We are all familiar with the old adage, "A picture is worth a thousand words", but Toronto-based artist Huy Lam doesn't need a thousand words to create his unique style of art. His body of work asks the question, "What is the power of one word repeated thousands of times?" Using 4pt. type, Lam meticulously designs mosaics of faces, products, and famous images consisting only of a word or a short phrase that epitomizes the story of his subject. For example, in his portrait of Heath Ledger as The Joker, his "textual paint" is the sad musing, "Such a shame", commenting on the gifted young actor's untimely death.
Such A Shame
It has been said that Lam's work, when viewed from a distance, looks like a well-crafted pencil sketch, but upon closer inspection, the observer discovers that the cracked grin, haunted eyes, and smudged grease paint of The Joker has been formed out of an endless repetition of the phrase "Such A Shame".
Such A Shame (Zoomed In View)
As "digital art" has developed in recent years, so too have its' critics, but I wouldn't be too quick in categorizing Lam's skill as a marriage of art and technology, which often suggests a lack of pure artistic talent. He places his tiny lines of type with the same precise care and profound touch as an artist painting with a single-hair brush. He must manipulate the angle, color, and position of every single "drop of text" in the smallest detail, while still keeping his eye on the "big picture".
For those who are quick to dismiss digital art as basic pointing and clicking, consider that some of Lam's more complex pieces take between 35-45 hours to complete, while his portrait of Marilyn Monroe (consisting only of her legendary dimensions 36-24-37), took more than 65 hours to finish.
36-24-37 (Zoomed In View)
Huy Lam's artwork is subtle in its' depth, because the casual viewer might only enjoy the artwork on an aesthetic level. Those taking the extra time to notice that the media is not pencil or charcoal sketching can appreciate the complexity of the creative process. Finally, those that discover the "text message" which consitutes the entire piece can explore that word or phrase as a commentary, criticism, or thought-provoking musing on the subject matter of the work.
Some of his commentary is more light-hearted or funny, like his piece entitled "Bought a T-Shirt", which is a portrait of Che Guevara similar to the image that has been sold on everything from backpacks to mousepads to coffee cups. He ironically composed the picture of the infamous Argentinian revolutionary with the phrase "Bought a T-shirt", suggesting that some messages get twisted by cultural crossover, and that the historical importance of certain sacrifices may be lost over time.
Bought A T-Shirt
Bought A T-Shirt (Zoomed In View)
Lam's style can be considered a twist on Pop Art, given his subject matter, and just like the artwork by the original Pope of Pop, Andy Warhol, there is far more to Lam's work than meets the eye. To fully appreciate his vision and passion, a closer look must be taken at the thoughts behind the art, or in Huy Lam's case, the thoughts within.
Calories 320 (Zoomed In View)
Genius (Diptych of Full Size and Zoomed In View)
When I spoke to Huy Lam, he said that his own self-portrait might be composed of the words "doer", "inspirer", or "unique", and I would agree with any of those choices. His exciting and challenging style leaves observers of his work with more to think about, rather than less, which should be one of the ultimate goals in any artistic endeavor.
To Look Deeper into the creative mind of Huy Lam or to add one of his striking portraits to your collection, visit his website.
To explore some of Lam's different styles, and see some of the things that inspire him, check out his Tumblr.
Images are owned and used only with permission of the artist.
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