at a football game, they humiliate themselves to be on TV, they actually take the lives of others to get into the news. This obsession has become obscene, especially in this country.

Labels’ is a study on the old clich├ęs “we’re all flesh and blood” and “don’t judge a book by it’s cover”. It’s true we’re all the same underneath, but we are also unique. We are all entirely individual, but at the same time we are systematically set into categories of humanity: “labeled”– black, white, rich, poor, fat, thin, etc. These are scary concepts that are universal and actually quite personal. I want to be different than everyone, and I want to be loved for it – I want to belong, but I tell myself I shouldn’t care what others think. I want to be famous, but I scoff at American Idol. And then I have to ask myself why. Why do I have this need to be seen and my work to be known? So many contradictions!

BS: Troy, some of your work conveys a meditative quality as if spiritual… perhaps not in the religious sense… but a reflection of spiritual energies in general. Is that something you strive to convey within the context of your work? Are you interested in the spiritual, so speak?

TG: That’s a great question. I am very interested in the quality of the feeling that art can give you by looking at it, thinking about it, creating it. Whether that can be called spiritual is another good question. I can’t really give you a definition of spiritual, but I can tell you that while painting, my mind races, yet the act somehow calms me; or how finishing a piece somehow makes me feel as though I’ve answered a riddle.

I know that I enjoy work that is aesthetically clean, so to speak, and that it has the power to make me feel clean. I think we all want to feel pure, or whole, inside, and I think art can assist in that for sure. I try my best to administer that assistance with my work, for me as well as for the viewer. Does that make sense?

BS: You draw inspiration from several sources… including ancient Asian military banners. Can you discuss some of these influences? What attracts you to them?

TG: Hmm…another goodie. Ok, the Asian influence comes from the simplicity of the aesthetics. Less is definitely more to me. The Zen concept of everything in it’s place, nothing unnecessary, is a very influential concept to me. There’s something very serene and peaceful about traditional Asian art, even in the banners used for warfare, oddly enough. It’s a visual influence that translates into a – back to the last question – “spiritual” influence.

BS: What about other influences… such artists or art movements from the past-- or present?

TG: Boy, everything influences me, whether I want it to or not, but I choose certain influences though, for sure. Art, music, literature – I get obsessed by artists and their work until I exhaust their catalogs. I am a huge fan of Salvador Dali as well as Andy Warhol – complete opposites stylistically speaking. I’m very influenced by pop culture and pop art as well as surrealism and minimalism. I really enjoy Donald Judd, Ed Ruscha, Frank Stella, Richard Serra.

As far as music goes, I’m a total Prince freak and I love David Bowie – both for their music as well as their visual aesthetics. I’ve recently been devouring Tom Robbins novels and am now completely immersed in Ayn Rand’s ideology. I’m a Star Wars geek. I could go on. And on.

BS: It seems that in the past your work was more figurative in nature. Some of the earlier works I viewed were more representational than abstract. Can you explain that shift in interest? Was there a shift?

TG: That’s true. I wanted to be a surrealist, really. I practiced with representational and figurative work. I wanted to be something I felt I should be, rather than allowing my true artistic nature to come across. But it was a process that was necessary to my development. And you are right, there was a pretty sudden shift in style. My art, of course, reflected my life at the time – I was married too young to the wrong person and I became an addict – I was stifling my true self in every way imaginable. That life finally ended and I was unproductive for a couple of years.

Then a little over three years ago I met the woman who has become my beautiful wife and best friend, Catherine. She changed me in so profound a way that I can’t really convey it through words except to say that she has encouraged and inspired my true self. I have become so focused and productive since I’ve known her it’s unbelievable. I feel very fortunate in many ways. Too much information?

BS: What are you working on at this time? Can you give our readers some insight into your current work?

TG: Well, I’m knee-deep in a series tentatively titled The Face Series that deals with pop iconography, irony and satire. The pieces portray famous and infamous cultural icons and public figures inter-layered with one another. They’re meant to challenge the viewer to visually decipher the image while making the connections within them.

For instance, I’ve got ‘The Boy King of Pop’, which is King Tut and Michael Jackson – both young boys forced into fame and both ending up in masks. There’s ‘The Ronald McReagan’, Ronald McDonald and Ronald Reagan – smiling icons and representatives of a society bloated by its own ego and consumptive indulgence. There’s many more. It’s good fun.

BS: Will you be involved with any upcoming exhibits?

TG: Not enough! Yes, I’ve got some local shows, competitions and exhibitions coming up, but I am so ready to explode! I need to be discovered and exploited – now!

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art?

TG: Boy, that’s a broad question for a yapper like me, Brian. I’ll try to be brief - umm, no, I think I’ve said a lot already and I don’t want to take up any more of your reader’s time when they could be checking out my art. Thanks Brian, great questions.
You can learn more about Troy Gua by visiting his website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin


Wino said...

Nice interview. Wish there were more examples of your new works though.

Anonymous said...

I was already a huge fan...but Troy, you rock!