Painting the Vision – Interview with Troy Gua

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Through the ages many have said that art impacts all of us differently, based on what one feels or perceive it to be. We will touch more on this concept, in our interview with Artist,  Innovator and Visionary Troy Gua. His work is so prolific, that it covers various mediums, from paintings, sculptures, film and also creating a series called LPP – (Le Petit Prince) which is an ongoing tribute to the legacy of Prince Rogers Nelson. Troy also discusses His early beginnings as a child, drawing on his Dad’s office paper, influences and the impact of contemporary culture on art.

– Arkteknologies

 

How did your journey into art begin?

When I was just a little tiny guy, my dad would bring home paper from his office for me and I would spend hours drawing. Like a lot of kids who become artists, I drew and drew and drew and drew. When I got into grade school, I started getting positive attention from my teachers whenever we’d do art projects in class. What a great feeling it was to get that praise – that pat on the back. The other kids started paying attention, too, and before long, I became the go-to class artist. I proudly and gladly assumed the role and kept chasing that feeling. I took some detours in life and made some unwise choices, including extended breaks from making art, but it has always been a part of me – the compulsion to make things. In the late 1970s, when the blockbuster exhibition of artifacts from King Tut’s tomb traveled to my hometown, I became obsessed. That ancient artwork and craftsmanship hypnotized me (still does), and I believe it was that mysterious imagery and gilded sculpture that simultaneously sparked and solidified my love affair with art and making things. The first 3D object I ever made was a cardboard replica of Tut’s tomb, which my mom let me bury in her flower bed. I went back to check on it a week or two later, and it had miraculously disappeared. I was convinced it must have been the Pharaoh’s curse, but yeah, it was mom. Those were the days.

Who are some of your influences?

Well, as a visual artist, it may seem curious to name a musical artist as my greatest inspiration and influence, but Prince Rogers Nelson is number one. His ability to traverse so many styles and genres without batting an eye or concern for what others would think, his powerful drive and work ethic, and his dedication to his own vision and artistic path will always be qualities I aspire to. My folks instilled in me a strong work ethic from an early age, but a lifetime of watching and studying Prince and his creative output cemented it. Among other things, he taught me to be true to myself and WORK.

(Prince in the Studio)

As far as visual artists that have influenced and inspired me, the list is long, but you said ‘some’, so here’s an abbreviated list, some obvious, some maybe not so obvious:

Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, Piet Mondrian, Native American Northwest Coast Art, Yves Klein, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Katsushika Hokusai, Chuck Close, Jeff Koons, Richard Prince, Robert Indiana, Donald Judd, Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, Rene Magritte, Man Ray…

(Yves Klein)

During which era are some of your favorite art movements?

Cubism, Surrealism, Dada, Pop, Post-pop, Contemporary, Conceptual – most of the 20th century, I guess! I’m fond of movements that question what art is and what art can be. Pushing the envelope is always exciting and magnetic.

Can you tell of us about some of your work, that you have created over the years?

For the most part, I produce Pop-infused conceptual work in a wide range of media, marrying commerciality to contemporary with a glossy design aesthetic. My subject matter often addresses contemporary culture and the ways in which media, iconography, identity, cultural self-critique, and the universal human need for recognition play parts within it. I’ve made intentionally commercial (but still personally fulfilling) work to make ends meet and which sustains me to this day and has allowed me to produce shows of conceptual works that may never sell. I like to make work that has as many entry points as possible, is engaging to a wide audience, and can evoke emotion.

 

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Encouraging closer investigation, my work is reflective, often both literally and metaphorically. It implies the reflection of our culture and my love/hate fascination with it. It suggests the slickly wrapped bits of information our society is continuously fed through our ever-growing assemblage of media. It references what we choose to see, and what we choose to show. I’m both drawn to and repelled by our contemporary culture. That ambiguity is reflected in the work I make. Is it exalting or condemning its subject matter? Can it do both simultaneously?

Your work seems to transcend various forms of media, so does each format influence your creations differently?

