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An Interview with Artist Amy Goh

Besides being an English Literature major with a double minor in German Literature and East Asian Studies, Amy Goh is also the creator of intricate worlds made of ink and dream ether.  Amy recently held a vernissage, “Eden in Stasis” at Galerie Coatcheck in Saint-Henri that consisted of a mixed media show of moving images collapsing into fixed ink illustrations in baroque-inspired frames.  The gallery itself was immersed in  “an organic soundscape” of serene yet somber music assembled by her friend Vlad Constantinescu. In our email interview, I asked Amy more about her show, her art, and her process of creation.

HerCampus: Hi Amy!

Amy Goh: Hi!

HC: So to start off, what was your vision behind the "Eden in Stasis" project?

AG: The idea was to create a pseudo-Edenic capsule with music that cycled through the four seasons eternally. It was staged seven days into the new lunar year of 2013 during the heart of winter. The drawings themselves were ‘greenhouse’ capsules, which I created just before the winter season, marked by an eerie stillness in which reverential and symbolically dense icons, beings, and creatures are held in eternal stasis. We projected clips of forests in the main room, and clips of sea, sky, and clouds (with the occasional lashing snake between two rising moons) fading into each other in the womb-like ‘moon’ room. They were projected over the actual drawings, which were in baroque white frames so their movement interacted with the emblematic stillness of the drawings.  The projected clips animated the illustrations in a way.

HC: What were your inspirations for this installation?

AG: I was meditating on the relationship between real-time and circular, eternal time, and the threshold between these two realms- what some call the sacred and profane spheres. I’m also interested in how music interacts with and transforms physical spaces. Darker, ominous music can make clouds passing seem post-apocalyptic, whereas calming, minimal music can make being in the room like falling into a dream realm. There is just so much you can do when you combine raw materials like fabric or even incense with visuals and music. Space and how it can be manipulated is something that obsesses me both on a technical and an artistic level.

HC: What is your earliest memory of drawing?

AG: I consider myself more of a writer or ‘creator’ than a drawer, although I have always drawn. I think my style as it is now was birthed from a personal and intellectual chaos I was going through at that period out of an imperative need to articulate something deep within me (I like to say ‘the dams burst’). It’s very un-premeditated and raw, in that sense. From the ages about 8-12, I drew mostly animals like wolves, horses and dogs in pencil, and developed a rather obsessive eye for texture and detail, which you can see in my ink work. In high school, I drew a lot of strange dark abstract shapes in ink, in addition to conjuring up strange characters with slightly macabre stories in the margins of my notebooks.

HC: At your vernissage, you mentioned how your muse was this female figure who seems to make an appearance in most if not all your illustrations, in one way or another. Can you tell me more about her? What does she evoke for you?

AG: I think I have many muses, and ‘she’ is one of many who pays me a visit now and then, depending on what ‘mode’ I’m operating in. Sometimes I draw things from the ‘dream ether’ (a lot of topographies and spaces). Even though these drawings have no resemblance to the dream itself, this ‘dream substance’ is often the foundation of some of them. As for ‘apple-girl’, I birthed her out of the blue about a summer ago after I finished a rather ‘dry’ mummy series, which was a meditation on death, decay, ritual and the sensuality of the human figure melding into the natural landscape. I’d say she just appeared and took me by surprise. I had no idea what I was drawing at that time! She started a new phase in my art in which I was less concentrated on decomposition and decay, and more on growth and rebirth. The central piece in my installation is sort of a version of apple-girl, but not quite. She is a sacrificial girl who came to me in a flash. I’d say that this female archetype you have noticed appears in all of my art, and you can see her face in fragments everywhere, like mirror shards. I’m not sure what she is exactly, but I know I do draw a lot from religious iconography unconsciously; I’ve been told she reminds people alternately of the Virgin Mary and Hindu female figures. I like that idea, as I think she embodies both vulnerability and inner strength while also acting as a bridge to the symbolic, ‘divine’ realm.

HC: As a fellow artist, I'm fascinated by how other artists work, and what they're thinking and/or feeling while creating. You were saying at your show how your drawing process is very organic, how you're not really thinking while you draw. Could you describe what happens to you when you draw?

AG: It’s very meditative. When I draw, it’s just me, the piece of paper and the blank slate of my mind. The drawing comes into being by itself, really. I feel like I can’t take much credit for them. I think it gives them more autonomy to interact with the world and create their own synchronic stories independent of me. Drawing for me is relinquishing control because I do think far too much. I really believe that art should be immersive, verging on a transcendental experience.

“Eden in Stasis” will be on display until next Thursday at Galerie Coatcheck from Tuesday-Friday between 4-9PM, and Saturday, Sunday between 11-4PM  (5180 Notre-Dame West, Saint-Henri, Montreal).  For more information on it, check out Galerie Coatcheck’s website at http://www.coatcheckgallery.ca. For more of Amy Goh’s work, check out her website at http://atlantisdreaming.org. and her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/inkyapocalypse

Photos for the thumbnail and in the article are property of Amy Goh. 

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