I'm a very curious person, and I like to discover things that nobody else has seen or done or is interested in. There's an archeological aspect to what I do in my artwork, where I find a lot of pleasure and satisfaction in digging into something that I don't know about and uncovering some sort of truth or beauty or idea, and then sharing it with people.
As a cultural hybrid, there's always this constant feeling of the other, or of not fully belonging. A lot of that bled into my work - from how images from different cultures are combined to the way I paint, how I'll combine very traditional glaze painting in some areas of the work with areas where the paint is made to look very graphic and illustrative. The result is something that's fully rendered, and this clashing of these formal ways of making imagery mimics the clashing of cultures and the clashing of identity that I feel. So the work really is a residue of just how I feel day to day living in and existing in America.
I love to uncover hidden gems. Most museums, public libraries, and universities have these vast digital archives of visual ephemera. I’ll go through these archives and I’ll pull images that I find interesting and I'll put them in a digital folder. So everything from ancient Persian miniatures, to advertising, to skateboard graphics, to etchings from the 14th century; just images that I connect with. When the time comes to make a painting, I'll sift through these archives and construct a digital collage of sorts that will be the basis of these paintings.
I like that cultural clash that happens, because so much of the work is about that. It’s about this collision of high and low, old and new, east and west.
A lot of my work deals with dark or serious issues, but I use formal elements like ornamentation, decoration…a lot of these formal elements are made to almost conceal or complicate the issue at hand. I almost want to seduce the viewer into a painting by making a beautiful image, but then talk about more complex issues.
A lot of the newer work I'm making deals with my new experience of being a father mixed in with my experience of growing up in America as an immigrant and as a refugee. How do I create works that help me figure out how to raise him and what I want to instill in him? What can I leave behind for him to make sense of the world, all the beautiful things in life but also all the strife, chaos, racism, sexism, and social issues that we deal with every day?
If you look at [my work], you wouldn't know that they're for my son, they're more like universal themes, right? So people can connect with them in their own way. I always start with a super personal message, but then try to make it broad enough that other people can connect to it on their own terms.