On a wintry July evening Assembly Label celebrated the launch of Why You Like This, a ten-year retrospective of Angie Pai’s work. The Melbourne-based artist is a deeply admired member of the arts community, a friend of the brand and a 2023 Artist in Residence, and for the occasion her relief sculptures once again graced the Assembly Label Fitzroy store. We caught up with Angie ahead of the event to talk about her new book and recent solo show.
What have you been up to since your Artist in Residence in January?
It has been a journey! Since our last conversation, I've had the opportunity to open a solo exhibition at ACAE Gallery in Collingwood, which was curated by Eliza Jung. Eliza and I joined forces with Panda Wong and Lachy Siu to launch the arts collective CHAOS Editions. We were thrilled to unveil our debut publication Why You Like This at our exhibition’s opening night.
Other memorable events include organising printmaking workshops commissioned by CoHealth and Arts Gen. These workshops were for senior bicultural Southeast Asian immigrants, some of whom were over 90 years old! They were held in English and Mandarin, which was a truly humbling experience. I also had the honour of hosting an evening at Readings store in Carlton with guest speakers James J. Robinson and Sebastian Henry-Jones, moderated by my invaluable co-producer, Eliza.
Back in my homeland, I had the pleasure of collaborating with St Leo in Denmark and my dear friend Sian Li, who oversees Atelier Senseware in Taiwan. With their help, I created works commissioned by Lay Low Bar and Ivette Café, both of which will be opening soon in Taichung, Taiwan. On a personal level, I commenced the Psychology Honours program at the University of Melbourne and managed to complete semester one without too many breakdowns. More recently, I ticked off a bucket-list goal and went to Naoshima and Teshima. Reflecting on the past few months, I feel abundantly grateful and a little overwhelmed.
Tell us about your recent exhibition, Why You Like This…
Why You Like This is my first body of work since delving into psychology studies. It also marks a departure from my usual monochromatic palette. I turned 30 this year and this felt like a timely way to conclude my twenties. This series serves as an excavation of fermented diary entries from the past decade, and I draw inspiration from the Kimchi Slap video (my canvases are cabbages fermenting in onggi pots).
My curator Eliza Jung made this exhibition the greatest feat of my career thus far. Eliza’s husband and I were classmates at Chinese school when we were 13 years old. Before inviting me to work with her, Eliza bashfully shared that she had been familiar with my work since I was 19. She had witnessed every instance of me trying to give up creating, only to resurface with naive devotion. As I worked on our publication and the solo show, I found myself in moments of physical and emotional defeat but Eliza championed me through. When I think of Eliza, my little heart explodes.
Wines curated by Alpha Box & Dice.
How would you describe putting together Why You Like This?
It was all-consuming. I absolutely did not find balance, but I loved every second of it and would do it all over again.
How did it feel to see your work come together?
Oooft… lots of tears, and even more ungodly cackles!
Your book was a collaborative project. Who was involved?
This book was co-produced by Eliza Jung, guest edited by Panda Wong, designed by Lachlan Siu, and published by Chaos Editions in Melbourne. The most invaluable part is the collection of written responses from individuals who have significantly contributed to my process over the years. Writers include Eugene Yiu Nam Cheung, James J. Robinson, Jason Phu, Leah Jing McIntosh, Lily Goodwin, Panda Wong, Sebastian Henry-Jones, Tasha Tylee, Con Gerakaris, Damian Smith, and my dear Mama. This book also features memorabilia from our Pai family archive dating back to the 1930s, with photographs taken by my great-grandparents.
Do you have a favourite excerpt from the book that you return to?
Yes, all of them, on rotation, but also Mama’s letter at the end.
Is the book a tribute to your parents?
While my previous works served as a tribute to my parents, this publication is more of a homage to my comrades. When I am blessed with a million wrinkles, I hope this book teleports me back to this very moment — a testament to those who influenced me before I strut into my thirties!
Why You Like This is available to purchase at Assembly Label Fitzroy. All purchases of the book come with an Angie Pai artwork, exclusive to Assembly Label.