Good question, and the answer is yes, sort of, but maybe the other way around – for me, the concept almost always comes first, and the materials second. I usually get the vision of a completed piece in my mind, and then I go about figuring out how to manifest it. My methods of fabrication are as eclectic as the results, and my media of choice is whatever best serves the piece, whether it be paint, print, plaster, photography, cast resin, found object, sculptural intervention, video, etc. When asked what my favorite medium is, I like to invoke a George Clinton refrain: ‘What ever it takes – Whatever the party call for’.

We see that you created miniature sculptures called LPP, based on the legacy of Prince. What led to it’s inception and expansion into an Art Book?

For starters, in short, the ‘Le Petit Prince’ (LPP) project is a growing series of lovingly detailed and meticulously staged photographs – a surreal reimagining, in sculptural miniature, of the life and career of Prince Rogers Nelson. I owe a great debt of gratitude to all the photographers and directors who captured Prince’s essence over the years, and to all the designers, stylists, and artists who contributed their magic and talent to his aesthetic, inspiring awe, and inspiring this work.

The project began at the end of 2011, and as the year wound down, I wanted to take a break from the hustle of making a living as a creative and make something for myself, as an escape, just for fun. I’d always been a fan of the look of Gerry Anderson’s ‘Supermarionation’ characters from his 60s and 70s TV shows like ‘Thunderbirds’ and ‘Captain Scarlet’, as well as the Rankin/Bass Productions such as ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ that I loved from my childhood, and wanted to make a Prince creation that paid homage to those visual inspirations. Over time, with my own need for expression along with the encouragement of social media, the project transformed from photos of a thing I made, to the photos themselves becoming the things – the art, and the sculptural figure became a constantly evolving one-of-a-kind sculpture with countless hand-crafted outfits, props and a selection of facial expressions (heads), existing as the key prop and vehicle for the art, these photos, which are my way of memorializing the moments that mean so much to us fans, in a surreal, fantastical, other-worldly way, that hopefully delights.

It has, in Prince’s absence, taken on another dimension – it’s my way of continuing his legacy and celebrating my life’s greatest inspiration and influence. It helps to heal me and continues to transport me to another space and time. Other folks have expressed that it does the same for them and more. What an amazing reward that is. I release an image every week on Instagram/Facebook (#LPPSaturday) and I’m continuously shocked and humbled at the reactions. I’m so grateful and honored for the love and positivity from everyone who digs this work.

Is there a vibe that you like people to feel when they see your body of work?

I guess the takeaway is, I hope folks learn that my work is multi-layered, difficult to classify, filled with thoughtfulness, playfulness, love, humor, hard work, eclecticism, but in a word: POSITIVITY

Your Art is featured in countless Museums, Galleries and Shows, so what other events, projects and installations do you have coming up?

I’m grateful to have had a strong, nearly decade long relationship with SAM Gallery at the Seattle Art Museum, which showcases and champions Pacific Northwest artists, and I’ll be in their three final group shows of the year. I also have work up in a show called ‘Apparitions’ at the Kirkland Arts Center (in the Seattle Metro area) this Fall. There’s some potentially exciting news about the University of Minnesota’s Weisman Art Museum ‘Prince From Minneapolis’ exhibition which I was honored to have some of my LPP work included in, but it may be too early to share it. Stay tuned!

On another note, I’ll be moderating a panel (Fashion & Style of Prince) at the PRN Alumni Foundation’s fundraising event, ‘Funk N Roll Weekend’, which happens this October 11-13 in Minneapolis, as well as a panel (Art vs. Design) at BEND DESIGN, a three day event on October 25-27 for creators, designers, and thinkers in Bend, Oregon. Should be fun!

Where can people find you online?

My website is the best and most comprehensive collection of my work: troygua.com, but folks can find me on Instagram at @troygua, as well as Facebook at @troygua and @TroyGuaArt.

Thanks so much for the interest in my work! Best of everything, always, and Prince4ever!

TROY GUA