Things About Me: Graffiti and Tattoo Artist Nguyễn Thành Sơn | andofotherthingsandofotherthings
Things About Me: Graffiti and Tattoo Artist Nguyễn Thành Sơn
“When I draw, I sometimes imagine myself creating a world, a space with my own thoughts; and I wonder how others can see the existence of a world like that. But maybe even we, the lives around us, the meeting with other people, are all created from someone else’s thoughts.” – Sơn said.
Graffiti and tattoo artist Nguyễn Thành Sơn opened up his home to & Of Other Things. We asked him about some of his personal belongings, and about what they mean to him.
Interview by Nguyễn Hương Ly, photographs of belongings by Virginie Bourque, portraits of Sơn by Nguyễn Thủy Tiên.
Make Plans for Today
“I’ve always worked moment to moment. I’ve taken on work as it came to me because I didn’t want to make longer term plans. I felt that I hadn’t even achieved small things, much less being able to make big plans for this or that.
However, once in a while I got caught up in work, or had too much on and couldn’t finish everything. So I thought about why I couldn’t do it, couldn’t finish it, couldn’t make it the way I wanted. I needed a plan for each day I woke up. I took a big white piece of paper and wrote down those big letters. I put it next to the window so every morning when I wake up, I see it right away to remind myself to make plans. Sometimes I just look at it and that’s all but well, better to have a note than nothing!”
The Wedding Photo
“It was a very happy day for me. Sometimes I was so happy that I forgot about all other things. Now looking back, I don’t know how to describe it, I just know it was a fun and happy day. My mother took excellent care of everything in the wedding. When I go my friends’ weddings, I realise that everyone just goes there to eat and then leaves, it can be boring. This was my wedding, not my parents’, so I invited more of my friends. My mother is a wonderful woman who understands her son so well. That night everyone stayed late, singing and dancing. My wife and I even arrived in a taxi, unlike other brides and grooms. It’s kind of funny when I think back.
In a short time from now, we’ll be moving to Canada for a while, I’m not sure for how long. It will be my first time in Canada so I want to work and experience it all by myself. I think I’m ready now for this trip. I feel a bit sad thinking about it, and I feel worried for my mother, but I also look forward to it. Speaking of drawing, wherever I go, I don’t draw the place, I draw my feelings there. Each space gives me a different way to draw. I don’t know what might come in Canada and what I‘ll draw, but I think when the feelings come, I’ll pursue them.”
“I bought this Buddha statue near Quán Sứ Street when I first opened the Đội Cấn tattoo shop with my friend Cường. The shop was kind of empty, so I needed some decoration. Cường is a very religious guy, one of the things we have in common that helped us become close. We’ve had to change the shop location a few times, for different reasons, each time we moved I brought the statue with me.
I think it’s that the Buddha statue reminds me that there are always things to believe in, to look forward to. Whenever I lose faith, looking at the statue makes me feel happy to move on, to keep doing what I want to do. When I move to Canada with my wife, I want to give this statue to my friend, in the hope that it will bring him luck.”
“You can call this a diary I guess. I don’t normally say ‘diary’ because, I don’t know why, I wrote such childish, crazy, and cheesy things in diaries when I was a kid. Now, looking back I feel that a diary is a thing one should have. I thought, why not use my talent, which is drawing, to write the diary. And so I recorded moments in my day into the diary with images, and with each drawing, I note down the date and time. It’s really nice to be able to look at the diary again and remember what I did, what I thought at that moment. And with looking back I understand myself better. Because the actions we do in each moment are just temporary. We don’t fully understand, fully express our true selves, don’t see our inner beauty in those moments.
Ever since I got this diary, I always bring it with me wherever I go. There is a page that I redrew to remind myself to keep on trying whenever I feel frustrated. The idea for this picture came from the times when I see foreigners hesitating, too afraid to cross the road. I want to tell them: Just Go!
In life we have to keep moving on and look forward to what might come next. So, Keep Walking!”
“I’ve got a book on Tibetan prophecies, in which they teach us how to predict what’s going to happen by throwing dice. Even though I don’t yet fully understand everything in the book, it opens up new things, and I learn a lot from it. To use the book, I needed a dice, so I made myself one. Sometimes I want to know about something before it happens, and I use the dice as a way to make myself more confident about making my decision. Having to make decisions by myself with no support makes me feel lonely. And even though this kind of prediction doesn’t mean one hundred percent that things will definitely happen it still gives me some ideas about things.”
The Long Biên Picture
“This is my favourite picture painted by my mother. It is such an iconic bridge, its image tells of Hanoi and its history. My mother did this painting and gave it to me a long time ago. Every time I look at it, it will remind me of her. She’s a woman with deep thoughts. The railway keeps going deep into darkness, but at the end of the road there is a light. I have a feeling that my mother has given me a way, wherever I go, I always have this railway to lead me toward the light. This picture gives me the strength to keep going on the path I choose, to believe in it, because the light will be there. This light is my mother, who shows me the way so that I can do everything possible.
My mother was born in Hanoi, and lived on Hàng Gà Street when she was a kid. She inspires me a lot. Perhaps my inspiration for art has always been there in my blood. My mother and I have this invisible connection, and it’s undoubtedly art.”
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