Artist delves into the dark side

Photo courtesy of Brian Vu

A silhouette of two walking towards a separated path; their faces are blurred. Perhaps they’re looking down, or perhaps they don’t have a face to show.

In one direction you see the outline of an ocean.

Jagged and discerning, yet calm in comparison to the direct opposite, which is a pure black tar.

You don’t know where the two are going.

Maybe they are lovers. Maybe not.

Maybe this man is coaxing this woman to do something she does not want to do. Love and hate, truth and trial.

Things you cannot see, but are present right in front.

This is a select piece titled “Beginnings” from No Bad Days, a collage series by artist Brian Vu.

Brian Vu is an Orange County native. A photographer and graphic artist born and raised in California his entire life, he is now 22 and resides in Brooklyn, New York.

He has been recognized by the likes of Beautiful Decay, Nylon, Vice and Urban Outfitters, to name a few.

Like many artists, you can only hope to dissect their personality from their work.

But with the Internet, that abyss holds a variety of widespread interpretation.

Through social networks such as Tumblr and Twitter, Vu comes off equally humorous as he is cynical.

Vu’s work is poignant, but always aware of the parallels of youthful bliss.

Vu is a product of everything around him, but still utterly human in his artistic approach and mindset.

Vu began work on No Bad Days before his move to New York, which seems to hold especially true to the themes of existential angst.

“Collaging is personal to me,” said Vu. “It takes a while to complete collages at times because I’m looking for images that go perfectly with one another. They must address a feeling or experience I’ve had either in the past or in the moment.”

Vu said many collage artists seem to work solely on a visual level, as opposed to one that is more emotive.

He said such an approach can be a bit staggering to an artist, and they can take “way too much influence from others,” causing his or her work to look similar in nature.

Despite many interpreting Vu’s work as considerably dark, Vu seemed to jokingly challenge that stance.

“What does that word even mean, really? It just makes me look depressed as hell,” Vu said.

Vu’s work has shifted and his happiness with his new life exudes from his work.

“My work has taken a huge turn ever since I’ve moved to New York. I’m really happy with where I live now and I believe it’s beginning to shine through,” Vu said.

But despite any sort of self-claimed dissociation with morbid imagery, audiences can’t help but look into the symbolism that dominates Vu’s work.

Veiled religious figures and crosses run dominant in Vu’s work, things he describes as “conceptual.”

Altogether, Vu’s fascination with religion may be more of a reflection of the past than it is of the present.

“Religion was a huge part of my life growing up. I attended a Catholic school until 7th grade. Up until I left private school I didn’t even know that other religions existed outside of Christianity and Catholicism because I was strictly surrounded by people of the same religion,” Vu said.

Vu expressed interest in studying such religious idealism through his work and how it is important for individuals.

“Religion is with people from the time they are born to the time that they die, it’s something that can fully consume a person’s life and character,” Vu said.

But aside from focusing on parallels within, Vu has also established himself as a photographer.

Vu originally picked up photography when he was 16, but it was not until he pulled together a team of bloggers to create an online magazine called Rebel where he began to establish the basis for his aesthetic.

He created a series called “Visualized” to showcase independent artists such as Com Truise, Foxes in Fiction, Teams, Xiu Xiu and many others. He said it was the first time he shot musicians, which came with a sense of nervousness.

“I was really timid at first, since I’ve come a long way from being an introvert my entire life,” Vu said.

Vu’s photos stand much like his collage work, at times they are voyeuristic and offer a sense of disconnection between the subject and the viewer for an important reason.

“(I want viewers) to feel like they’re seeing a different side of the person, while leaving out certain aspects and keeping some mystery. A lot of times, when the public sees a portrait—they might jump to conclusions and start judging the subject, even though they probably don’t even know who the person is. I can’t stand that,” Vu said.

Lauren Sproul, 22, a subject in Vu’s Poor Traits series, described her experience being shot by Vu as “warming,” and that Vu has a gift for capturing “nostalgic feelings… things that can’t (be) correlated into words.”

Lindsay Haugh, 21, also a subject in Poor Traits, noted similar feelings.

“I always feel very comfortable shooting photos with Brian. He has a very free, natural style. He’s not afraid to try new things, and best of all, he encourages me to be just as I am,” said Haugh.

Aside from musicians being a focal point of Vu’s work, Vu also noted music itself as an important aspect in motivating his creative process, citing bands such as The Knife, Crystal Castles and Drake to be particularly important.

Like the distribution of music, the visual world of art has also taken a turn with the Internet.

Through platforms such as Tumblr, people are easily able to take other people’s photos without credit and reblog them.

Each reblog or “like” on a photo gets a “note”, and Vu’s photos are redistributed without credit with anywhere from 10-15,000 notes on them.

Overall though, Vu chooses artistic integrity and free distribution over any sort of accreditation.

“If you’re going to upload artwork onto a social platform then you should consider the drawbacks. It’s just something you have to accept and not be a prick about. I’d much rather have no credit at all than to watermark a photo,” Vu said.

In fact, Vu said he’s grateful for these sorts of platforms.

“I don’t think anyone would know about my photography or collages without these platforms, so I’m really fortunate that they exist and that my work gets circulated across the Internet,” he said.

Brian Vu’s work can be viewed on his Official Site Brian-Vu.com and Tumblr  at Brian-Vu.Tumblr.com.

About Garrett Yim

Garrett is a staff writer on the Daily Titan. Serving as a staff writer of the Daily Titan is a requirement for all Journalism majors.