“ghost ghost teeth” (a.k.a. Simon Tran) is a vibrant and exciting Bay Area artist with a new gallery show running from March 14th – April 19th at the Compound Gallery in Oakland this month entitled “It All Steeped into the Ground.” Read on to learn more about the method to his madness:
Tell us a little bit about yourself first: how did you get started doing what you’re doing?
I started pursuing art because I was acting and doing commercials but realized that I didn’t want to do all that anymore. I decided to paint because I wanted to do something I had total control over without having to rely on somebody else. Art also meant connecting with some kind of bigger picture—with something that you made—which was also very important to me.
Now onto your collection, “It All into the Ground.” Maybe give us an “artist’s statement”?
There’s different components, different themes. In a broader sense, there’s a theme of disconnection and reconfiguration but also I feel like I’m trying to find out more about my identity through it. It’s also about looking at my cultural heritage, looking at my parents. In essence, it’s a show about how I was born. My parents’ immigrated here during the Vietnam War and that made me think about trauma and investing this trauma that affected so many people. So I wanted to investigate traumas specific to the Vietnam War, in particular the rainbow herbicides that were sprayed alongside the countryside of Vietnam. In that way, I started associating the herbicides with a color that I had been using in my compositions. The colors became a symbol for these herbicides. I also began to see color as an invasive thing that was being applied to the surface I was painting on.
What’s your favorite piece and the story behind it?
The installation. Just all of it. It took me about a year and a half to work on in various stages on, sometimes all at once and sometimes piece by piece. But then I also had to think about it all formally and how to balance everything out. I would think about the composition as displaying some sort of formal quality and movement. Movement was a big part of the whole process of painting for me. If it displayed any kind of movement, I was happy.
After looking at your work, I noticed a trend in color scheme, so I have to ask—what’s your favorite color and why?
I have a couple that I am really drawn to right now because of how vibrant they are. My daughter’s really into pink and it’s a color that we share together—I’m really grateful to that color. Another color that I’m really connected with is teal because I have this memory of my grandparents who lived in the “in-law unit” of my parents’ property and their walls were this horrible teal. I thought it was so hideous and ugly but after some time, every time I saw teal it would remind me of my grandparents. It became something that was warm.
Do you have any preferred medium or technique?
I’ve always been drawn to acrylic and latex-based paint because they dry fast. Other paints just can’t dry fast enough for me. And as far as technique, I start every painting with a certain amount of spontaneity where I don’t know what’s happening and I just need to cover a surface. Then that goes on to inform the next part. I feel like from there, a certain gesture starts to appear. For example, going over a mark and continuing a mark or creating strong contour within that mark to further define it. What I mean is that I’m trying to define a certain energy rather than an idea when I paint.
I’m a big fan of your work and I realized that one of the reasons is because you make the gallery space itself a piece of art as well. What was your thought process behind this?
One thing I wanted to do was was create this space that was nostalgic. It reminds me of my childhood of playing in corners, fascinated with nooks, and how you can hide there and just create your own kind of world. I was also influenced by Louise Nevelson. She had these monochromatic installations and she was just trying to create her own dream house—I was really drawn to that idea.
As an up and coming artist, do you have any particular sources of inspiration for your work?
A strong drive for me is my daughter and trying to make something that would explain who I am, that could be some sort of aesthetic bookmark of who I am so that she could have some sort of insight as to who her father is.
BARE has a new theme each semester and this semester’s theme is “Me.” As an up and coming artist, what do you think makes your artwork unique from the rest?
Ultimately, I think that my artwork’s uniqueness comes from the viewer and what they experience from viewing the work. So I feel like it’s the viewer’s experience that is unique.
Okay. Now here’s an important question: how do you feel about Banksy?
Banksy is hella basic.
Onto a less controversial question, do you have any words of wisdom for those aspiring artists out there?
Just keep on doing it. It’s about finding those avenues of people who can connect with you and your work.
Last question: list the last five songs you’ve listened to.
“Caring for a Friend” by Busted Outlook
“Best Friend” by Tashaki Miyaki
“Mithras” by Horseback
“Truly (feat. Sarah Bonito)” by Spazzkid
“Breakfast of Champions” by Rainer Maria
Photos are both my own and ghost ghost teeth’s. Also, ghost ghost teeth can be reached at:
More information about “It All Steeped into the Ground” can be found here. Be sure to visit before it closes!