Connection has been a hard ideal to articulate as of late. Being physically dissolved through global isolation while being equally amplified through social digitalization, the concept of genuine connection has become difficult to understand and even harder to communicate. For Australian-based painter, v?, connection is simple. The hard-to-place ideal appears to be inscribed in her brushwork and this February she’s delivering the physical experience of her translation through her first solo exhibit Dreamscapes. Based in Naarm, Australia, self-taught painter v? has built an artistic practice based on shared experience. v? began sharing her acrylic paintings on social platforms in early 2020, building a global community that views her work as a new language that is easily understood. V?‘s abstract work is a beautiful display of swirling colours that are bold and assertive – a rich saturation that carries feminine attitudes, positioning femininity as forceful and decisive. Pulling from the diversity in her Vietnamese-Indonesian heritage and her educational background in philosophy and psychology, the artist creates artwork that explores, “the depths and complexities of the human experience”; v?’s work transforms those experiences into visual expressions.
Her first solo exhibit, Dreamscapes, hones in on her interest in the human experience. The collected works she has chosen revolve around the duality of the conscious and unconscious, looking at the places where the dream world and the waking world intersect. Held at the fortyfivedownstairs gallery in Melbourne Australia from February 2nd – 10th, v?’s show expects to take its viewers on a journey through the well-known and slightly forgotten. v?, also known as V, has been using the tag on her artwork since she was 16 years old. Though she interchanges between v with a question mark and a singular upper-case V, she has previously expressed that the “?” has always resonated with her identity and her art.
Each piece begins with a swirled question mark in the center of the canvas. The question mark then morphs into a brightly-hued haze that hints at the dreamy piece that is about to unfold. v?’s process is intuitive. She puts on an audiobook and escapes with each brush stroke on the canvas. She has an idea of the colours beforehand, which language she will write her new story in, but no determined place for it to end up. She sees the colours, maybe a shape, maybe a dot, but the rest is undiscovered. The names come after the pieces are created. Each piece reminds the artist of something familiar having expressed through her artist statement a fascination with the ways her memories shape the spontaneous movements of her brushwork.
v?’s work uses a bright, contrasting neon palette that at times feels like an abstracted form of Frutiger Aero and at other times feels like a psychedelic trip where your present life and your past life converge. With pieces entitled names such as Bikini Bottom (named after a commenter on her socials suggested the work reminded them of Sponge Bob), Ken’s Beach, or aptly named germs, v?’s work explores the deeply familiar and difficult to articulate. The complexity and dimension given to her pieces make it hard to believe that they are entirely acrylic on canvas (save for a few that feature freshwater pearl appliques), but the illusion of dimension that is fed into her artwork is almost poetic.
The majority of v?’s catalogue is shared via her TikTok, from the beginning of the process to the finished painting. For her, sharing in this exploration with her community on socials is a key aspect of her art. Shared experience is interconnected within the artist’s work, and through sharing her process, v?’s practice becomes collaborative and spectators of her artwork become interconnected. v?’s work reminds us that abstraction is not detached from intention. There is a depth to our actions, there is a root to our creation. Her work challenges us to consider the places we walk, the memories we collect as vibrant and fluid, as carrying a softness that is both demanding and comforting.
Deeply concerned with the geographical distance of the community she has built, v? has constructed her practice to accommodate that. She has released limited edition, gallery-quality prints to allow members of her community to access her physical work while maintaining value. To supplement her first solo exhibit, Dreamscapes, v? will be releasing a limited edition book, immortalizing the exhibit collection within a volume that she hopes to continue as a series with each of her exhibits.
Whether you engage with her work digitally, got the opportunity to snag a limited edition print, are fortunate enough to see her Dreamscapes exhibit in person, or best, have been lucky enough to acquire an original canvas, the dream-like world of v? is worth diving into.
Hannah Verina White is a Montreal and Toronto based writer. She has a deep love for the melodramatic and nostalgic, both of which influence the way she writes and the subjects she chooses to write about.