Phycho Linh

Post image for Phycho Linh

by horrorsleazetrash on September 8, 2010

When i was in Vietnam i got a chance to catch up with local artist Phycho Linh, The folling is the interview that will soon be published for Rhum Magazine.

It was hot. Like, damn hot. Scarlett Johansson hot, and while the sun made out with everyone’s skin, the power lines snaked overhead like wayward industrial eels. That’s the thing with Saigon; everything is so extremely hot, interwoven and embedded. The cigarette smoke, the women in the tight denim shorts, the constant harmonica of Tuk Tuk horns.

It’s in this heat, and compassing the small alley ways, I hunt for the supremely talented Tran Trung Linh. Speaking about as much Vietnamese as Helen Keller; I enlist the aid of a man with a Mister Miyagi beard, buy a cool beer from his ice box and follow him down a street with people playing checkers or watching really cool “monkey-magic-esqe” shows. I find Linh in his studio listening to Nirvana and stretching a canvas. After a drink we settled down for a chat; albeit the hurdled language barrier.

HST: G’day, Linh. What fine luck that our paths crossed and mostly I appreciate you letting me into your home, had a killer time finding the joint. It’s like 4 million degrees outside. While I hug the A/C, maybe you could tell me how you found your way into the world of art?

PL: I first started as an expressionist, spending loads of time with dots and stripes in chaos. One thing I know for sure is that at heart I am an expressionist. But after my third exhibition Angst Emerging, I realised that Pop Art, with its hyper-interactive way of conveying and communicating, is what really suits me, what I need on my way to speak out my ideology, to say out loud what disturbs me every day from what I witness. So here we go with my own ‘propaganda’ statement-giving paintings.

My main concerns are also including whatever matters to me every day, ranging from my own self, my own existence to the materialism and consumerism spoiling the whole world and keeping us from seeing the needs of being independent on materialism.
If I had to say something about myself, I would say I am a YOU-NAME-IT activist who’s just trying to do nothing but to whisper into your ears or to wide-open your eyes or even punch you in the face only to shake off your blindness and shut down your coldness to our world’s problems nowadays.

SO FOR IT I’VE BEEN FIGHTING!

HST: It’s funny, you know, how I came across your work, I found a few of your painting hung at the “Before and now” bar in Hoi An. I thought it was brilliant that the hub for a local artist was at a bar. You were born there right? Do you get a lot of local support?

PL: Yeah I was born in a small, peaceful town in Hoi An. It actually wasn’t until I came to Saigon to study and live that I really found the contrasts of living. The noise from Saigon was a metaphor for me both personally and artistically. It is like the new-born-me. An expressionist. I think any artist has to struggle for art, to give life to art. I love Saigon, but when my mind is full of shit, Hoi An is the place I can take a breath. I’m very grateful for that.

HST: At the bar, there was an A4 card in the corner of your paintings forbidding any photos. Is plagiarism something that greatly bothers you?

PL: People copy my paintings. I hate that. Sometimes it’s just an idea they steal, or an icon, something easy to replicate. But I love my own things, they belong to me; I don’t want to see them painted or expressed through someone else.

It definitely happens. My works are often copied, especially around this country. There is little respect for art and its value, more emphasis on money and marketing.

(A small puppy is barking outside, Linh lets him in and gives him a small bowl of water. He lights a cigarette and ashes into a pint glass on the floor. He checks his face book for a few minutes while I look around the room. There is a huge painting of Travis Barker from Blink 182 holding a sign that says “Free Hugs”.)

HST: I guess there’s an irony to that right? You use such famous and easily recognised imagery and pop figures in your art, that whole theme of recycling, and connection with the brand name/style?

PL: This is the main thing with me. My main focus at the moment in art. It’s a bombardment, a war. Now I use it as my weapon. I see and live in a materialistic world and as you know I love the love. I’m a real romantic at heart. I have a great fear that emotion and love will take a back seat to these things. I’m afraid that one day money and material obsession will swallow all things.

HST: Shit man, you got me stressing. Let’s just say at least Vietnam still holds onto some culture. Look, I know it’s a sucky and over used question; but who/what are your
influences? Both as an artist and a person?

PL: I think I take many different things from a variety of artists. Warhol, Pollock, Bacon, De Kooning, Banksy, DFace, Obey… From the Surrealists down to the street artists.

But I’m me. I love them and learn from them but by no means do I idolise them. I have my own problems, my own issues, my own food for the art. Sometimes I’m asked, Who do you want to be? And sure, you know, I’d love to be Da Vinci. I want to be Picasso. Van Gogh…

But it’s funny when they ask that. There is no real definite answer. Becoming someone else is wasting. Everybody knows that. And you can see that in the work. I think – don’t care what other people think or say. I told myself, my life is my art. The two cannot be separated.

