Yam Chew Oh is very easy to communicate to. So easy to communicate to, in point, that over the class of our two-hour-additionally conversation, I experienced to hold reminding myself that my sole goal in his light-weight-stuffed dwelling studio was not to eat the distribute of snacks he had thoughtfully ready and then fall in love with Roger, his human-food-obsessed rescue basset hound—my aim was to learn much more about Oh’s lifetime and studio exercise.
It’s not just that Oh is personable, or even that he is a very good engager who lobs thoughtful questions back again at the interviewer—it’s also that storytelling itself is each a component of his operate and who he is as a human being. As his exercise is focused on mixing components, it would be easy for viewers to see an installation of Oh’s and presume the narrative commences and ends with a meditation on the existence of the uncovered and gathered supplies this sort of as plastic, wood, metals, and submit-consumer packaging bits that make up lots of of his 3-dimensional performs. But I observed there is much more than the single story of the substance there is ordinarily a personal tie-in, a cultural or historic reference the viewer can also choose up on if they engage with it.
Given the layered meanings his work evokes, Oh—who is also a author and teaches crafting at the university level—has included textual content descriptions into the presentation of his get the job done. Nonetheless he does not insist that viewers digest his words and phrases in totality. One piece he manufactured, although in the now-defunct Post-Bac method at MICA, incorporated cassette tapes. A viewer told Oh the piece reminded him of remaining a little one in his mother’s car and the emotions connected with that flood of reminiscences he had not regarded for some time. For Oh, this 1 person’s encounter of the do the job created it massively thriving. “It managed to shift this a person individual entirely on his personal conditions and via his own encounters,” Oh says. “From that instant on, I determined that everyone’s heading to have their very own interpretations and encounters with my get the job done, and I’m totally great with that.”
Probably Oh’s identity can make him so open up to the viewpoints of many others, but he has definitely also been motivated by his worldwide way of living, living all over the place from Brunei to San Francisco, and two a long time of functioning in the corporate environment. At first from Singapore, Oh has moved across the globe much more periods than he has fingers and experienced numerous other careers before he moved to Baltimore with his partner in 2015.
On a sabbatical from operate to show up at MICA’s Put up-Bac plan, and then as a grad student at SVA in New York, Oh started establishing do the job that tackled the 2001 death of his father who was a karung guni male, or junk collector. Oh supposed to make paintings at MICA but felt caught in that modality. So he turned to gathering elements from the streets and reimagining them as all set-made sculptures and installations—a practice that his father would have located extremely weird, he tells me. But it is a way of doing work he has since folded into his studio apply that aids him really feel connected with his pure inclination in the direction of accumulating. Sitting down in his studio, I took in the stacked shelves laden with boxes with labels such as “small issues with text,” “dice,” and “laundry tags.” He describes that occasionally, he’s in the studio “just mucking around” when the concept to use a thing he has been preserving for yrs strikes him. The scrumptious assembling of on-hand elements for these types of a minute has grow to be an essential element of his practice.
Oh has started and been a portion of a couple of artist collectives and a short while ago joined Atlantika, which has 9 active users situated all over the world with a concentration in the DMV. Collaborating with some others to show perform and focus on artwork has been important to Oh write-up-college. “We’re this sort of solitary animals is not it insane that as artists we frequently open up ourselves to the globe, with all our vulnerabilities, all our animal feelings? I just find that unquestionably crazy. But I do not imagine any a person of us would do something considerably less than that,” Oh says. “As artists, we are so privileged. I normally experience it is such a privilege to come to feel this way, that there is this inventive impulse that leaves you no alternative.”
In Oh’s Mount Vernon studio overlooking Baltimore’s Symphony Corridor, we talked about the fickle nature of creativeness, the obstacle and excitement of operating with university pupils, and how we try each and every day to be the individuals our puppies consider we are.