Extended commentary:Vianna Nguyen and Twisted Fate.
Art –– 3 February 2022
Nguyen interviews with Sketchbook on the ISSUE 004-published Twisted Fate.
by Nico Prescott Edited by Lucía Amaya Martínez
NEW HAVEN — Every publication cycle at Asterisk*, readers have shared their questions and curiosities on our selections and their creators.
The ISSUE 004 selection Twisted Fate by Vianna Nguyen received particular attention both online and off. We sat down with Vianna to discuss her piece, its place in her life, the cultural context, and more. A Sketchbook extended commentary.
— 1. Your initial comments do well alighting to the East Asian idea of the Red Thread of Fate. What can you tell us about your own connection to this idea? What does it mean to you; why bring it into your œuvre?
My practice and identity wouldn't be what they are without my culture. As a kid, my mom would often regale me with flowery stories that she was told as a child. The Red Thread of Fate featured prominently. Growing up I used it as a voice of comfort; it was something to hold onto — the fact that fate wanted me to live so I could see who's on the other end of the string when I couldn't see past darker days.
2. Do motifs related to order, hope, and reassurance brought by the Red Thread appear in any other works of yours? Do any opposing motifs of chaos, disorder, hopelessness, or confusion appear?
One cannot exist without the other. I create to try to show people the shrouded beauty in shadows, in calamity. My depression has been relentless these past couple of months, but we learn to work through it. We learn to coexist. I want to be able to be transparent in my work and show both sides of the coin.
3. There is fascinating play in the shadows seen in the piece. What role, if any, does shadow have in Twisted Fate? Is shadow part of that twisted fate? Collateral? The cause? How might one understand the distortions, the shifts, the twists manifested and exponentiated in the shadows?
Shadows will always be a part of your twisted fate. It will follow you, seep past your flesh softened by love and into your bones. It is a part of you. But so is love. It's not about erasing the bad (how would you know it's good otherwise?), but knowing that there is a balance; nothing is forever. Shadows are my favorite part of life. They are how we experience the good.
4. Are there any pieces of literature, folk tales, lullabies, or other cultural snapshots you remember as being your early contact with the concept of the Red Thread? How does the context influence the artistic representation?
I'm very tethered to the idea of it being the Red Thread of Fate. It's not so much the romanticism that strikes a chord with me but its connection to fate and the idea of relying on the thread to specifically be red. In some Asian cultures, red is a color of prosperity and luck. It is one representing a lifetime of happiness and warmth. In every folk song you hear, every tale, there's always a mention of lucky red (P.S. Happy Lunar New Year to everyone celebrating! I wish you happiness and prosperity and lots of lucky red envelopes). I'm not really sure if this is a tangible connection but knowing this makes my process so much more slow and intimate. Without knowing what I do, I'd never be able to form a real connection with what I create.
5. Are there any other modern depictions of the Red Thread of Fate that you particularly enjoy?
There aren't very many, to be honest, but the first one that comes to mind is The Last: Naruto the Movie. In the movie, the main character's mother met her husband when he followed her trail of red hair and saved her from a kidnapping. She laughs and calls her hair "her personal red thread of fate" that led her to him. In the future, the main protagonist accepts his love for one of his dearest friends and starts wearing the scarf she made him with (wait for it), red thread, symbolizing his readiness to walk into a brighter, prosperous future with his love. They told this story so beautifully. The fact that the Red Thread of Fate was never at the forefront of the show only makes it better, as it is simply a part of you. There is no need to pay it any mind because it will be beside you. The telling is so subtly beautiful and makes me very happy.
6. The hands in your work rest in very emotive positions. They might show uncertainty, longing, or yearning. What do these positions say about the idea of the Red Thread and the souls that are bound by it? Do they want to meet each other? Are they scared in their connection?
The Red Thread is widely accepted as a very romantic notion but it's never specified that those bound together are meant to be romantic life partners. In India, red thread is used to symbolize an eternal bond between brother and sister (effectively killing any sort of romantic notion). I say this because the concept of the red thread binding two souls together stretches beyond just romantic or platonic. Any and everything felt from the hands are replicated through the soul. They are yearning for each other, having searched lifetimes to reach one another. They may be chasing a tale of unrequited love in another life. The emotions I have tried to convey encompass any and every one that comes with being bound to fate with another.
7. Any further comments you wanted to add?
I’m so grateful to everyone who wanted to know more about my piece and I hope that this helped. This whole experience has meant more to me than you’ll know. Thank you!
— Twisted Fate is a 2021 artwork by Vianna Nguyen. It was selected and published in the Asterisk* Journal of Art and Art History at Yale University in the fall of 2021. Read more in ISSUE 004.