Pauline Thai is a 20-year-old artist earning a Bachelors of Arts in Art and Asian American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her work — often as colorful, dynamic, and moving portraits — focuses on investigation of the human experience. Humble, honest, and unafraid to give every part of herself, Thai shed light on her creative process and the motivations behind her work in an interview with nasi. 

How you would you describe yourself?

I recently told a friend I had come up with a new description for myself — sad and groovy.

Tell us about your work.

It’s always so hard to talk about your own work. Partially because not a single description can encompass the entirety of your career. I guess I would describe it as very emotional and passionate. Much of it is rooted in my experiences and feelings. I address each piece and topic with utmost tenderness — but also a lot of caution.

Are you working on a project now?

I’m currently working on a series of paintings for a show in the fall titled “Strangers.” The series consists of a variety of self portraits. Through these paintings, I’m investigating my relationship with my younger self and the ultimate disconnect, but also strange endearment, that I have with myself. Because of the experiences I have undergone, especially in the past three years, it’s safe to claim that I’m not the same person I was previously. I would even argue that I’m not the same person as I was a few days ago.

This dynamic, between my past and present self, does not only have a disparity in the mental and emotional realm, but also in the physical. I want to play with the theory that you become a stranger to yourself and all your past selves.

Can you tell us a bit about your artistic process?

As of present, it typically begins from a small idea or emotion. I don’t go about selecting a theme, and I hardly sketch anything out or make any sort of predisposed grand scheme. Most of my work grows out of intuition and imagery formulated in my head, which are frequently linked with a set of emotional incidents.

Is there a particular reaction you'd like to see in response to your work?

I would like my work to be provocative and visceral. Hopefully, it induces some sort of reaction and doesn’t remain static. I think most people should laugh at my work, but also allow it to resonate with them on a deeper level.  

What motivates you to continue painting/drawing?

For the most part, it’s the draw towards an emotional outlet. Before, when I first started drawing, it came as a hobby. Now, painting and drawing is something very dear and personal to me. So much of it embodies and captures feelings and memories I had at the time. Also by creating work, others are allowed to get a peek into these emotions and hopefully be influenced by them.

What’s your next project?

In addition to “Strangers,” I’m looking into producing a video project that captures human experiences. It’s not in full form yet, but I’m hoping to get the resources and ideas for it together.

Given unlimited resources, what would you create? What are your dreams?

I’m not sure. There are so many things I would want to create, it’s hard to pinpoint a single thing I’d want to make. However, I do dream of making installations and murals on a grand scale. Projects that would reach a greater breadth of audience.

Why do you do what you do? Who do you create for?

More than anyone I create for myself. Sure, it’s satisfying whenever someone gains something from your work, but in all selfishness, I do what I do for myself.

Find the rest of her gallery below.

Check out her work at @californiaaffair

By Eda Yu