My work is about reconfiguration, resistance, and a hearty bowl of soup. There are sensibilities in my work stemming from a confluence of seemingly disparate influences including post-punk, my family, anime, retro video games, Vietnamese- American culture, the Vietnam War, and mysticism as an act of defiance towards colonial rule. I refer to the human body through painting organic shapes. A swaddled child or a contorted figure may inhabit the compositional landscape along with patterns that stop, start, and overlap. Color is a strong influence on my work. I combine nostalgic colors that reshapes memories. There is no resolve in the narration of my work, instead there are slow builds that lead to chunky riffs that wormhole into hard-edged noise, all loopy-loopy and stuff. The composition is complicated by these layers of personal narrative mixed with processing a cultural history.
My work is a meditative redirection of cultural trauma caused by war and colonialism in Vietnam.
The colors make reference to the rainbow herbicides used during the Vietnam war. Millions of gallons of Agent Pink, Agent Green, Agent Blue, Agent Purple, Agent White, and Agent Orange were all sprayed along the countryside by the Americans in order to kill the mangrove forests and thousands of acres of crops. Long lasting effects have inflicted illness on generations of Vietnamese and American soldiers. Children continue being born of disabilities because of the defoliants that have seeped in the ground. It is controversial to criticize these atrocities done by America, so the work is aptly abstracted. The organic shapes have faint resemblance to the silhouette of maimed children or camouflage patterns. The fine, fragile lines have resemblance to roots, wilted leaves, insect husks, or shedded snakeskin.
Another layer in my work is reference to mysticism as an act of defiance towards colonial rule. During colonial rule of Vietnam by the French, in 1937, there was a short-lived rebellion called the Dieu Python Movement that happened in the central highlands of Vietnam involving the indigenous people, the Montagnard. A village chief of the Montagnard was Sam Bram who claimed that his daughter had given birth to a python. The snake was thought to be the rebirth of the Snake God. This gave impetus for rebellion against Christian colonialists. The water that the python was birthed in was thought to have magical qualities which gave those who drank the water invincibility against French bullets. This upheaval was quickly thwarted by the French. The compositions I create have a sense of fluidity and movement where shapes and leaves float across the surface in a witchy kind of way. The compositions have an elusive quality to them that is my nod to the defiant mysticism.
For the titles of my recent work, I have been stringing together patterns of emojis that create another visual reference for the paintings. Emojis are traditionally thought of as iconographic representations of emotions, however in this context these symbols are meant to further complicate the conceptual layers of the work which is rooted in cultural and self-identity. Questions arise in searching for the definition of each emoji. Is there a universal definition for an emoji? How do you translate an emoji into text? Can I find nuance and self value in a wind chime emoji?
-Simon Tran aka ghost ghost teeth
Simon Tran, aka Ghost Ghost Teeth is a Vietnamese-American artist and educator born in Long Beach, California who currently resides in Menlo Park, California. Simon received a BA in Art Practice from the University of California, Berkeley. He recently created large scale murals for Facebook/Meta Open Arts Program and Chapter 510 in Oakland. His artwork has been on exhibit at Berkeley Art Museum, Oakland Museum of California, and various galleries around the country. His art has been placed in the collection of the Capital One Arts Program. Simon is currently the Artists in Education Program Manager at Southern Exposure in San Francisco.
East Bay Express Critic's Pick:
Interview with Artful Hare
Interview with Art Crush on KALX:
Interview on KALX:
East Bay Express Critic's Pick:
Interview with BARE Magazine:
Video interview with Art Ache:
Video interview with The Daily Californian:
Video interview with Brother Science TV: