Sam Yong talks about 'KEEPSAKES' opening at Outré Gallery September 05 2016

'I like to make work thats beautiful, yet tragic'. In a new piece of work, Yong paints a rabbit with blood red eyes, lying on a black background, frozen with fear as delicate, charming ladybugs crawl up onto its body, looming towards its face. It is cathartic to the viewer as well as being an enabling depressant. This work draws on notions of healing paralleled with being consumed with plague-like thoughts of someone else that invading your thoughts and vanquish your sense of self control.

Local Melbourne artist Sam Yong premiered his highly anticipated second exhibition, 'K E E P S A K E S’ , on Friday 26th August, 6pm, as a part of the Small Wall Project at Outré Gallery, Melbourne. We caught up with him to talk about his hauntingly surreal new works, meeting New Zealand singer Lorde at a food court and the balance of art versus money.

Have you always been an illustrator?

Yeah in some way or another I guess. I started out as a kid copying the artwork on the packaging of toys my parents would get me. Transformers, X-Men, Dinosaurs and Ninja Turtles were my fave. When I was a bit older I wanted to get into comic book illustration but I realised I don't have the attention span to draw the same character again and again. I worked as a graphic designer after uni, and then started moving into freelance illustration. I got sick of illustrating and now I'm concentrating on my own art and moving into painting.

New Zealand to Melbourne, what made you make the move?

I've always felt a bit nomadic, and things just started getting a bit too routine and stagnant so I just decided to shake my life up and also move somewhere that felt inspiring and supportive of art and creative endeavours.

What do you think of the local art scene in Melbourne, in particular, accessibility to affordable galleries for artists?

I really like all the friends that I've made through art in Melbourne. There's a lot of rad people doing rad things and most people I know are doing really different things, so there's so much good variety here. And because there's a lot of variety there's a few different local galleries you can get to with different price bracket work, so there's something for everyone I guess. The only thing I find which sucks about the local art scene is that there should be better access to atelier schools so people can get more formal training in painting or drawing.

How do you find the balance between doing things for money versus the love of creating?

I still work part time to pay my rent and bills and 4am dumplings. I've always been pretty detached from any day job work because it's not really the work I'm emotionally connected to and at the end of the day it's all just advertising which I have no real interest in. It's nice having a part time gig that's relevant to your field of interest so you can build up your skills but being able to separate your mind from the day to day stuff is useful. Having a steady income frees up the rest of my time to only make what I want to express and not work on anything else that doesn't fulfil my creative endeavours. I'd love to of course work less and paint full time for myself but I wonder if I would worry about making work that would sell and having to compromise the honesty and intention of the work being made.

You’ve got K E E P S A K E S coming up at Outré Gallery for their new 'Small Wall Project', which encourages local artists to co-curate their own shows within the gallery. Could you talk a bit about this and the work which you are are creating for it.

This latest body of work is partly my beginning of my departure from drawing into painting, which I've always been planning to do at some point, while also exploring some ideas and emotions of the concept of the show. "Keepsakes" are small sentimental objects kept in memory of the person who gave it or owned it. The work is a personal journey, delving into the emotional aftermath of fleeting moments and different memories. There's a lot of metaphorical elements that represent temporal beauty, ritual, and the lasting effects of a fleeting moment. I really wanted to create a cohesive body of work that would also satisfy me creatively and at the same time, be part of my cathartic process. Painting for me is therapy, release and reflection, and hopefully the audience finds a bit of catharsis too. In a way, through this body of work, I'll be presenting physical keepsakes based upon the intangible emotions on which they came from.

Words: Claire Pont &Nicola Mitchell
Photos: Loretta Lizzio 

Full interview here via Pilerats: