As an organization that supports the independent arts among Asian Americans and the larger Asian Diaspora, we are so in love with Mandy Tsung's work which predominantly explores issues of identity and questions established and normative definitions and concepts of beauty and self.
Mandy was born in Banff, Canada, but spent her most formative years in Calgary, Canada, and Hong Kong. After completing a BFA in Sculpture at The Alberta College of Art and Design in 2007, she then moved to Vancouver and began painting full-time. She has exhibited in numerous galleries in North America, Germany, Japan and Australia, and has completed many private commissions. Most recently, she underwent a mentorship in tattooing and now splits her practice between painting and tattooing.
-Does your identity or how you identify yourself inform your work in any way?
My identity has a big influence on my work. It wasn't until I was able to really be comfortable with who I am that I became confident in the work I was making. The themes I explore are personal and are very much about expressing my feelings and experiences.
-When making your work, do you have certain expectations or do you aim for a specific reaction in your audience and the viewer? (Do you care about how the message of your work is received?)
I definitely have hopes for how it might open people's eyes to different experiences of life, but I've learned never to expect anything. No matter how obvious I think the meaning of an image is, someone will take it to mean the opposite. I've had people say that I objectify women or that I promote the killing of animals, things that I spend so much of my energy thinking of how to convey the exact opposite. I try to remember that the majority of people understand what I'm trying to do, but the wrong interpretations do stick with me.
-Does art serve a purpose for you outside of just beauty or aesthetics?
Art is so much more than beauty and aesthetics. For me, personally, it's therapeutic. For the viewer, it's an opportunity to give them an experience that they've never had before, to show them a world that they don't normally see. The themes I'm exploring right now - mixed-race identity, gender fluidity, and queerness - are all things that we don't see much of in western culture, and when we do it's often done one-dimensionally by people who don't live the stories they're telling. Even for me, I'm constantly learning from others in my communities better ways to tell my story. Beauty is an important aspect to my work because it's a valuable tool for getting people to be receptive, but it's not the goal. Sometimes I do think about how nice it would be to just make pretty things, but then I realize that even my idea of pretty is political.
-How do current events affect your practice?
There's never been a more necessary time (in my life) to be speaking about race, gender, etc. I dislike the cliche of the artist needing conflict to create great art, I'd prefer to live a happy, free existence than to make the most incredible work ever. But, I do feel that as the world becomes more unstable and hostile, my identity becomes more solid and so does my creative voice. Which is probably because I've known what it's like to be in hiding, to feel lost and unsure, and then to feel the comfort of being safe and surrounded by people that accept me as a valid human being. I want more people to feel that sense of comfort, especially right now.
-Do you feel you are more reactive or more reflective when you create?
My initial ideas tend to come as a reaction to something, whether it's emotional or something I've seen. Then, as I'm working on a piece, I become more reflective over the days and weeks that it can take to complete. I'd probably never finish anything if I was only reactive!