Artist profile: Andy Mullens

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

I’m a Canberra-based emerging artist. My art practice is an ongoing investigation of cultural identity. I use my own heritage as a Vietnamese-Australian as a case study in my works, exploring a shifting notion of what it means to negotiate cultural identity. Having grown up in Australia, speaking only English, I felt disconnect from my Vietnamese heritage. I struggled to identify as either Vietnamese or Australian, and so I began to investigate this through my practice. I use mixed-media to discuss a multiplicity of ideas surrounding culture, diaspora, displacement and ownership. I studied in Photomedia at the ANU School of Art, so I think there’s always an interest in the photographic and the archive, but my work has evolved into sculpture, installation and textiles also.

Alongside my art practice I freelance as a photographer. I’ve been really fortunate to collaborate with people that I really respect and admire around Canberra. Documenting the work of fellow artists has been a highlight, as you get a great insight into people’s way of thinking and making. It’s all been such a positive experience, and I value this work very much. It’s definitely a balancing act between it all, but it’s so worthwhile.

What has been a highlight of your time as an artist?

Oh, there have been so many! I’ve had a lot of great opportunities to work with some very talented artists and curators. Professional highlights would be the exhibition Future Archaeology, curated by Toby Chapman at the 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art in Sydney in 2015, which then toured to Nexus Arts in Adelaide in 2016. Similarly exciting is my In Focus residency at PhotoAccess: working with the team there has been very rewarding. I’ve also been selected as a finalist in the Mornington Peninsula Regional National Works on Paper 2016 exhibition, as well as the Yen Female Art Awards for 2016, which feels very surreal.

A personal highlight would be people reaching out to tell me that they connect with my work – whether it’s fellow first-generation Australians with migrant parents, or people who have left their homes behind, or those who feel a sense of displacement, longing for connection. By far the most “successful” I’ve ever felt has been showing my work to my mother’s family. Seeing the impact my work has, and the conversations it holds that cannot be spoken aloud – I hold those moments close to me.

What do you hope to communicate with your work?

My artwork articulates a need to understand the complexity of, and to honour, the journey my family has taken. I aim to tell the story of my family: of our history, of our survival and of our strength. I endeavor to show an evolving relationship to culture. I wish to start honest conversations about culture and identity – which I think is a particularly important conversation to be had within Australia. Through my work I actively reconcile my Vietnamese heritage and my lived Australian reality. I investigate, and I examine, and I hope that this inspires questions within the viewer.

Are there barriers for women working in the art industry in your opinion?

I believe that the art industry is not immune to the same struggles and issues present within other industries. There are indeed barriers for women, particularly more marginalized groups such as women of colour, gender non-conforming and queer women. There are many entrenched behaviors and views that are still present, and it’s important to push back against them. It’s crucial to uplift the voices of our fellow women and support each other. It’s fantastic to see so many women collectives and initiatives – I feel people are really paying attention and taking action. Personally I feel very lucky to be surrounded by such strong, empowering women that speak up, work hard, and are not afraid to be themselves. Not just in the arts, but everywhere, women are inspiring me daily.

Where can people see your stuff or find out more?

My website has a portfolio of my works, and I’m present on social media as @andymullens.

I have a few exhibitions coming up during the second half of this year.

I’ve been chosen as a finalist in the Yen Female Art Awards at Gaffa in Sydney, which opens on Thursday the 23rd of June. I am also a finalist in the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery National Works on Paper 2016 exhibition, which opens on Saturday the 16th of July for those around South Melbourne. Future Archaeology is still showing at Nexus Arts in Adelaide until the 22nd of July. As part of my In Focus residency at PhotoAccess in Canberra I have a solo show, which will open on Thursday the 1st of December.


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