The Collector's Project with Curator and Critic, Tak Pham

My approach to collecting and curating art for my own space is quite different from the work I do as a curator. Hence, the collection is often more indulging and personal. It captures different interests and moments in my life, my growth, and my relationships. Every piece has a specific personal story that ties it to a memory, a person, or a place. Just like how a loved one quickly scribbles down a special note on the first page of a book before they gift it to you, my art collection comprises a series of first pages that have been beautifully excerpted from chapters of an unfinished manuscript I call life. 


I applied a similar approach in selecting artworks for this edition of The Collector’s Project. Here I have crafted a fictional profile of myself as someone who spends everyday among these artworks, and inside these beautiful rooms designed by Artrooms. Details of the person I am going to introduce to you are embedded in the selected artworks. Void of any biographic 
information, we will rely on what we see in the artworks, the text written on the surfaces, the precision in the drawing, the energy of the brush strokes, and the titles that the artists have given them in order to make out a profile of a person. I hope this little exercise will renew your perspective when you look at your collection or seek future additions. Art is personal; when you see your art anew, you might see yourself in a different light as well.     


Tak Pham
Photo by by Farihah Shah


Alexander Marks, Behemoth, 2019.


Eun Young LeeMovement 1, 2018.

Alexander Marks

Marks’ painting is a difficult artwork to find a comfortable place for due to its monumental size. Standing at 72 inches tall, the artwork, rightly titled Behemoth, rejects any furniture and demands its own spotlight. It must do so because it operates as a portal that would welcome guests into a home, a private world. Marks’ image straddles the worlds of the real and the imagined. A marine vessel is in mid-process of abstracting when a strong gust of wind comes from far beyond the horizon lifting the vessel up into the sky behind the viewers. The moment is beautifully cinematic. It also provokes an immersive realism experience that is often found in Hayao Miyazaki’s works from Studio Ghibli.    


Eun Young Lee

By applying Chinese ink on rice paper, Lee calls on a long tradition of calligraphic art from many Asian cultures. The work is imbued with a contemplation potential. As I trace my eyes along the rich lines in Lee’s drawing, the variation in shapes and lines creates a dynamism that thrusts the viewers from one point to another. As soon as the artwork draws us closer, we are stopped by the delicacy of stretched rice paper and the emphatic mark making Lee has done masterfully. This setting of the room here allows the drawing to take full advantage of the wall height. It also provides a set up for me to dwell into a good book, or to engage in an intimate conversation with a close friend. 


Kyungmin Kate Lee, Florida USA, 2017


Kyungmin Kate LeeToronto, 2018.

Kyungmin Kate Lee

These two digital photographs by Lee fall into a category that I call “destination art.” This genre of art draws inspiration from a specific location that is significant to the artist. Just like how I often mail back to myself a postcard from wherever I am vacationing, the two photographs represent my associations to Florida and Toronto respectively. The kaleidoscope quality of the image allows me to remember the experience in the most abstract form of memory – a montage of moments. Every time I look at them, I am transferred back to a different scene. The artworks are also complemented by the furniture around them, which share some characteristics of the places that the artist references.  


Daniel St-Amant

St-Amant’s portrait of a buffalo standing against the cream-pink background is a visually striking image. The background in fact was created by having vehicles run over the canvas leaving behind tire tracks, or carbon footprints. St-Amant then “painted” the buffalo by mixing dirt, twigs, leaves, or other found objects with acrylic paint. The result is a conceptual, process art piece that calls on us to recognize and reconcile with the ecological impact and consequences of our daily action. The piece finds its place over the filing credenza in the office room. The artwork also confronts the troubled legacy of modernism represented by the butterfly chair in the foreground.  


Daniel St-Amant, Buff, 2019.


Addae Nurse, Untitled 010, 2019

Addae Nurse

Nurse’s artwork is reflective and personal. Through thoughtful visual deliberation, the painting mediates on the common immaterial link between people, the artist and the viewer, the guest and the host. Nurse coats the background in a vibrant overwhelming red—a colour that is often intended to evoke strong sensations. As the colour emerges through the canvas surface, it clashes with the texts “I should feel down right?” “why don’t I?” The urge of feelings is supressed by apathetic thoughts. Nurse elaborates in a description on the painting that the (X, right, left, right, R1, right, left, X, Δ) is a cheat code from the video game Grand Theft Auto 5. Situated in the living room, the artwork lends itself to rich conversations. Through discussions about the artwork, the guests and host can explore, learn and attempt at playing the game of life themselves. 



About Tak Pham

Tak Pham is a Vietnamese curator and a critic. He is a graduate of Carleton University and OCAD University. His essays and reviews have appeared in espace art actuel, esse arts + opinions, Canadian Art, The Senses and Society Journal, and The Dance Current, among others. Pham is currently Assistant Curator at MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan.


In-situ artwork images done in partnership with