NORMAL PEOPLE - MIKEY TING

Interview and intro by Carolina Pasini | Photos by Jack Gruber

Mikey Ting is a Chinese-Kiwi artist based in Naarm with a deep passion for craftsmanship, design and words. He expresses his creativity through a combination of different materials, digital manipulation and meticulously painted enamels. Mikey's work asks questions about authenticity and experience and how we connect as humans in a rapidly changing world. Despite being such meaty topics, the work remains approachable, vibrant and cloaked in his distinctive dark humour.

Mikey is often found in his Reservoir studio, side by side with his partner Carissa Karamarko, (also an emerging Australian oil painter). I sat down with Mikey and talked about the future, the past and the ever-changing artistic landscape.

CP  

First, tell us a bit about yourself. Where you’ve come from, where you are now, and where you’re headed.

MT

Hi, I’m Mikey. I’m from NZ which I ditched for Melbourne after graduating uni in 2009 and joining a band. Right now, my partner, Carissa, and I live in Reservoir and we work out of our home studio. I’ve just completed my first solo body of work, LOVE LANGUAGE, and I’m slowly returning to the land of the living. It’s been busy but really great. I’m not sure what’s next, I’m slowly chipping away at that. I’m continuing with the work and I’d like to start reaching out to more galleries both here and outside of Melbourne. I’d be thrilled to do a NZ show at some point!

CP

What do you listen to the most in the studio?

MT

It’s a different vibe every day. I really love soul and hip-hop. I like folk music and classical. Sometimes it’s more atmospheric and ambient. It’s not usually a podcast - I find I have trouble focusing on the work when someone is telling me something interesting. It inevitably comes back to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. I love Dirty Three, I love the soundtracks Nick and Warren make together. I love Patti and PJ and Bruce. Carissa introduced me to the unhinged creativity of Zappa. But hands down Grinderman 2 is easily our most played record for painting. It’s Pavlovian conditioning at this point, honestly. Carissa and I have really similar tastes. Our Venn diagram is probably just a picture of a single circle.

CP

You have a music background as well. What are the similarities between creating music and creating your art pieces? 

MT

It’s all the same to me and there is a really big dialogue that lies underneath it all: the relationship between our unique ideas/worldview and our unique delivery of those ideas. How does our mark-making/painting/performance tell a story and does that story affect how we deliver it? It makes me think about the relationship between technical mastery and expression; a virtuoso performer can play with heart-breaking expression but it’s the composer's heartbreak we are hearing. In a world that more and more rewards performative actions I reckon we get fooled by technical mastery a lot. Don’t get me wrong, technical mastery is a beautiful goal; daily practice requires discipline and diligence and the reward is you become familiar with your tools. But what I come back to is how am I using those tools to tell a new story? Can I rely on my technical skills to convey a feeling in a convincing way?

CP

Who are some creatives that inspire your work?

MT

I love Keith Haring. In particular, I love the democratisation of art and the immediacy and urgency of his work. Basquiat, too. They both employ a unique visual language. I’m definitely drawn to Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave who seem(ed) to remain inquisitive and get better with age. Today, I really love CJ Hendry’s savviness and Ramesh Nithiyendran’s commitment to creativity and expression. 

CP

You mentioned that great art doesn’t come from fear of change or clinging to success. Do you think failing can also inspire great work? 

MT

I think we all understand that failure is a necessary part of learning and we spend our lives trying to reframe failure into a positive experience. I think great work is a critical response to the world around us - setbacks and failures make up a huge part of our existence.

CP

Your most recent show LOVE LANGUAGE reflected on communication, shared experiences and love as a universal language. Why are words so prevalent in your work?

MT

I love words. They are essential to my practice. I love how they can be vague yet precise at the same time. I love how they can inspire action, elicit an emotional response and gently prod people in a direction you want them to go. I like that words can be understood by many in an environment like the art world where the preferred language is spoken by few. A big part of my work is about self-reflection; the critical thoughts we have about ourselves and the world around us are often internalised. I enjoy tapping into that and seeing how people respond.

CP

Your work brings a strong parallel between old and new, future and nostalgia. Is this your way of tapping into the ever-changing artistic cycle? 

MT

Everything that feels new and fresh gets old and what seemed old can sometimes come back in a fresh new way. We live in a moment in human history where that seems to be happening a lot. I love tapping into our shared memories of particular things we’ve encountered: old technology, toys, video games, the internet. We all have access to nostalgia and I think it can be used to great effect to help democratise the big picture discussions presented in the work. 

CP

Inclusivity is a big part of what we do at Heaps Normal. When art can be interpreted in many forms by different people, how do you create pieces that are accessible to all and yet bring thought-provoking discussion to the table?  

MT

 I beat you to it with the last question! I want people to be able to engage with the discussions presented in the way that they hit you. A piece of work can prompt ideas of ownership and self in one person and simultaneously present gender politics to another. I love that words can do that. They can be vague so as to capture lots of different people’s attention but seem so personal in different ways to each individual. The second arm of accessibility in my work lies in the presentation, I think. My pieces often feel design-y or vaguely architectural. I deliberately make pieces that are visually appealing and that in concert with the right words can present a piece of work that immediately evokes a reaction and upon further reflection has depth and nuance. Art is for everyone. I love that my work can help bridge the gap. 

CP

Is there something you wish was more normal in the art and design world?

MT

I think it’s happening more but let’s continue to normalise art as a proper job. Being an artist requires significant research, critical thinking and a strong work ethic. It is not solely the domain of the dysfunctional, chaotic and tortured as we’ve all been led to believe. Sometimes I feel good about it all, other times it's a struggle - same as anything, really. And that’s ok. Maybe we can normalise that, too?

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