Nicholas Tay likens his arrival and upbringing in the Pacific Northwest from the age five to falling in love. He dove into the freshness of the air, the ice crystals that crunched beneath gravel fields, street hockey in the freezing wet, the stories of our First Peoples whisking him away on the wings of Raven and Thunderbird, and later the liberal ideal of the multi-cultural mosaic.
Exploring multi-cultured identity is at the core of Tay’s artistic practice, wherein vastly divergent ideas can be represented with emotional honesty in a single work of art: “I used to feel that being Chinese Canadian was akin to being lost between houses of separated parents, or being an alien guest of a gracious host. Through the exploration of my art, I have found that both cultures are truly at home in me and in my work.”
Ever flexible with his approach, Tay’s choice of medium suits the stories and cultural forms he explores. Charcoal or paint lets him offer sensuous luxury as a contrast to our increasingly digital experience. At other times, while he is wary of the seductive cleverness of digital processes, these modern modes are ideal. Traditional forms carry immediacy, and arrest creator and viewer alike in their visceral presence and the abstract, emotional truth inherent in their mark making. Conversely, using 3D software brings machine algorithms to every pixel. Through his training at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, and his years working in Visual FX and video game development, Tay became interested in the possibilities of working with technology as his collaborator. Through its interpretation of the artist’s instructions, the technological mediator separates the creative output from potential artistic biases.
Art has been a dominant part of Tay’s life since his earliest memories. Beyond words or numbers, it has been the most clear, honest, and comforting means of expression. Identifying as an introvert, and amalgamating diverse lines of heritage between China and Canada, Tay embraces art to tell honest, deeply personal stories in a way that would be daunting in other formats, bridging the awkward and profound, or in Tay’s words, “the profoundly awkward”.
Tay received his formal art education at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. His current series, Amateur Cartography, explores the clash of cultures through a visual dialogue between representation and abstraction.