Looking at the photographs of Garry Trinh precipitates an almost out of body experience. Everything is familiar; the way the afternoon sun hits a high brick wall, the patterns of the pavement slowly revealed by peeling paint or the green-brown of thirsty buffalo grass. But, at the same time, Trinh’s work clearly comes from someone who’s eye is trained to see the everyday differently. How does that light hit the wall in the shape of a hammock between two trees? Why does the man painted on the footpath look like an angel? And why is that upside-down Jack Russell terrier in the grass mimicking the brown and white sculpture next to it?
While these might seem like serendipitous moments, captured by pure luck, Garry Trinh is an artist whose dedicated work ethic pays off in these images.
“A lot of my work is trying to photograph fleeting moments,” noted Trinh, when I met him in his studio at Parramatta Artist Studios. “So a lot of the time people think I see these fleeting moments all the time but I don't, or I do, but it's a trained thing.”
Although photography is often concerned with depicting the most colourful, or the most eye-catching subject, Trinh is more concerned with putting in the effort to capture everyday moments in an unusual way.
“A lot of photographers when they first start out they're drawn to the person who is the loudest, or the celebrity shot … I'd be more interested in shooting the things out there in the open but you're not paying attention to pointing my lens at that, because that's when you're doing the work. That's when you're really looking hard.”
Despite this process of construction, there is an element of randomness to Trinh’s work. Rather than deciding on what to shoot beforehand, Trinh lets chance dictate that.
“My process is I get an old street directory and I close my eyes and randomly flick to a page and then I will just point to an area. I'll drive there and start photographing and find the thing that is the most interesting to me in that place.”
What has been common to Trinh’s work is a level of abstraction that is reminiscent of earlier street photography or the flâneur, an extended engagement with the urban environment which leads to a profound realisation. Trinh’s own process has led to a reappraisal of his artistic practice.
“Some photographs are funny; they just change everything,” said Trinh as he looks up to two photographs framed and mounted above him. Pointing towards the one on the left Trinh remarks, “when I made that photograph I thought, ‘Oh wow this is a really interesting photograph, I wonder if I can make maybe twenty of these style photographs and have a show, a body of work talking about abstraction and photography?’” While Trinh’s whole body of work references abstraction, these photographs in their avoidance of any subject and brush-like textural qualities almost look like paintings themselves.
“I got really frustrated with making an abstract body of work using photography and I couldn't do it. And so I was very frustrated and I just thought well, what if I just started painting, abstract painting, instead of relying on photography.”
With this thought Trinh has taken on a new medium, which has been partly facilitated by being within Parramatta Artist Studios. Located on the first and second floors of an old office building on Macquarie Street, Parramatta , the studios provide a space for fourteen artists across various career stages and practices. With acclaimed painter, muralist and calligrapher Khadim Ali down the hall and Archibald finalist Marikit Santiago next door, Trinh has been able to draw on the community of artists to develop his practice.
“If I have any questions about [painting], I just knock on their door, ‘hey what do you think of this, what colour should I use next, how do you think this is going, how can I improve this, what are the technical things I've got to learn?’”
However, the move to painting has not been without its difficulties.
“Because there's no instructions with abstraction,” notes Trinh, “you do an abstract painting, what is that? There's no instructions if you're right or wrong, what you're looking at, so it's really up to you to makeup those rules and then you have to communicate those rules to other people.”
Overcoming this, Trinh has returned to his mode of structured practice, although instead of travelling around Sydney each day, Trinh has focused on making his studio the site of creativity.
“I'm drawn to those painters that have a daily routine, no matter what it is, they have this habit of making stuff, it doesn't matter if it's good or bad it's just making, they enjoy making.”
With inspiration coming from other photographers who have moved to painting, such as David Hockney, while also keeping his connecting with the street as artists such as Barry McGee have done and symbolised in the skateboards which are hung between the windows of Trinh’s studio.
Just as Trinh’s photographic works avoided the explicit definition of a subject, so have his paintings focused more on the construction of an image. As Trinh identifies, “it's not so much the subject matter, it's not so much what you're painting, it's about how you're applying the paint. How you're putting it on canvas, what colours you're using that to me is more interesting than actual subject matter.”
For now, however, Trinh is still working between the two mediums, using collage as a way to refocus his photography as well as using line drawing as a way to experiment with shape and continue his daily practice.
As part of Art Month, Parramatta Artist Studios will open its doors to visitors on March 24 from 12 - 3pm. Find out more and RSVP here http://www.artmonthsydney.com.au/explore/open-studios-parramatta/