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Talking About Artistic Collaboration with “Art Husbands” Atheana Picha and Hue Nguyen

Although their friendship grew out of a series of small interactions during their art school days at Langara College, the artistic relationship between Atheana Picha and Hue Nguyen began when they shared an artist residency at the James Black Gallery last year and has most recently manifested in their upcoming art show at the Slice of Life Gallery (March 17-22). Ahead of the opening, we asked the pair to describe their dynamic…

How and when did you know that your collaborative art relationship would work?

Atheana: I am a huge fan of Hue’s work, specifically their drawings. We have similar tastes in colours and we both like to take up space with our 2D work. Hue invited me to do a residency with them at the James Black Gallery in fall 2021, where we became each other’s “art husbands” because our work fit so well together. I feel a lot of trust handing them my work.

Hue: It was so obvious to me how incredibly talented and driven Atheana is, among other things. I actually never imagined or expected I would work with her in a creative capacity, but as soon as I saw the group residency that the James Black Gallery was holding, she was the first person to come to mind. To my surprise, she was totally on board to work with me, even though we weren’t particularly close. We had absolutely no idea if our work would blend well together…but in the back of my head, I figured if I was going to fail at a project, I could easily fail with Atheana, because I knew how much I could learn from her. The first day of our residency we talked about methods and colours and how we would try to complement each other. The whole experience just ended up being so natural. We both pretty quickly learned that we are very similar. Now, Atheana is one of my closest friends; she is my “art husband” through and through.

“I’m sure there are numerous artists who don’t need that friendship aspect to work together, but it’s such a vital part of the experience for me, knowing that I can truly trust and communicate with another person on a creative level.”

What are the most valuable qualities that you seek out in another artist for collaboration? Or, what one thing about Hue’s/Atheana’s art or artistic process do you admire most (and maybe even wish you could possess yourself)?

A: I’m quite a control freak with my work, so I’m picky about who I will work with for collaborative pieces. Work ethic is important to me, and that goes hand-in-hand with ambition. I don’t want to be around people who are afraid to apply themselves to their work or art calls or whatever. I think if you’re passionate about something, then you really have to dive in. That’s something I see in Hue – we both are working to be the best artists we can be all the time. I also like to see when people are willing to take creative risks, because it adds excitement to a project and the opportunity for growth. I like to work with people who are excited about art and, most importantly, are willing to have fun. Hue and I shared a lot of laughs during our residency, and that’s something that made it so memorable for me.

H: Personally, I struggle with a control complex and have never done well in creative collaboration experiences. Before I had collaborated with Atheana, I knew nothing about her process and had only seen her work on Instagram. There were a few times when we both ended up in the sculpture studio at school while simultaneously hammering out projects. Atheana’s delicate hand with shading blows me away, but what most gravitated me towards her was her work ethic and drive. It was very clear that nothing would stop Atheana from attaining her goals, and I really resonated with that since I’m exactly the same.

I imagine that the collaborative process is both a good personal growing experience and useful for your individual art practice. What has been your biggest takeaway from working with Hue/Atheana and how will it affect your process going forward?

A: Working with Hue taught me to let my guard down. Hue and I would trade drawings and get working, and I knew that whatever Hue cooked up on that page would be beautiful, and interact with whatever marks I made in an interesting way. It was an emotional process. Learning to trust is a lot easier said than done, especially with something like art, that I carry so close to my heart. Working with Hue opened a world of possibilities for me to reconsider many things about my drawings, like using different tools, types of mark making and shading techniques. It was a pleasure to work with them, and I’m looking forward to our future projects together!

H: In technical aspects, Atheana taught me how she shades with coloured pencil – applying that to my own work was an absolute game changer. The biggest takeaway, though, was how important it was that Atheana and I respect and admire each other. I’m sure there are numerous artists who don’t need that friendship aspect to work together, but it’s such a vital part of the experience for me, knowing that I can truly trust and communicate with another person on a creative level. It makes all the difference for me if a project is going to be successful or not.

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Atheana Picha and Hue Nguyen are popping up at the Slice of Life Gallery, March 17th to 22nd. Their show includes individual pieces from each artist, as well as some collaborations. Get more info and reserve your spot (recommended but not required) here.

Slice of Life Gallery & Studios
Neighbourhood: East Vancouver
1636 Venables St.

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