KV Duong: Too foreign for home, too foreign for here

With four weeks to go until our highly anticipated exhibition Cultural Diaries, we interview abstract-expressionist artist KV Duong.

Gaze performance in Old Compton Street

You first exhibited with Focus LDN in Winter 2016, tell us what you have been doing since then.

Gosh, that seems like a lifetime ago. I’ve had the time to develop my practice and do something that I really love, whilst getting to know lots of enriching people along the way. I feel more mature and confident as an artist. Over the past three years, I’ve had two solo exhibitions, three live body painting performances (I didn’t know performance art would be a part of my practice) and have exhibited internationally.

How does culture play a role in your work?

My work focuses on personal identity, migration, sexuality and human relationships within the context of my multi-cultural upbringing. I draw from experiences of growing up in Saigon, Toronto and London to explore the integration and conflict of Eastern vs Western cultures and values.

My parents lived through the Vietnam War. We immigrated from Vietnam to Canada when I was 7 years old. Growing up in a traditional Asian household, I had to constantly balance between the more restricted traditional Asian values and adjusting to a more liberal Western society. At the same time, I struggled with my sexuality for many years, trying to come to terms with myself.

Too foreign for home, too Foreign for here, No 2

Too foreign for home, too Foreign for here, No 6

What do you have in store for us this November?

I’m very excited to showcase my 2019 body of work together for the first time, of which many pieces have not been exhibited before. I’ll be presenting the series ‘Too foreign for home, too foreign for here’ where I explore the migration journey of my family. My parents lived through the Vietnam War; my mom was shot in the hand when fleeing her home while carrying her younger sister; my dad was drafted in the war, but fortunately turned back for having glaucoma. As immigrants to Canada, my parents sacrificed their comfort to give their children the chance at freedom and opportunity.

In these paintings, I’ve incorporated photo collages of the Vietnam war and village life there and of the Toronto neighbourhood where we settled. The realistic images are juxtaposed against an abstract landscape, scenes of war torn Vietnam contrast against peaceful settlement in Toronto - countries that are both culturally and climatically foreign to one another.

Retracing our past No 2

How is this exhibition different from previous exhibitions you have participated in? 

This is the first time I’m self-curating an exhibition within a group context; the three other artists I’m working with also happen to be very talented and great to collaborate with. The process so far has been very natural and fun. We have great synergy going and I’m excited to see how this will materialise during the exhibition run with all our networks intermingling, and excited to see how all our works will feed off each other.

What is the most challenging aspect about being an artist?  

The most challenging aspect for me is to be able focus on one particular body of work and carry it through to the end. I have many ideas in my head that I would like to carry forward, but there simply is not enough time in a day! Because I love to experiment and challenge myself, the pro is always progressing and developing my work which is exciting for the audience and myself, but the con is moving forward too quickly and not properly finishing off what I started. I have ambitions of incorporating video and sound installations into my work for 2020. Watch this space.

What does success look like to you?

Making a sustainable living as a full-time artist. Being able to experiment creatively without the external constraints of conforming. And one day exhibiting at the Tate :)

To meet KV and discover his latest artworks, join us at the private view of Cultural Diaries on Tuesday 26th November.