The sense that you get when you walk into Garry Trinh’s studio at the Parramatta Artists Studios is that this is a man oozing with creativity and ideas. The large table in the centre of the room is covered with piles of printed photos and large tubes of paint and is scattered with brushes, scissors and other tools. The walls of the room are decorated with his own work, and a range of skateboard decks hanging vertically. Trinh sits near the windows of the studio quietly working.
A photographer by trade with 15 years practice in social documentary and street photography, Trinh has been a resident at the Parramatta Artists Studios since December 2016.
“I happily did photography for a long time until I reached a point where I wanted to broaden my art practice. I wanted to do new things but was restricted by the medium; my ideas didn’t lend themselves to photography.”
“I wanted to start incorporating painting, collage and other mediums into my practice to be able to express the ideas I had. And that’s why I’m here at the Studios now as a resident - to grow my art.”
Studying photography at Western Sydney University (formerly the University of Western Sydney) and growing up around Auburn, Trinh’s return to Western Sydney for his residency at Parramatta Artists Studios has been an opportunity for him to realign himself, work with new mediums and discover a new side of himself as an artist.
“Working with a new medium is like changing from a mindset that you know really well into one that is totally foreign and new. Finding a new identity in painting is exciting but scary at the same time.”
A series of collages Trinh has coined his ‘Zen garden series’ lines one of the walls of his studio. Inspired by the idea of a Japanese Zen garden with its white rocks and minimal, well-placed plants, the works incorporate photography and drawing to create a new perspective with patterns and shapes, giving the original photographs a new lease of life. His hope is to one day produce the series of 50 works into a book.
“It made sense when I started exploring new mediums to include what I knew well (photography) into my painting and drawing.”
Along with his photographic background, another influence on Trinh throughout his creative practice has been skateboarding, and the skateboards mounted on the walls of the studio remind him of the stories of people he admired growing up and still draws inspiration from.
In particular, the story of Brian Anderson, whose name is emblazoned across a deck behind his workspace, inspires Trinh as he creates. Anderson, an American and prominent figure in the world of pro-skateboarding, made headlines when he came out as gay in 2016. The surprise announcement signalled a much-needed shift towards a more inclusive and affirming culture within the pro-skateboarding industry.
“Brian Anderson transformed the world of skateboarding in such a unique way. When I think about what he’s done it reminds me that you don’t have to be the very best ‘skateboarder’ in your industry but you can change things and be brave in your own way.”
When it comes to creating his art, Trinh believes that bravery and taking risks is an important part of the process.
“Sometimes I wonder to myself, “What am I trying to achieve by doing this?” and that’s something for artists that doesn’t have a simple answer.”
“The other week I heard a quote from someone that really made sense to me. He said that “the only job of an artist is to make other people fall in love with art”.
“I feel like that’s all I want to do, make people fall in love with art - motivate them to be involved, take it up, experiment, go to galleries, support artists. If I can do that, then my work here is satisfying.”
Trinh calls the Parramatta Artists Studios “an oasis” for enabling him to grow and experiment as an artist through the community and use of its space.
“It’s given me the time and the room to think and try new things. It’s also opened my eyes to a whole new way of looking at and understanding art. It’s so much more than photography; it has the power to be deeper and more colourful.”
“I was very much set in the mind of a photographer. Now when I go to a gallery I wonder, “What was the artist thinking when they created that? What paint did they use? Why did they make that?”.”
The set-up of the studios, with 14 individual rooms as well as communal space and a hallway for exhibits has also allowed Trinh both down time and time in artistic community.
“If I’m busy and need time to myself I can have that but if I want to talk and ask questions and learn from the other artists, there’s always someone here who can talk things through with me. It feels really great to be supported.”
On the studios and what they have done for Parramatta, Trinh becomes even more enthusiastic.
“The Artists Studios and the network that surrounds it…it’s the leading artist studio in Sydney. It’s the one everyone wants to have a studio in because it’s got such a great reputation and such a good team running it. I love being a part of it.”
Upon considering the future of art in Parramatta beyond the studios, Trinh tells a story about walking into The Guitar Factory, a music shop a few blocks over on Church Street, for the first time.
“When I went in there I was completely blown away; it felt like I’d walked into Aladdin’s Cave for people who loved music. Instantly I wanted to start playing music and learning guitar, that’s how I felt. Everyone who worked there seemed to be so passionate about music, it was contagious.”
“I hope that Parramatta in a way continues to transform itself so it feels like what I felt when I walked into The Guitar Factory but for art; that when people come to Parramatta and get off the train they know instantly that this is a centre for the arts, to create and engage.”
“These studios are a great hub for art and an amazing way to start that.”
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Main image: Garry Trinh in his studio. Parramatta Artists Studios. Photo: Jacquie Manning