Toronto is a magnet for aspiring young artists hoping to make it in the big smoke. Most days it feels like the 6ix is positively bursting at the seams with young artists, designers, filmmakers, actors and comedians busting their humps to make their dreams come true. She Does The City chatted with some of the most exciting and talented up-and-coming artists living and working in Toronto to find out what inspires them, how they deal with setbacks and what stops them from jacking it all in and getting a normal job.
For this installment, we caught up with Wallis Cheung.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Wallis Cheung. I’m an artist born in Hong Kong, based in Toronto. I have been focusing on painting as a medium in the past few years but am slowly diverging into sculpture and other modes of making. I am also the co-founder of an artist collective called VSVSVS, in which I share tight live/work quarters with five other like-minded artists.
It can be tough to forge a career as an artist. What has stopped you from quitting and doing something more stable?
Being an artist is a full-time commitment; if I settle for something else, my art practice will suffer the cost and that will hurt me in the end. I think it’s important to feel free and be able to move around in life. While you have no idea what is lying ahead of you, the uncertainty and excitement is what makes life exuberant.
I see challenges as knots: some are bigger than the others, and even if you can’t figure out how to untangle a knot, you will get it eventually and feel satisfied.
Did you always know you wanted to be an artist? What did you want to be when you were a teenager?
Growing up in a traditionally restricted society, I never felt like there were many career choices. I felt I had to fit my desires within the commercially driven market space. Artist wasn’t a profession. I wasn’t connected to the local art scene in Hong Kong, and so I always thought I would be a columnist or illustrator for publications.
What inspires your work?
That’s a tough one to answer. I don’t think inspiration can be nailed down to a few things. It’s about everything and how you connect them.
What moment in your career are you most proud of?
I find huge satisfaction when I manage to pull something together that seemed impossible to achieve in the first place. I think my art collective is the most ambitious project I have done so far. It’s hard to believe I have been sharing tight and, at times, extremely exhausting quarters with these artists for seven years now. We have collectively done close to a hundred projects together, and that’s not including our own individual projects. I learn so much through working with these people and the constant difficulties we meet have definitely matured me over time as a human.
How do you deal with career setbacks?
Career setbacks are a part of a natural cycle. I take this time to reset myself and search for thoughts and ideas that got left behind in the flow.
What piece of career advice has stuck with you?
“Sometimes your family doesn’t like your work, but it’s probably a good sign that you are going in the right direction.”
What advice do you have for an aspiring artist?
There will be times when people are concerned and questioning the unique career path you are going through. It’s easy to feel lost and catch doubt in yourself; however, there are many things you can do, and the only thing you don’t want to do is to stop what you are doing.
What do you hope to achieve in your career in 2017?
I will be pursuing some higher education in the fall of 2017. Hopefully I will do well in the challenges that come with that.