Interestingly, Chau Luong describes her creative process as “volatile”. The Berlin-based illustrator employs this chaotic rhythm in order to keep her engaged. Whether the project at hand is commercial or personal, the work stems from a mood she hopes to convey. And even more interestingly, there is “no referencing images in the beginning as I’m scared this will make my outcome pre-determined”. Instead, she allows the process to unfold intuitively, “focusing on how I want my final to feel,” Chau tells us.
Born in South Germany to Vietnamese parents, Chau counts herself lucky to have grown up between cultures. From a young age, she was obsessed with all kinds of visual stimulus from animation to comics and video games. She studied visual communication at uni and in turn, a love for drawing began to flourish. “Growing up I realised that it was not only the craft of drawing that fulfilled me but it was also the ability to create narratives.” She found that illustration allowed her to do that, and to date, she’s prodded and poked the boundaries of the medium where she can let her imagination run wild. “As long as I’m able to share my point of view, I’m not too rigid on the exact shape.”
One quick look at Chau’s work and the viewer is aware that it’s the product of someone with a vast imagination. For Chau, even the most complex illustration can stem from the teeniest idea. As a child, she used drawings as a way to escape boredom. So it’s no surprise that she’s honed her talents for transporting herself (and us) to another world through image making. “Now as an adult,” she adds, “I like the endless possibilities and control it provides me to execute my vision.”
She talks us through her creative process, a process which never follows a strict formula. “I like to think my work is connected by a frame of mind rather than an outer appearance,” Chau explains. The illustration Lady With A Chameleon, for instance, was borne out of a temporary obsession with lizards; an inspiration quite unlike any other for Chau. The image depicts a woman wearing a couture hat (a Florentina Light to be precise) who is also infatuated with a chameleon. At the time of illustrating it, she had been researching lizards for weeks. She discovered that chameleons are one of only three species “known to show affection with tongue contact”, and wanted to find a way to preserve this invaluable fact in an “absurd yet elegant image”.
In other projects, she created the movie poster for a debut film directed by a friend. For this project, she was tasked with condensing the movie’s narrative into one still, a movie she hadn’t seen before that being said. A new challenge, she found the brief similar to editorial illustration in the sense she was introducing a story to an audience, just without the accompanying article. In short, the film is a coming of age horror which delves into female sexual stigmatisation. “I wanted to express the underlying tensions of the story between innocence and darkness,” she says, utilising mixed media and analogue effects to compliment the celluloid camera work.
To add another string to her bow, she’s also worked on the immersive spiritual website, The High Priestess. Commissioned to find a visual language that is futuristic, spiritual and mystical, the project came about during lockdown in Germany. At the time, Chau spent much of her time playing video games and was struck with the idea to create a website in the style of low-key video game experience. Determined to draw on her strengths as an illustrator but in a new medium, she delved into the challenge of world building a new scape filled with creativity and eclecticism. Sitting visually somewhere between Sailor Moon and Zelda, the website is a flower field with a portal into an extra-dimensional new world. No mean feat for Chau’s first 3D project, she collaborated with Sven Herkt, Bejal Lewis, Sarah Ann Banks and Sebastian Lux to bring the website to life.
As for the future, she’s looking to work on longer term projects, particularly the more narrative-based ones. Hoping to apply her skills to even more disciplines such as production design for film, she rounds up our interview by saying: “I’ve also been working on pieces that I don’t feel the need to share straightaway as I hope to grow more as an artist without the external pressure.”
GalleryChau Luong (Copyright © Chau Luong, 2021)
Chau Luong: La Malalingua (Copyright © Chau Luong, 2021)
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.