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Like a subtle play off its name, dichotomies are rich within True False, a series of photographic works by Brooklyn-based artist Brian Vu. It’s a confusing series, to be sure; first glances and even repeat glances make one question why each of its individual images are indeed a part of the larger series, for the unifying thread is indistinct and absolutely evasive. While some symbols reemerge and some photographs find similar compositional articulations, the common denominator between each and every image is vague — a shared quality that sits on the end of your tongue, eternally waiting for the right descriptors. The images in True False seem to lie in an unspoken state of being and unbeing: human subjects and body parts exist in somewhat impersonal states, often unidentifiable; and on the opposite end lie still lifes that feel so freshly composed that one can almost see the lingering human touch…
“I usually have some sort of idea in mind. I have needs for things I want to photograph, so I have to make it happen. The worst part of that is that it usually works like 25% of the time. It’s all about the accidents that happen once you’re actually shooting with a camera. It’s all so exciting when you get a photo you can be proud of. It’s a thrill that I’m addicted to.” – Brian Vu, on his creative process
This feature is a part of our Colorburst series, which highlights visual artists who use color in bold and innovative new ways.
Completely self-taught, Vu will be the first to admit that he isn’t the “best” photographer, and as a result, he relies less on fancy cameras — many photos in the series were taken on cell phones, in fact — than he does on software, post-production, and basic photography fundamentals like composition and color. The visual language of True False speaks like binary code, oscillating between full-blown color and stark monochromes, to express Vu’s love for exploring extremes and constantly putting himself in a dualistic frame of mind.
When viewed on a spectrum, all of the images in the True False series ebb and flow like the changing of personal emotional seasons and circumstances. Common themes of hands, flowers, and rainbows emerge time and time again, but in gloriously varied ways each time. All of these are variables to be experimented with, and each final product is a gradient of these combinations, fine-tuned based on what Vu believes is appropriate for the given feel and time.
“I wanted every image to be able to stand on its own even though it’s a part of a collection of works,” explains Vu. “I go through moods and experiences that make my work naturally come out this way. I never start a new body of work with an idea. It’s only after it’s finished that it’s realized.”
“It was important to show a wide range of colors and ideas to represent how I was feeling at that specific moment in time, day, or week,” he muses.
“Colors are wonderful. We take colors for granted. My main objective and purpose with my photography is for people to have something to escape to. I can only hope that people relate to it and can consider the care I put into my work. Positive vibes ~” – Brian Vu, on colors
When reviewing Vu’s past works and comparing them to the True False series, one can easily discern that Vu has recently hit his own personal stride. Despite its thematic ambiguity, True False demands that all eyes be focused on it and it alone; it is polished to high sheen and inherently possesses a fresh level of compositional and artistic confidence. The series is a reflection of the artist’s newfound dedication to his artistic practice and his own abilities, even in spite of what he may have been told by naysayers in the past.
“This series was probably the first I’ve ever taken photography and art seriously,” he explains. “I’ve really found myself in these photos. Experimenting every single day for years and fucking up endlessly has turned me into the artist I am today. I’ve always known that I’ve wanted to be making art since I was a child. I tried collage, graphic design, web design, drawing, etc.; I came back around to photography because it felt the most natural to me. I’ve heard all my life from people saying I couldn’t do this, but what they don’t realize that it makes me genuinely happy.”
“This was the most publicly acknowledged body of work that I’ve ever put out. I can finally feel comfortable sharing my photographs online without being so judgmental of myself,” Vu continues. “I’m happy and grateful to have a group of people follow my work and are open to my experimentation. Everyone’s been really supportive.”
“What I believe that word means today is people not being afraid to express themselves. To free themselves of societal norms and push beyond the boundaries of fear and restraint. Be yourself and don’t be afraid to have fun.” – Brian Vu, on the artistic label “psychedelic”
Diving Beneath The Symbols
Recurring models and items play a large role in the True False series — many of which are objects, animals, and people that Vu holds near and dear to his heart. These are symbols that hold personal significance — and, as Vu explains, “There’s a lot of secrets in my work that I want people to interpret.”
Nonetheless, we’ve curated a spread of six hand-selected images, with three chosen by us and three chosen by the artist himself, complete with commentary.
“This was the very first image I did for True False. At the time, I didn’t expect my work to end up so colorful and psychedelic. It was photographed in my backyard where the superintendent dumps the trash every morning. It was a gloomy day, which added a lot to the image for me.”
“This image was created with a rainbow fabric that I had found at a department store. The glove that I’m using was purchased from Israel. I photographed a lot of images to get this final one. It came out pretty natural looking, and I would have never expected the colors to pop so well. A lot of my work is a mixture of light and dark imagery, and this is a perfect example of that.”
“This is my friend Miller, who is also known as the photographer Pretty Puke. He’s a huge inspiration to my work and I’ve been collaborating with him on and off for a few years now. This was taken in a public park on top of a hill. We had to shoot this set of photos very quickly as he was naked and people were driving and walking by.”
“I’ve been finding amazing ways to experiment with backgrounds lately. The way my flash hits some of these backgrounds create a beautifully wide spectrum of color. There’s a collection of real crystals paired with glass. Using natural and unnatural objects.”
“I was visiting California for a week. This is my friend Lindsay, who is also known as The Lady Maven. We are constantly collaborating every time we hang out. She’s in a majority of my portraits. This was photographed in an apartment complex pool. Lindsay’s grandma had passed away the day before so she was left with a lot of flowers from the funeral. We decided to use them for this photo so it turned out very sentimental. It was while she was taking off her dress. It was taken with an underwater camera.”
“This is an image taken from my next series, New Guilt. I question my identity in this piece in a repetitious way. I traced my hands onto black construction paper and taped them to my wall. It was a very last minute decision to paint my hand black and have it a part of the image. I believe it’s because I had watercolor paints sitting on my desk as I was constructing the photograph.”
Vivian Hua (華婷婷) wears a lot of random hats, but has somewhat mastered globetrotting like a hobo and evading traditional 9-to-5 work schedules. She enjoys observing human idiosyncrasies perhaps more than anything and is a magnet for homeless people (a joy) and bug bites of all types (absolutely terrible). Through her work, she hopes to embrace the temporary while documenting the nostalgic, using divination and dream symbolism as guides through the cosmic maze. Additional writing, art, video, and other crap, like her astrological chart, can be seen at www.inallthings-patterns.net. She is the Editor-in-Chief of REDEFINE magazine, and quite appreciates unsolicited personal e-mails just to shoot the shit and narrow the gaps between human beings.