In a few short weeks artists and designers from all over the city and beyond will take over the Gladstone Hotel with immersive art and design installations for Come Up To My Room 2019. We sat down with one of our featured participants, interdisciplinary artist Charlize Nhung, to get a glimpse of what she’ll be creating for this 4-day art festival.
How did you come to working with textiles?
With a lot of projects, I start with my background, addressing the question of ‘why am I making stuff.’
I recently discovered my grandpa was a weaver and apparently I grew up sleeping around a loom, which I actually never knew. It was weird because when I first saw a loom as an adult it felt like Deja Vu; I felt like I’d done it before even though I hadn’t as an adult. It wasn’t until I dug into it a bit more and asked my mom that I discovered all this, that my job was to hold paddles on the loom for my grandfather.
I was taking a textile class at OCAD at the time that explored the medium beyond fashion, and that’s where I really started to experiment with this story. For me, when I sit on a jewellery bench or a loom, there’s a certain feeling I get, and that’s how I process my work. It’s an internal conversation that I can’t talk about fully until I finish the process. A lot of my work I made years ago but it’s not done yet so I don’t show it yet.
Tell us a bit about the project you’re doing for Come Up To My Room 2019!
It’s all relatively new work for me. This piece is a big scale jump for me as a jeweller, but that’s also part of the process of creating the work. It’s an organic process, putting the pieces together on this scale, and I’ve been working one section at a time. In the end all the parts connect, but getting there is very much an exploration.
Of course I also have to consider how the work is going to sit in the space. When I did a similar project at Baycrest, the area they gave me was huge! I didn’t want the project to lose intimateness—and sometimes when you scale too much it feels like when you’re in a room with too many people and you can’t really connect with anyone there. So in that sense the scale of the work can really change what I’m thinking to do with the project. In this case the space has definitely influenced what I’m doing for the installation — I was originally going to do a sculpture but now it’s going to be a wall mounted and hung installation instead.
I’m going to be working on showing the interactions of the different materials, based on the concept of deconstructing the loom. It’ll be a bit like what the loom might look like to a child—to me as a child—this big tangly thing. I’ve used a lot of textile techniques so far, perhaps in a bit of a non-traditional way.
How did you get involved with Come Up To My Room?
I came here for Hard Twist [the Gladstone’s annual textile exhibition] and thought the Gladstone would be a good fit to show my work. When I was applying I had a vision, but I also left the project a bit open ended, which is why CUTMR was a good fit. It’s a different kind of show. It’s alternative in terms of the way it invites you to play with material and genre; naturally in practice I like to mix material, so CUTMR seemed like a good fit to try something like this one. A lot of time when you go to a contemporary art gallery or museum, it’s a very specific genre of work, but I like to mix mediums naturally in my practice and play with material. This freedom to work between genres is really want I saw in CUTMR.
Is the audience going to engage with the work by touch?
The space that I’m installing in is a very public space, so I think it’s probably going to happen. While I don’t mind the audience interacting a bit, I hope they’re not all over it. The reason being is that even though these pieces are a site-specific response to my experience with the loom, and this is a current work, it still feels unfinished in some ways; I haven’t finished the dialogue with myself around this work. So hopefully people enjoy it and engage with the work, but it’s not intended to be interactive in that way. I’d rather people have a conversation about the context and intention of the work rather than get distracted by the tactility. It’s an interesting question though, because any experience of the work is still a valid experience, even if it’s not the intended experience. It may be natural for people to want to reach out and touch work too, even if we’d rather they spend more time considering the concepts behind it.
What else do you have lined up for 2019?
I have a work called the Negative Space about the refugee experience. I myself am a refugee child, so I’m working on this a lot because I feel that when I was growing up I didn’t have enough tools to see that that’s a valid experience that you can be creative about it. Once I started talking about it, I realized that a lot of people have been marked by refugee experience here in Canada —I really want people to get to know that experience in depth. I want to create dialogue and talk about the voice of the Vietnamese community too, and how the refugee experience has impacted different generations of communities. I want people to get to know that experience more throughly.