Art What! Arts Singapore

Eraphya: An Interview with Artist Vincent Twardzik Ching


“I’m now the same age as my father was when he was an iconic figure to me as a young man. When I was younger, I learnt carpentry from my dad and we’d just go out, buy wood and build all these things for kids in my neighbourhood. I think back a lot to my childhood and how it’s shaped my identity today,” says Canadian artist Vincent Twardzik Ching as he considers the concept of the ‘Other’.

Vincent has been living in Singapore since 2001, and as a multidisciplinary artist, his works often span mediums as varied as paintings, drawings, sculpture and installation. In his new work Eraphya, currently displayed at The Private Museum, he continues exploring some of his usual themes of trauma, identity and healing. The work itself consists of multiple parts – salvaged wood and parts from scraps of old art projects forming a protective wall, enshrining a protective guardian ‘totem’ as well as a painted recreation of a postcard on a canvas, displaying an image of a man and an elk calf amidst wild, untamed greenery, amongst other elements. The juxtaposition of nature and ritual feels inventive and sacred somehow, these arrangements bringing out the mystery and potential in the natural world and our own complex psyches.

Says Vincent: “This work is meant to be a manifestation of the unconscious mind, a shelter, a barrier and a fortress. It’s made with the purpose of being a little nomadic and lightweight, yet more stable than it looks, focusing more on functionality than on the aesthetics, using whatever wood and spare materials I can get. It may look a little intimidating from the outside, but you get this sense of warmth and comfort when you enter, and you realise in here, there’s no echo, unlike the space outside, and it draws you in with its promise of protection. You can even peek through the holes we’ve left, something that reminds me of how I used to build fortresses with my friends as a child. Even though it’s meant to be a fortress, it’s simultaneously welcoming anyone to come in and experience that warmth, because there are no doors to shut you out.”

He continues: “When making this work, I thought about how the concept of male identity and how in this day and age, men don’t know who or what they’re supposed to be. Masculinity in the past was associated with a kind of violence and abuse, leading to all the problems that come with worshipping this kind of masculinity. The postcard I based off for the painting in particular captured everything I felt about this conflicting identity of being both masculine and humane. For me, this showed me how when we go through difficult times or traumas, we’re often forced to look at ourselves through a mirror, and to make a conscious decision of how you’re going to develop, and have a choice whether to go ahead with anger, or something more healthy.”

On the work’s title, Vincent explains: “My mother is Finnish, and in exploring her ancestry, I stumbled upon this Finnish girl’s website where she talked about a place close to where my ancestors are from, in southwestern Finland. There’s a National Park there, and a specific conservation area there called Eraphya. It translates to ‘wild holy’, and back in the Bronze Age, ancient people used to sit at that site and perform rituals. There, it’s really wild, untouched nature, overgrown with natural forests and mossy rocks amidst this rugged landscape.”

“I thought that it seemed to fit with what I was doing. I was trying to create this sacred sanctuary within all of us, this part of you you should protect at all costs. I’ve always had a positive feeling about nature, and I’ve always appreciated ideas of refuge, of beauty, and the intoxicating freshness of nature. There’s something deeply satisfying about it, something I don’t get to experience much anymore and I long to feel that rejuvenation again,” he says.

Vincent concludes: “All of this makes for a potent fuel for self reflection on identity. There’s this self-confidence I received from my father in knowing that I can make something out of nothing for survival, to just use my hands, my mind and willpower to create. This work comes out of that – it captures the incomparable feeling of independence in being able to salvage something, and make something out of all these broken, unwanted things.”

For more information on Vincent, visit his website here

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