As part of his solo exhibition I LIKE HANOI AND HANOI LIKES ME at Independent Archive, artist Ben Puah gives a candid and freewheeling artist talk about his inspiration behind the works on show. He dismisses the need to contemplate his paintings using any critical viewing theory, such as the golden mean, and instead talks about how the abstraction within his assemblages are intuitive, informed by his fondness towards his experiences and encounters in Hanoi since 2001.

When asked about why he had chosen to use 30 x 30 cm square canvases throughout his works, he reveals unashamedly that it still came down to practicality, adding that restrictive circumstances need not be a limiting factor, but something that can be incorporated into his work. Here’s an excerpt:


Apart from reasons of practicality, are there any other reasons why they’re all the same size, like 30 x 30 [cm]?

I think [practicality] still plays an impact on me without a doubt. [Some of us] stay in places where we must use the lift. So when I do all my works, I must make sure that things can go inside the lift. Then if it’s too big, I must tear out the canvas and roll it. But when you keep on tearing and stapling, it’s tiring and it’s also not good for the work especially if the works are mixed media or collage. You cannot just tear and roll them, it’s not good. So I must make sure the work can go inside the lift.

People will ask, “Then you can also do it 1 x 1 metre. That can also go inside the lift.” [It depends on] where you are and what is the situation. This is not about the work’s content, but about the size of the works in relation to the situation that you are in at that present moment. You’re travelling, you must put [the canvases] inside your luggage, then you must calculate if it goes overweight. So, everything is calculated and 30 x 30 is just right for a big luggage. This sounds funny but it’s true. I still adopt this way of working. Everything works by what you have to do it.


Full artist talk coming soon.


Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Image: Independent Archive 2018

BEN PUAH studied at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and LASALLE College of the Arts. He received his BFA with Distinction from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in 2000. He is also the recipient of the President’s Young Talents in 2001. Art is very important to Ben because it is a way of expressing himself and an abstraction of how he feels about life. His works revolve around a state of phantasmagoria, where there is a mix of real and imagined elements.