FEATURED ARTIST: Châu Lê Thái Huyền
With an academic background in International Communication and Diplomacy from Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam and no formal art training whatsoever, Châu Lê Thái Huyền is not your average artist in more ways than one which is probably what excites us about her the most. Equipped with nothing more than an iPad Pro, Apple Pencil and Sketchbook, this emerging digital painter who was born and raised in Hanoi describes her style as “impulsive and like a naive child with contrasting and harmonious colors and bold composition.” Her subject matter is intimate with her works seen as a raw reflection of her journey through the different stages of growth and emotions felt within scenes of her everyday life as a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, and a citizen of Vietnam.
Though only a few years into her journey as an artist, Châu Lê has already been making colorful waves both inside Vietnam and abroad. Her artwork has been shown in group exhibitions in Tokyo, Seoul and London, and was recently included in the book Art Collector’s Choice, Japan. As not only the first Vietnamese artist, but also the first digital painter on Artcast, we were thrilled to be able to sit down for a more detailed interview where we had the chance to ask about her process, who and what inspires her, the stories behind some of her pieces, and what it’s like as a young artist in Vietnam.
As an emerging artist from Vietnam where the art scene is relatively unknown on a global scale, what are some influences from your home country that have been inspiring and/or motivating you to follow your dream of having an established career in art?
Aside gaining personal success with a career in art, I deeply want to demonstrate a bigger and more accurate picture of present Vietnam. I have been a member of Hanoikids, a student-run organization which offers free tours for international tourists in Hanoi, for eight years now. The most important and heart-breaking lesson I have learned from this experience is that the first thing that comes to mind for a foreigner about Vietnam is the wars. I want to change that. Through these trips which are filled with real stories, I have been trying to bring a new image of the young Vietnamese generation and today’s Vietnam.
Now I also want to do that through my art and that’s why from the very beginning of my career, I decided I wanted my works to go far and outside of Vietnam. I want people from all around the world to see work created by a Vietnamese lady who was born and grew up here by typical Vietnamese parents and one who has never experienced education outside of her home country. I want to prove that my origins and background cannot stop me from achieving success, they strengthen me instead.
What are three words that describe your art?
Intimate, vivid and healing.
Which artists have inspired you and/or influenced your work?
Matisse, David Hockney and Maud Lewis. Another significant artist, who is not a painter, but has endlessly influenced and inspired me for so many years is Taylor Swift. I have learnt so much from her. The way she makes music and pours all of her heart into every single thing she does. The way she never gives up and comes back even stronger. The way she proves whatever things will be possible once you give it your own. The way she shows a lady can be whoever she wants to be. I have been growing up listening and singing (screaming) to every Taylor song. And now, I want to become a Taylor Swift in digital art. I know it sounds funny, but why not dream big while you dream.
What is the best piece of advice for an artist that you have heard?
“Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is.” – Jackson Pollock
Can you describe your creative process when painting digitally?
It happens differently every time. That is what I love the most about my job. You will never get bored by making art. However, in short, the process will start with me feeling intensively about a random thing or scene, a song, movie, book or even a photo I saw somewhere on the internet. I cannot help then picking up my Ipad and pen to uncover those feeling.
Being creative is my therapy. It helps me process everything in my life. Becoming an artist allows me to be comfortably vulnerable, authentic and liberal. I thought I would find the answers for all of my “adult – life” questions in art but turns out it is transforming me both mentally and physically into someone I have always wished to become. I have never been more happy and open than I am now. As I am not scared of suffering from a terrible situation anymore. I am open and willing to that. I am rising up from the grief and sorrow.
What is the most important tool you use when creating your work?
I would prefer my works to be seasonal and occasional. As musics and films, I have a playlist for each of them for different stages and phases in life that I have been through. I want that too for my art and my audience. It is a gloomy winter Sunday and you are feeling like a sad beautiful love story – I have a work for that. I am angry and hiding myself in my bedroom crying all night – I have a work for that also.
I always tell my stories through my pieces, honestly, intimately and most important – rawly. Truth is the hidden message when it comes to explaining what the work is about. The truth in how I felt, how I saw, how I overcame and how I had the courage to present my deepest, darkest part to the public.I believe I am not alone on this journey. Somebody out there has been through exactly what have happened to me. We can count on each other. Because when there is no one there for you, my works are.
Can you give us some insight into what inspired a few of your favorite pieces?
I was so obsessed with the color red back then. And I just thought why didn’t I try to create a whole work using different shades of red. The funny thing is it was finished the night before the two-month lockdown in my city due to the 4th wave of Covid-19. So I named it: Soul of summer.
A few pieces have been created after my trip to Japan in November, 2019. These reflects the beauty of Tokyo autumn through the eyes of a girl who is deeply in love.
Many of these works [featured on Artcast] were created and finished in 2020 – the very first year of Covid-19. As I was stuck at home, I found inspiration from literally everything in my house, mostly the bathroom. Awkward enough, I find this place the most comfortable, enjoyable and relaxing corner. I live with my family. There are 4 of us sharing the house 24/7 for months. I love them and we have enough rooms for each of us. But, the side effect of spending too much time with your family is that you have no room for your private life which increased my anxiety. In these works, I demonstrate the desire of going out with friends, having a date with my boyfriend, living a normal life, etc…
One work in particular I would like to mention here is The Promise. There are two rings that connect the two toilets. This is what I have learnt from my experience during the quarantine with my family. The key of a happy marriage is finding harmony in the littlest things you share.
Châu Lê is certainly an artist to watch with plans to experiment further with animation and sound in her digital art, and we are so excited that we can help share her work even further than where it’s already been. Check out her brilliant digital paintings in the new gallery “Châu Lê Thái Huyền” now streaming in the Contemporary Art category and for a more comprehensive look at her portfolio or to commission works of art, visit her website and follow her on Instagram @chau.lethaihuyen. To purchase some of her pieces, visit The Artling.