HST: I love your film mash ups. The Apocalypse now piece with the Buddhist monk praying and the accompanied text, “I love the smell of my palms in the morning “. Are you into film or more just playing on the hype of pop culture and its art counterpart?

PL: Yeah, I’m huge into film. I’m actually writing a script now, working on a few things.
Someday I will do some David Lynch things (Linh laughs, lights another cigarette)

When I use some words or some icons from film it’s usually because l enjoyed the movie. Film is defiantly the face of pop culture.

HST: It’s difficult to avoid the political (revolutionist) themes that pop up in your pieces, for example the “She said” exhibit. Ranging from the literal, Che Guevara, or to the portraits of political figure heads; Lenin. I guess being from a country that has such a robust history of both political regime and social movements this is obviously something you feel strongly about?

PL: Sure, it’s difficult not be effected by these things. I definitely feel being an activist artist in Vietnam can at times be little bit uncomfortable. But it’s that revolution that makes me strong to show my point of view. It’s another element of freedom, or liberation.

My mind is sultry. I don’t think like politicians and aristocrats. That’s why I paint politically. There is another view point in that. As an artist I can see the lies. All I see is the hypocrisy.

HST: Requiem for a dream author, Hubert Selby, Jr. once said; Being an artist doesn’t take much, just everything you got. Would you agree with that? Or is art, for you, something more flamboyant than most “suffering artists” make it seem?

PL: Your life is your art. There is no comparison. No difference. I say, the way we live and create is more important than the things we own. Because I save all my life for art.

So, if I really love it and live for it, for sure my paintings totally are my real sentimental products. We don’t need any more landscapes, or painting of women in long dresses. No more bullshit is needed. Art is for the people. Don’t lie to the people.

Linh busies himself stretching canvas and clicking away on the laptop as he prepares for another solo exhibition in Bali. As I shake the hands of this warm and heartfelt man there is something in his eyes that assures me. Something candid about art being nestled in the small stretching alleys and squashed-together apartments. The busy streets. The Nirvana on the iPod. There is a glint in his eyes that gives me hope in art. And that’s more comforting than a can of Coca Cola.

Phycho Linh – http://www.psycholinh.com/

It was hot. Like, damn hot. Scarlett Johansson hot, and while the sun made out with everyone’s skin, the power lines snaked overhead like wayward industrial eels. That’s the thing with Saigon; everything is so extremely hot, interwoven and embedded. The cigarette smoke, the women in the tight denim shorts, the constant harmonica of Tuk Tuk horns.

It’s in this heat, and compassing the small alley ways, I hunt for the supremely talented Tran Trung Linh. Speaking about as much Vietnamese as Helen Keller; I enlist the aid of a man with a Mister Miyagi beard, buy a cool beer from his ice box and follow him down a street with people playing checkers or watching really cool “monkey-magic-esqe” shows. I find Linh in his studio listening to Nirvana and stretching a canvas. After a drink we settled down for a chat; albeit the hurdled language barrier.

RM: G’day, Linh. What fine luck that our paths crossed and mostly I appreciate you letting me into your home, had a killer time finding the joint. It’s like 4 million degrees outside. While I hug the A/C, maybe you could tell me how you found your way into the world of art?

PL: I first started as an expressionist, spending loads of time with dots and stripes in chaos. One thing I know for sure is that at heart I am an expressionist. But after my third exhibition Angst Emerging, I realised that Pop Art, with its hyper-interactive way of conveying and communicating, is what really suits me, what I need on my way to speak out my ideology, to say out loud what disturbs me every day from what I witness. So here we go with my own ‘propaganda’ statement-giving paintings.

My main concerns are also including whatever matters to me every day, ranging from my own self, my own existence to the materialism and consumerism spoiling the whole world and keeping us from seeing the needs of being independent on materialism.

If I had to say something about myself, I would say I am a YOU-NAME-IT activist who’s just trying to do nothing but to whisper into your ears or to wide-open your eyes or even punch you in the face only to shake off your blindness and shut down your coldness to our world’s problems nowadays.

SO FOR IT I’VE BEEN FIGHTING!

RM: It’s funny, you know, how I came across your work, I found a few of your painting hung at the “Before and now” bar in Hoi An. I thought it was brilliant that the hub for a local artist was at a bar. You were born there right? Do you get a lot of local support?

