Tommo Jiang, a recent Elam Honours graduate has taken over Rose Tinted Flowers (22B Cross Street) with his work It’ll Be Alright, and in his words, it’s lit. The collaboration is a part of The Windows Are Alive which is a series of artists and local K’rd retailers partnering to display work for 2017 Auckland Pride festival which will run from February 11-26. Felixe Laing interviewed Tommo about the experience and what else post art school life has in store for him.
What was the process of being matched with Rose Tinted Flowers?
The curator Dan Sanders got in contact with me about an opportunity to show in a K Road shop window front about a month ago. He outlined that the show will unite queer emerging artists with participating retail stores along K Road, with the aim for queer voices outside the “white, gay and homogenous” to be heard. I was given the opportunity by Dan to select from various retail shops that have agreed to participate and I thought Rosie’s Rose Tinted Flowers shop was the ideal location. Getting in touch with Rosie was super easy and she was so lovely to work with. It’s great to meet people with such an open mind and trust in the process. Plus, her shop looks dope.
What attracted you to the space and the location?
I thought the space had such an industrial feel- with the concrete construction, the reflective metal door frames and huge glass window front. I like juxtapositions (yawn) and it seemed like a natural fit, with something organic and living like fauna and flowers placed against the artificial nature of the LED lights. Cross Street is also a quiet street that is moody under the cover of darkness. I wanted the work to be in a surrounding that could offer moments of contemplation and reflection.
What was it like to transition the work from a graduate examination to a florists?
Initially with my graduate show, I wanted my work to be in semi-public spaces. I draw a lot of inspiration from advertising and the everyday, so it was only appropriate it flirted outside the confines of ‘the white cube’. When this opportunity came up, it felt like the final step for this piece of work. I was finally able to realize this installation in an area that I drew so much inspiration and heart from. Plus, there wasn’t necessarily a desire to appeal to anyone with the installation but making sure it is executed in a way I was happy with. I personally love working in pre-existing spaces and environments. It automatically sets up boundaries and limitations that I can work around or with, I think I work better this way.
What is the best way to experience the work?
I really don’t know. Maybe after your night out on K Road? When you are a little under the influence, tired and wistful. You know…experience it in the same state of mind as when I conceived this.
You utilise text in the work, do you have a favourite piece of text?
Nah not really.
Concepts of relationships, love, belonging and more specifically gay politics are present, what would you like the viewer to take away from the work?
I think the audience should be allowed to make their own interpretations of the work and to take away what they need from it. The ideas of relationships, love and belonging are all so intertwined- especially if you are queer. I had the privilege of studying a liberal (fine) arts degree, where I felt safe enough to face these personal struggles and to get to know myself a little better. In no way would I want people to think this work is trying to speak for a community, whether it is an ethnic or sexual minority… I just want to share my voice within this intersectional space, showing people maybe our struggles are common but unique in their own way.
What does Karangahape Road mean to you?
As I mentioned before, when I was working on my Honours project I drew a lot of inspiration from Karangahape Road. Not so much in its history or location but what it presented in a wider Auckland context. K Road reminds me of the first time I went to a gay bar and the sense of liberation it brought me. It reminds me of a location where it’s ok to be a little weird and eccentric. Of course, the politics behind the gay bar culture and gentrification is undeniably linked in this conversation but what I was most concerned with is the idea of liberation or becoming. That’s what Karangahape Road means to me.
As a recent art-school graduate, what are you up to at the moment?
Like everyone else…. I am just working. I am getting my ducks in a row to start organizing proposals and possibly looking at my Masters.
How are you keeping up a practice outside of study?
It hasn’t been the easiest with no facility access and life getting in the way. I am trying to adjust to a new ways of working like on bus rides to work or little moments I can spare before bed. Nothing crazy at the moment but ideas or drawings to keep the juices flowing.
Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
Not at the moment! But hopefully very soon! Working can be a drag. There’s nothing like a pressing deadline to make you feel alive again.
Where can we see your other work or keep up with your practice?
At the Elam graduate’s portfolio http://elamartists.ac.nz/ and on Instagram @Tommojizzle (beware of selfies)