Datsun Tran. Photo credit: Amelia Stanwix
Images of majestic animals are skilfully used in Datsun Tran’s mesmerising artworks to convey not only the raw power of the beasts, but also to reflect human behaviour. In our latest spotlight, Datsun tells us about his creative process and his favourite Adelaide landmark.
Q: Hello Datsun! Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?
A: I’m originally from Melbourne and first moved to Adelaide in 2004. I became a bit of a nomad, also living in Sydney, and Melbourne again, before coming back to Adelaide in 2010.
I studied advertising before I realised in my final year it wasn’t for me. The thing that sparked the change was a group show I was in – my first exhibition. Because even though I was studying advertising at the time, I never stopped drawing and painting, and something clicked into place for me, and gave me something to aim for.
‘Red in tooth and claw’ (oil on 81 boards)
Q: Who inspires you? What inspires your art?
A: I’m inspired by people who live full lives. Authentic lives. We live in a pretty special place and have it better than most. I wouldn’t want to disrespect the people who are risking their lives to get here by wasting mine.
What fuels my art is the exploration – just letting it lead you to places you never would have gone. I’ve also been drawing on my family history a bit in the last few years. I learn a lot about myself through art.
I also believe my work doesn’t have to be for everybody all the time. Sometimes, I just want to paint intuitively and let things flow. At the end of the day, I’m pretty lucky that I don’t have to answer to anyone with my art other than myself.
Q: Do you have a preferred medium?
A: I’ve used everything over the years. My first painting ever was an oil painting done on masonite. And between that work and my current pieces, I’ve used acrylics, spray paint, inks, graphite and charcoal. I’ve come full circle though in the last few years as I’m back in love with oils. I enjoy the feeling of painting on a nice, smooth surface that doesn’t give.
‘A Short Peace’ (oil on panel)
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: I’m not sure how I would describe my style as the work I’ve made over the years has been pretty diverse. My art education has been in full view of the public, and I guess the evolution of me as an artist will be ongoing.
Animals feature heavily in my practice, which I use as a mirror to our own behaviour. Richard Bell says he is an activist masquerading as an artist, I guess I’m more of a philosopher masquerading as an artist, in that I’m trying to tell the human story in the work I make, and I’m searching for some sort of universal truth about us.
Q: Can you please describe your artistic and creative process i.e.: from lingering idea to putting it into practice?
A: Usually, I have some imagery in my head that I need to get out and I don’t restrict myself at all at this point. It usually comes from a place of current interest, whether it’s something I’m reading, something I’m watching, or the news. I also gather photo references from all over the place, which I use as characters in the story I want to tell.
‘The Place We All Share’ (oil on panel)
Q: Where do you see your art practice taking you in the next five years?
A: Hopefully, in five years time, I’m still able to make the things exactly as I’d like to make them. Whether that be painting, drawing, printing, video or sculpting. I used to have a plan for the ‘art world’, and when I started getting a few successes and showing internationally, all that did was make me hate the art I was making. It wasn’t for me. I’ve ditched it since then and decided to try to be a better artist first, rather than a just a successful one. That’s what I’m aiming for now. That’s not to say I don’t like showing overseas, but I’d like to do it more on my own terms.
Q: If you could recommend one artist, who would it be?
A: This changes weekly, but right now, I’m obsessed with Adrian Ghenie. I’m completely enamoured with his ability to walk the tight rope between figuration and abstraction.
‘The Jaws of Manus’ (oil on canvas)
Q: What is your favourite gallery?
A: I’ve never really rated galleries as much as the art inside the space. Though, saying that, the NGV holds a special place for me as I’ve been going there on and off my whole life. The Musée Du Quai Branly in Paris does an outstanding job of existing solely to show off the art in the best way possible.
Q: Where can we find more of your work?
A: My work can be seen at Bromley & Co and Harvey Galleries in Australia and Amelia Johnson Contemporary in Hong Kong. Plus the usual social media haunts like Facebook and Instagram. Oh, and soon on my revamped website!
‘Death is the Road to Awe’ (oil on panel)
Q: What is your favourite South Australian landmark?
A: My favourite South Australian landmark would have to be the Grace Emily Hotel. Does that count as a landmark? I spent quite a few late nights there when I first moved here. In fact, I met my wife Callie there so it’ll always be my favourite pub!