Amy Goh is almost too talented for her own good. In addition to analyzing movies (hey, thats our job!), she weaves worlds for a living, although a distant entity called School bubbles beneath the surface wherein she gets to study Fun Things like the dynamics of Faustian Pacts with the Devil and Victorian Pathological fiction. While she is not writing papers, she draws (rabidly) seascapes of forgotten cities with the inky secretions of her pen (which she often thinks of as a 4th limb). We are proud to present Amy Goh in the 59th episode of the Creative Spotlight!
Amy, you are definitely not a one-dimensional artist. In addition we saw you were a fan of Asian films such as Women of the Dunes. Could you tell us a bit about the type of films you study, appreciate, and gravitate towards?
Amy: I’m a huge fan of Asian movies in general. My taste is rather eclectic, although I have to say that -generally- I have a fondness for the meditative, almost effortless grace that Asian movies such as 3-iron and The Last Life in the Universe have and Asian filmmakers excel in. Call this a ‘zen-like’ quality, if you want. I find it even more interesting when Asian filmmakers seek to articulate more complex realities, as it results in an aesthetic complexity which is always pleasant to steep in. I’m really a mind-juice junkie and I prefer if the elixir is pure, haha. As for older movies, I am rather fond of Funeral Parade of Roses and Women of the Dunes, which you mentioned. Women of the Dunes is just so layered and aesthetically delicious that I can’t resist it. It kind of reminds me of a Kafka-ian allegory. Although I have studied 1960s Avant-Garde film, however, I can’t say I like dwelling too long in that territory! All that being said, I can’t say that I can’t appreciate the rapid-fire adrenaline of films like Love Exposure, which I think is just four hours full of fun. Besides Asian films, I’m a huge fan of anime, as well (cliche as it may seem). Anime I absolutely adore would include Cowboy Bebop, Haibane Renmei, Denno Coil, Mushishi, Kino’s Journey, Lain (which is an absolute mind-tangle!) and countless others of which names I can’t fully recall… Oh, and Miyazaki, of course. I recently watched Ponyo and it’s such a nostalgic film!
You like to have backstories on the pieces you illustrate. Does this purpose bring a realer sense in connection between yourself and the artwork?
Amy: Stories are very integral to the way I view my craft. I frequently weave many narratives into my drawings in an almost circular fashion. The construction of stories inside stories (a sort of Arabian Nights, labyrinth logic) plays a part in how I construct my universe. From within this shell-like lens, I birth things, as well as see the death of things. The ongoing process of death, rebirth and metamorphosis is a recurrent theme in my work. Basically, I prefer operating in a cyclical rather than linear framework in which motifs, myths, and entities sort of float around and nebulously construct themselves as the viewer tries to make sense of them. Natural shapes and Nature inspires me deeply, also. I love the memories and stories I see ingrained in textures, atmospheres, and landscapes. As primarily a writer and poet of rather incongruous, nebulous realities, I see my work as an intersection between my writing- which tends to be very visceral and ‘visual’- and my art- which has a tendency towards an almost story-like consistency. As such, I guess I really like mixing mediums as it gives me a tactile way of articulating my reality!
So, if we could crawl inside your head for a moment, how would the origin story of, lets say…Apple Child come about? Where do you start?
Amy: I usually only come up with the stories I weave within my drawings when people ask me about it. I’m not sure if this makes sense, but even though I’m the artist, the process of discovering the stories behind each drawing is rather uncontrolled and unpredictable.
Apple child emerged while I was doing my cat series. I was using the cats as my muses, while letting the garden in my heart/mind grow for awhile since I felt rather dry and empty after doing the mummies series (a series that centers around the plant-like-things that grow right after the aftermath of destruction). While I was drawing a series of garden-like bubble-things, the apple child emerged, very much to my surprise. I was also at the point in which I was trying to ‘grow’ things, so I was very pleased with her appearance.
You widely publicize that you welcome commission work. How do you deal with unruly clients?
Amy: Thankfully, I haven’t had any unruly clients as yet! Most of my clients are people seeking me to do drawings for their collections. I also get a lot of tattoo requests, for obvious reasons. This piece: for example, was done as a tattoo on a friend’s back.
What do you take into account to ensure that the piece you work on is well received by the client? Do you work better with direction or room to be creative?
Amy: Most of my clients accommodate my stubborn approach towards art and for that, I’m really thankful! At the moment, most of my ‘clients’ are more like collaborators- I’m working with a musician friend of mine Justin Lassen on a music/art/word thing, as well as another multi-disciplinary artist Colemarie on a multimedia project. I’m sure these things will eventually reap money, but I’m not sure if they count as “clients”! I’m lucky in that I haven’t had to compromise my rather stubborn sense of integrity towards my creations and am able to take up only offers that offer me to explore new parts of the rather surreal geography of my mind, hee.
Most of your pieces are black and white. For what reason is this and why do you choose to stray from color?
Amy: Hmm, I love the zen-ness of working in black and white. There is always the need to balance black/white, and harmonious/disharmonious elements, even on the conceptual/thematic level. It’s like wrestling an entity out from the chaos of my mind- very meditative. Also, I have a huge thing for ink and staining paper, haha. Of course, part of the reason why I work primarily in black and white is also because I’m a coward and I go a little rabid when I do dapple in colour…
What kind of art environments have Singapore provided that Canada lacks? Vice Versa?
Amy: The sounds/smells/sights of Singapore provide a huge inspiration for me. There is a tactility and vibrancy to the place that Canada lacks. I’m not sure how to explain it if you haven’t physically been there. Things are just more visceral and sensual. Canada, however, provides the platform for getting ‘out’ into the world that Singapore cannot afford to provide. As such, I’m really grateful. Singapore’s really cut-throat and competitive, generally, and there isn’t much room for us indie artists.
As a self-taught artist of extreme talent, how did you recognize this is what you wanted to do and how did you go about perfecting your craft?
Amy: I’ve always wanted to articulate my world in a variety of languages. I think of drawing as one of the many limbs of a rather many tentacled octopus I use to accomplish this. As for perfecting the craft, I boil this down to just drawing without thinking of what I’m doing. If you draw enough, some kind of logic will emerge eventually.
Lastly, any advice for any creative who hopes to go down the ‘self-taught’ route?
Amy: The most important thing is to shove away your ego and self-doubt. As a friend of mine says, “just shut up and draw”. Along the way, you’re bound to find what you need as the need emerges :). Also, get your work out there and always finish what you start!
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