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Jan 09, 2017 5:55PM

Meet The Artist: Angie Pai

Some kind of superstar.

Melbourne-based angel Ange Pai, who you may recognise as one half of dope embroidery label PAI, has just opened her first solo art exhibition. Called 'Silence Doesn't Work For Me', the project is all about growing up as a first generation Australian, and sees Angie apply her three-dimensional geometric style to a series of sculptures. Equal parts political and personal, the works cement Angie's place as one of our fave artists coming out of Melbourne right now. Get to know the little legend a little better below (and head here for the IRL exhibition details).

Name: Angie Pai

Nickname: Angie, Flange, Oi

Star sign: Aries 

Where did you grow up and where are you living now?
My family moved around a lot when I was young. I was born in Taiwan, came to Australia at age six, and moved houses/schools eight times by the time I was 18. My teenage years were spent around Melbourne's South East suburbs, and the last few years around North Melbourne, South Yarra, and everything in between. 

What impact did those places have on you/your work?
I didn't do too much in my teenage years, I was mainly focused on academic achievements. I spent a few years living with some of my best friends when I first moved out, we'd stay up all night scheming fun projects to jump into, and run around all day making them happen. We were totally enthralled by the idea of collaborating creatively, and humbled to be able to do so together. This period of my life definitely influenced me the most. 

What were you like in high school?
A total brat! There's no other way to put it. I hate thinking about it to be honest. I've had a lot of growing up to do in the last few years and it wasn't until pretty recently that I realised how much my parents sacrificed to give my brothers and I the life we lead. The environment and school I went to probably didn't help, but it's no excuse. I took a lot for granted. If I could take back those years, I would in a heartbeat, but it's all part of the learning process I suppose. 

How have you changed since then?
I like to think I've changed for the better. I'm constantly striving to be less erratic and to have some patience (it's hard for an Aries), to unlearn old beliefs, and to re-learn what it means to be a better person. The biggest learning has been finding the courage to eliminate elements of my life that I find negative, and people who, intentionally or not, bring me down. 

If you had to describe your artistic output in five words, what would you call it?
Impulsive, dedicated, consistently inconsistent, purgative. 

Can you talk us through your 'Silence Doesn't Work For Me' project?
It's something I've wanted to do for a long time — to be totally consumed, physically and emotionally, by a final output, and to give all of it away. That idea has always given me a euphoric sense of freedom. I always thought I'd do it when life was more settled, or perhaps when I'm (one day) financially stable, but it became clear that it had to be now. I was brought to tears learning about my parent's voyage and reading about world events, day in, day out. I felt a huge itch to contribute. I'm not well versed in politics and I've definitely never been good with words (I have severe-word-vomit-then-severe-regret syndrome) so it had to be done visually; the only way I know how, really. 

What do your parents think of the works?
They haven't seen it. I didn't want to show them before the show, in case they hated it and it totally stopped me in my tracks. We often have to agree to disagree when it comes to our tastes in art. I love how honest they are, but I've also learnt to be a little more protective of my work and take their feedback with a grain of salt. On that note, Mum's been trying really hard to be less brutal and says things like, "I don't like it, but I love you! I can't lie to you! But I love you!".

Best piece of advice you've ever received?
A recent one I'm testing out: "don't take anything personally". 

What three songs are currently soundtracking your life?

What was the process of creating the sculptures?
Trial and error, over and over. Then trying to laugh when all I want to do is cry (usually when an error has caused my wallet to deflate substantially).  

How do you define your cultural identity?
Fluid and interchangeable; never fixed. 

What ideas/beliefs are important to you?
Be generous and kind (and thankful, haha!) to people who voluntarily choose to be around you. Give back whenever and wherever you can. 

What would your last meal be?
A McDonalds halloumi burger with four slices of halloumi or a veggie laksa with egg noodles. 

What's the best thing on the internet?
YouTube and all of its food related videos. 

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Someone I'm proud of.  

If people take one thing away from this project what would you want it to be?
That any medium of discourse, creative or otherwise, can be used as a vehicle to contribute towards and/or challenge issues that don't sit well with you.

'Silence Doesn't Work For Me' is showing @ Metro Gallery, Armadale until January 11.

Photography: Agnieszka Chabros 

Lucy Jones