Could you tell us a bit about your background and your art practice?
I was born in raised in the San Gabriel Valley, just east of Los Angeles. There wasn’t much “art” in my life growing up, so I basically taught myself how to draw by watching cartoons and anime and doodling in the margins of my school work. My high school had 2 art classes (beginning/advanced) and I had never even really visited an art museum until college. I went to a community college for 3 years trying out and switching up different types of creative practices. Following that, I ended up transferring to the School of Visual Arts for Illustration where I completed my BFA.
I’m interested in interpreting and misinterpreting potentially unrelated thoughts and merging them together to create a unique narrative. I’m currently exploring the connections that may or may not exist between my surroundings, my cultural upbringing and the abnormal attraction I have to recurring motifs in my everyday life. It’s an ongoing conversation. My practice always feels like it’s in a constant state of flux.
What are the concepts behind your works?
My work exists conceptually as more vague interpretations that can be read in multiple ways. When I’m making or looking at my work I feel like I’m in a crowded room and hearing parts of different conversations of which I’m trying to make sense of. Someone else might hear different parts and get something very different. That being said, a lot of my work right now feels a bit self-indulgent.
What is your process like?
In my process, I usually just pin whatever scrap piece of canvas I have onto the wall as long as it’s a decent size and not too strangely proportioned. Because of this many of my larger paintings have odd dimensions like 47”x 34” inches or something like that. I often begin with a drawing straight onto the raw canvas just to get an image from which I can work from. I very rarely gesso a canvas properly. From then on it’s a process of adding, scraping, drawing, covering, painting, layering, etc. until a final painting exists.
You often utilize texts in your works. Can you explain your methods of coming up with the texts and the relationship between texts and imageries?
The text I use in my paintings are often small snippets of phrases or sayings. They consist of either things I think up, hear in my life, or the whatever literature I’m reading. I keep them vague and out of context in order to allow the connections between the text and wordplay to naturally create its own narrative within the rest of that painting. In the painting “Lightning Strikes Twice,” a large “NAH.” can be read as a spectre hovering over our heads, haunting our every action and decision. It’s a reminder of the lifelong feeling of inadequacy I have, bestowed upon me by my family in a culture that didn’t value art. However, in terms of the relationship between text and image, I approach the text with both its potential interpretations and its actual visual form simultaneously and not separately from the imagery.
Can you describe your daily ritual in your studio?
On the days that I’m able to commit to a full day to painting, I try to start off with whatever task I don’t want to do like stretching canvas or just anything on the computer. When I get that out of the way I’ll put on a podcast and start with something in my sketchbook or drawing pad before moving onto the painting I’m working on. From there I just paint, stop and look here and there, and make smaller watercolor or gouache paintings while I’m waiting for layers to dry.
Do you have any bad habits, do they affect your work?
Yeah I definitely do. I work at home because I don’t have a separate studio so it’s hard for me to stay focused for long stretches of time with all the distractions around. I’ll often walk to the kitchen to grab a snack or some water and get caught up in whatever is going on outside my room. Sometimes it doesn’t affect my work but sometimes I kind of lose that rhythm I’m in and it’s hard to get back into it.
Are there anything else you would like to share?
Thanks for showing an interest in my work! Also shoutout to my hometown Lakers, I hope they make the playoffs this year.
For more of Hwang: rayhwangart.com