Most people are surprised to learn about my artistic abilities, and the question is often asked how I ever got into painting. My attempt to trace this lineage back to its starting point follows an unlikely path. Now, I've always felt that art is meant to leave you with more questions than answers, but in this case I'm making an exception.
My first love has always been skateboarding. My earliest memories of skateboarding include watching VHS copies of “Birdhouse - The End” and “Rodney Mullen v. Daewon Song Round 2” endlessly, so much so that I wore out the tape and rendered it unwatchable. I idolized skateboarders like Chad Muska, Andrew Reynolds, Petr Smolik, Jamie Thomas and Heath Kirchart (pictured below).
Around 1997/98 my Mom bought me my first skateboard, a Bo Turner Alien Workshop board. I had a magazine subscription to Transworld Skateboarding, and would tear out pictures of my favorite skaters and collage them on my school binders and bedroom walls.
Try I might, I was never any good at skateboarding, but I had some friends who were. Nathan Lacoste was one of those friends, and he and I spent many of days driving to different skate spots all around the Fraser Valley. I’ll come back to this thought in a moment.
In my final two years of high school, I had to choose an artistic elective. The decision process became much easier for me considering that my Grandfather collected cameras, and was generous enough to give me his Pentax ME 35mm camera. Digital photography was not yet readily available at this time, so the curriculum for our photography class covered not just technique, but also the entire development process; from spooling our own film cassettes, to developing the film by hand, and finally printing them on light sensitive paper. At no point did we ever use a computer - nor could we.
With my Grandpa’s Pentax camera in hand, I would tag along with Nate to skate spots and document him skateboarding. We were only ever taught how to develop and process black and white photographs, so that was the only medium I used.
There was no way Ms. Lam would accept every assignment to be an action photo of Nate skateboarding, so I had to expand my repertoire and start taking shots of different themes and subjects.
My grandfather took note of my growing passion, so towards the end of my final year in high school he decided to give me what has become one of my most prized possessions - his 1950's Rolleiflex 50mm, dual lens camera. Medium format cameras take spectacular quality photographs, unquestionably better than any photograph I would ever take with my 35mm camera. Rolleiflex cameras also require a great deal of discipline, because unlike most other film cameras, they only holds a maximum of 12 exposures, so you really have to be confident with each shot.
I became obsessed with black and white photography, and since this new camera of mine only offered 12 exposures at a time, I was naturally drawn towards portraiture because I needed greater control over the subject and the surrounding environment. In my opinion, the results were always more rewarding.
Developing medium format photographs became expensive, especially considering I might only get 2-3 usable photographs out of an entire roll. I put the camera down for a while, but that didn't stop me from wanting to create.
When David Geffen sold his Jackson Pollock”No. 5, 1948” for a record price of $140m, this got my attention. First I wondered, "$140m for that?!", but then I quickly began to explore the world of Modern Art, more specifically the Abstract Expressionist movement. This is where I discovered (for myself) some of my most influential artists - Gerhard Richter, Jean Michel Basquiat, Cy Twombly, and - most importantly to me - Francis Bacon (pictured below).
From here, I will let my art tell the rest of the story. For those who would prefer a tl;dr - skateboarding lead to skateboard photography, which lead to black and white photography, which lead to black and white portraiture, which lead to abstract expressionism, of course.