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Cyrus Tang

Portrait of Australian artist Cyrus Tang, by Ilona Nelson for This Wild Song
Portrait of Australian artist Cyrus Tang, by Ilona Nelson for This Wild Song

About Cyrus

Born in Hong Kong, Cyrus Tang moved to Australia in 2003. Cyrus completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts (Hons) at Victoria College of the Arts, Melbourne in 2004, and her Master of Fine Arts (Research) at Monash University, Melbourne in 2009.

Cyrus has received numerous residency programmes including Helsinki International Artist Program 2013; The National Art Studio in South Korea in 2012; Cite International de Arts, Paris in 2009 and The Banff Centre, Canada in 2008. Her work has been exhibited throughout Australia and internationally including Helsinki, South Korea, Singapore, Japan, France, Shanghai and Sweden. Cyrus has also received prizes and grants such as Highly Commended Award of Sunshine Coast Art Prize 2016, Asia Link Residency Programme 2012; the Australian Council for the Arts : New Project in 2016, Skills and Arts Development Grant in 2011 and New Work Grant in 2009; George Mora Foundation Fellowship 2008; Theodor Urback Encouragement Award 2004 and The National Gallery of Victoria-Trustee Award 2003. She is currently represented by Arc One Gallery, Melbourne.

Cyrus Tang’s artwork

Interview with Cyrus Tang

How do you describe your work to others?
My work examines the paradox between ephemera and permanence.

Do you have a preferred medium?
I don’t stick to a certain medium, it depends on the concept of the project. I often use clay because I am fascinated with the form and status when it changes temperature or reacts to water. I also use other materials like wax, resin, steam, crystal and water in my work.

How do you begin new work?
It depends on the situation. If there is a particular collaboration project, I start with some research. I often have a very brief idea of what I want to try to achieve and then I work in the studio and let the process guide me to continue developing the work.

Do you tend to work in series or do you see your body of work as a continuation?
When I graduated I tended to develop a new project for every solo show. In the past few years I’ve tried to drill into a certain idea until I’m unable to find any room to develop, then I feel like it’s finished. The book series for instance, I started in 2003, I parked the idea for 13 years and went back to redevelop it again in 2016 until the exhibition at TarraWarra Museum of Art in 2017. I felt like the book series needed to have an end.

What attracts you to your subjects?
I think every artist has a certain kind of obsession. Some artists are obsessed with colour, I’m drawn into capturing the disappearing.

What processes do you use to bring your ideas to life?
Material and process always guides me to develop new ideas. Very often, when there is a certain incident (something that’s out of my control or an unexpected incident), my brain starts to work. I feel like idea development is a dialogue between control and letting going of certain things we hold on to.

What do you use as reference material?
When I studied at Uni my favourite books were Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space and Susan Stewart’s On Longing, and the author Haruki Murakami. Now, I like to refer to different material like movies and music.

Do you work intuitively or more consciously?
Kind of both. I always come in with a simple idea, and then continue developing the idea during the work process.

What’s your favourite colour to work with?
White and black.

Do you have a studio ritual to start the session?
I clean my studio before I start to work.

What’s your favourite music to work to?
Classical music. I find it calms my mood in my work.

Do you enjoy coming up with titles?
Having a title of a project is like making an artwork. Sometimes the title comes with the work. Like my recent work Golden Hour, it came up when I wrote my proposal.

What’s your favourite part of creating?
The uncertainty, place of unknown.

What advice would you give to your emerging self?
Step away from your comfort zone.

How do you alleviate the down times?
Talk to my artist friends.

What defining moments have you experienced within your practice?
There are a few moments I feel I’ve grown and changed. One moment was my Masters exhibition at Linden. I feel like I owned the space and let the space be part of the work. Therefore I only put my video and the water sculpture in a huge room and let the work breathe. I think I feel confident to work with emptiness after that show. Another moment was my recent show at TarraWarra, Victoria Lynn gave me a lot of trust on how to build the show. It let me play and decide what I wanted to achieve in the space. I think that trust gave me a lot of confidence in my art practice.

What is the most memorable exhibition or artwork you have seen and why?
Christian Boltanski : No Man Land and Last Class. The work itself is simple but very powerful. The power just got into my heart. When I walked into the room, looking at the machine throwing the clothes on the mountain, it was like throwing all the dead bodies from the Holocaust. The sound was like many peoples heartbeat bounding into my body. It was an incredible work. The Last Class was an installation at a primary school and used the entire space. It was like a memorial of a hundred little children share their job and moment there. Something beautiful about his work is the soul. I feel like my heart melted when I walked into his installation.

Another one would be Unconditional Love at Venice Biennale 2009. The video by AES+F totally absorbed me. It took me into another strange romantic world.

If you could ask any artist any question, what would it be?
What keeps you going?
I think a lot of people have the talent to make art. I don’t think that success is talent. I believe what makes an artist become successful is their attitude in making art.

What does the future hold for you?
Just want to do what I love. I think we are very fortunate to have a chance to do something that we enjoy. Not many people have this privilege. They may never think of what they really want to achieve in their lives. Or they may simply live for survival. We are lucky to live in a safe place and have the time to think and work on our dream.

Cyrus’ website

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