Vietnamese food and good music. A camera and some old books. That's basically everything Brian needs in order to create beautiful things. Brian Vu who is originally from California is now based in Brooklyn, New York and is a young aspiring artist, focusing on photography and collages. His art has something attractive and mysterious which makes ones curiosity arise. It probably can be best described as experimental, spiritual and badass. Indeed, Brian is a true artist who creates badass images that he envisions in his mind. He talked with us about his new home and revealed secret plans for 2014.
"Spending our days watching skylines from rooftops/ On independence day, Manhattan fireworks/ Life is easier where the walls are red/ Brooklyn is a place stuck in my head". Do you know which song these lyrics are from?
Nope! I probably should, huh? BRB, googling right now.
You are currently based in Brooklyn/New York, but originally are from California. So, how is life in Brooklyn?
Brooklyn is home for me. It's taken a while to get settled in and feel comfortable with living here. I've lived in California for over 20 years of my life before I moved here. Both places have made me who I am today.
Do you miss California and did the relocation change anything in your artistic pursuit?
I miss my friends and family that I have in California. As for the place, I have no attachment to it anymore. Moving to Brooklyn has really taught me to find my aesthetic, to work hard for what I want, and to have the freedom to get wasted without having to drive home.
Beside taking photos, you are also collaging. When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
I realized around the age of 14 that I wanted to do art in one form or another. I've experimented with many different mediums. Photography and collage ended up being the best and easiest way for me to express myself and my ideas.
If you had to choose between photography and collages – what would you choose and why?
I love working with images in multiple ways, it's great practice for me. I'd have to say photography. It's 100% my ideas and I. It becomes tedious hunting down images for collage. I'm taking a break from it for a while and just focusing all my energy towards photography.
Some photographers pay a lot of attention to the right light or have certain preferences when it comes to their work. What do you place value on most while taking photos? Are you a perfectionist?
I place value in color and simplicity. I know next to nothing about lighting. I'll learn some day. I don't think i'm a perfectionist, but I am hard on myself when it comes to accomplishing my goals. I'm still constantly thinking of what I can create next and how I can take my work one step further.
Moreover, I've seen some awesome photos you did of bands such as Grizzly Bear or Foxes in Fiction. Does music have a huge impact on you and on your work? Are you listening to loads of music while working on collages or editing photos?
Thank you! Music has a huge part in my work. I'm influenced more from music than I am from other visual artists. I listen to music nonstop. I've recently been listening to a lot of pop music so my work has been getting brighter.
As we previously mentioned, you are also collaging. Your collages remind me of something Sci-Fi, surrealistic and are very mystic - especially your series "Last Thoughts" and "No Bad Days". Furthermore, I see a repetition of specific elements like crystals, hidden faces, hands or religious symbols in them. Please tell us more about that - your intention and where you draw your inspiration from.
I grew up in a catholic family so religion was a huge part of my upbringing for a while. A lot of my themes are based on spirituality, mystery, and living. I still don't know how I feel about it all and am trying to explore it through my work. Being human and not knowing where I come from and where I will end up is intriguing to me. There are endless possibilities out there and we'll never find out. Religion is there to ease the pain of passing.
Where do you get the images for your collages from and what's your current equipment for photography and collaging?
The collages are created with one-dollar books I find at thrift stores. For my camera, I've been taking pictures with a point and shoot lately. It doesn't matter what equipment you have, but what you make of it, duh!
How is a typical working day for Brian Vu?
In no specific order: playing video games, taking a few photos, eating Vietnamese, spending time with my cat and Warren, and taking tequila shots.
Your work has been featured in different magazines, books and blogs. In addition to that, you’ve also had some nice collaborations going on, for instance with American Apparel or Forty Ounce Clothing. Working with loads of different people must be really interesting and inspiring.
Yes, I have been doing a few commissioned projects and editorials. It's been so much fun. The challenge is creating something you both can be happy with. I've been approached by incredibly kind and respectful people. I plan on working with musicians again, perhaps some music videos in the future.
So, do you have a special anecdote that you would like to share with us? Something that inspired you or something funny?
I told you Drake was going to be famous!
What is planned for 2014? Any secret projects that you'd like to reveal?
A collaboration with RVCA just came out! I'm so excited about it, they're seriously the best people. I'm really interested to see what my take on fashion will be this year and hope I can collaborate with some brands and designers. I plan on shooting more nudes as well.
Finally, what are your three most listened-to tracks at the moment?
I'll give four: Foxes in Fiction - Ontario Gothic, Gracie - Wait 4 It, Coma Cinema - Virgin Veins, and Drake - Own It.