We caught up with recent grad Laura Thipphawong to talk about what she’s up to and being nominated for an emerging artist award.
Tell us about yourself. What are you working on now?
I am an interdisciplinary artist working in oil paint and illustration, as well as academic research and creative writing. My visual work tends towards magic realism as a means of expressing or interpreting psychological and emotional states through ambiguous narratives and surreal tableaux. The content varies in many ways, but I have noticed over the last few years some common threads are symbolism in folklore and fairy tale imagery, the duality or ambivalent nature of the self and the aesthetic of strange or haunting beauty. The place where seemingly opposed concepts converge: beauty and the grotesque, pain and pleasure, horror and comedy, is where my art lives.
I am currently working on a series of paintings inspired by storytelling and the personal reinterpretation of archetypes and classic motifs. I will also be presenting a paper I wrote on the same subject called “Encounters with the Male Sexual Other in 19th- and 20th-Centuty Fairy Tale Literature” at the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association conference in Salt Lake City in October 2016.
Congratulations on being nominated for an Emerging Toronto Artist award! What does it take to be an emerging artist in this city?
To me, the idea of “having what it takes” has always been about the discipline to work obsessively on what you want to accomplish, and having a vision of where you want your work to take you. Talent and creativity are, of course, the foundation, but in order to make the work you know you are capable of you need to habitually enforce your own work ethic and continually raise your personal standards. All the hype in the world can’t make up for soulless art. I think if you put as much of yourself as possible into your work, then recognition will follow.
The Maiden and Death 48 x 60 oil on canvas
How does your painting practice relate to your research and academic work?
My writing and research have always been the catalyst for my need to paint, and each painting I do is loaded with content rooted in history, sociology and psychological study. I am endlessly fascinated by too many areas of study to count, and feel that I could have happily chosen at least a dozen careers, in anything from paleontology to forensic psychology.
Art, however, has always been the one thing that unites all my passions, and using my written research to inform and inspire my art was a natural progression. In turn, the process of making art informs my research. A lot of the decisions I make about my paintings are intuitive, and often lead me to examine those choices from an academic perspective.
Tea Party 48 x 48 oil on canvas
How did OCAD University’s Visual and Critical Studies program help your work?
I had already been working part time as an artist in Toronto for years, but got sidetracked with my career as a small business owner before finally deciding to completely change my life in order to pursue a career as an artist. My life had been an unnecessary compromise for too long before it — thankfully — all just fell apart, and I decided to give up everything and do what would truly make me happy.
Entering the Visual and Critical Studies program happened in a way parallel to my decision to go to OCAD U. When I was made aware of a program that would allow me to focus on my research skills and critical thinking, while still expanding on my studio practice, I knew right away that it was the right move for me. Within the week I changed my major and became the first student in this brand new program.
I don’t normally think of myself as a spontaneous person, but sometimes you just have to just let instinct take over, and this was absolutely the right decision. The program has opened doors for me as a writer, allowed me to experience landmark changes in my career and redefined my experience as an artist.