PL: Yeah I was born in a small, peaceful town in Hoi An. It actually wasn’t until I came to Saigon to study and live that I really found the contrasts of living. The noise from Saigon was a metaphor for me both personally and artistically. It is like the new-born-me. An expressionist. I think any artist has to struggle for art, to give life to art. I love Saigon, but when my mind is full of shit, Hoi An is the place I can take a breath. I’m very grateful for that.

RM: At the bar, there was an A4 card in the corner of your paintings forbidding any photos. Is plagiarism something that greatly bothers you?

PL: People copy my paintings. I hate that. Sometimes it’s just an idea they steal, or an icon, something easy to replicate. But I love my own things, they belong to me; I don’t want to see them painted or expressed through someone else.

It definitely happens. My works are often copied, especially around this country. There is little respect for art and its value, more emphasis on money and marketing.

(A small puppy is barking outside, Linh lets him in and gives him a small bowl of water. He lights a cigarette and ashes into a pint glass on the floor. He checks his face book for a few minutes while I look around the room. There is a huge painting of Travis Barker from Blink 182 holding a sign that says “Free Hugs”.)

RM: I guess there’s an irony to that right? You use such famous and easily recognised imagery and pop figures in your art, that whole theme of recycling, and connection with the brand name/style?

PL: This is the main thing with me. My main focus at the moment in art. It’s a bombardment, a war. Now I use it as my weapon. I see and live in a materialistic world and as you know I love the love. I’m a real romantic at heart. I have a great fear that emotion and love will take a back seat to these things. I’m afraid that one day money and material obsession will swallow all things.

RM: Shit man, you got me stressing. Let’s just say at least Vietnam still holds onto some culture. Look, I know it’s a sucky and over used question; but who/what are your

influences? Both as an artist and a person?

PL: I think I take many different things from a variety of artists. Warhol, Pollock, Bacon, De Kooning, Banksy, DFace, Obey… From the Surrealists down to the street artists.

But I’m me. I love them and learn from them but by no means do I idolise them. I have my own problems, my own issues, my own food for the art. Sometimes I’m asked, Who do you want to be? And sure, you know, I’d love to be Da Vinci. I want to be Picasso. Van Gogh…

But it’s funny when they ask that. There is no real definite answer. Becoming someone else is wasting. Everybody knows that. And you can see that in the work. I think – don’t care what other people think or say. I told myself, my life is my art. The two cannot be separated.

RM: I love your film mash ups. The Apocalypse now piece with the Buddhist monk praying and the accompanied text, “I love the smell of my palms in the morning “. Are you into film or more just playing on the hype of pop culture and its art counterpart?

PL: Yeah, I’m huge into film. I’m actually writing a script now, working on a few things.

Someday I will do some David Lynch things (Linh laughs, lights another cigarette)

When I use some words or some icons from film it’s usually because l enjoyed the movie. Film is defiantly the face of pop culture.

RM: It’s difficult to avoid the political (revolutionist) themes that pop up in your pieces, for example the “She said” exhibit. Ranging from the literal, Che Guevara, or to the portraits of political figure heads; Lenin.  I guess being from a country that has such a robust history of both political regime and social movements this is obviously something you feel strongly about?

PL: Sure, it’s difficult not be effected by these things. I definitely feel being an activist artist in Vietnam can at times be little bit uncomfortable. But it’s that revolution that makes me strong to show my point of view. It’s another element of freedom, or liberation.

My mind is sultry. I don’t think like politicians and aristocrats. That’s why I paint politically. There is another view point in that. As an artist I can see the lies. All I see is the hypocrisy.

RM: Requiem for a dream author, Hubert Selby, Jr. once said; Being an artist doesn’t take much, just everything you got. Would you agree with that? Or is art, for you, something more flamboyant than most “suffering artists” make it seem?

PL: Your life is your art. There is no comparison. No difference. I say, the way we live and create is more important than the things we own. Because I save all my life for art.

So, if I really love it and live for it, for sure my paintings totally are my real sentimental products. We don’t need any more landscapes, or painting of women in long dresses. No more bullshit is needed. Art is for the people. Don’t lie to the people.

Linh busies himself stretching canvas and clicking away on the laptop as he prepares for another solo exhibition in Bali. As I shake the hands of this warm and heartfelt man there is something in his eyes that assures me. Something candid about art being nestled in the small stretching alleys and squashed-together apartments. The busy streets. The Nirvana on the iPod. There is a glint in his eyes that gives me hope in art. And that’s more comforting than a can of Coca Cola.

Phycho Linh – http://www.psycholinh.com/

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