Bad Yogi #nofilter Interview: Amy Goh
Amy Goh is an artist and yogi living in Montreal, and she makes the most beautiful representations of asanas that I have ever seen. She specializes in black and white illustrations in the surrealistic and sublime vein. Oh, and she also writes for the Bad Yogi Blog! Check her out on her website, Facebook, or Instagram to see more of her work, and read about her work, life, experiences, and perspective below!
Describe who you are and what you do in 3 sentences or less.
I am an artist who weaves worlds with words, ink, and from my surreal musings and daydreams. I see all of life as art, be it doing yoga, drawing, writing, or just breathing. I have an interest in exploring the corridors of memory using my personal mythology as my router.
Which came first for you – yoga or art? How did one lead you to the other?
Actually, writing came first! I was always a writer before I considered myself a “proper” artist, if there is such a thing. I tend to accidentally stumble into the things I end up devoting myself to, and yoga was, likewise, a path that I sort of happened upon. Drawing came as a way for me to create my psyche into being during a dark period of depression in which I gave myself away too much to others. It was a way for me to remember who I was through creating a personal mythology that helped me understand my own subconscious and memories.
Yoga, conversely, helps me to deal with the physical realm, the whole business of being present and interacting with those around me. It helps me to ground so I have a firm foundation from which I can create. Dreaming and grounding: both are important elements for balance. After all, you need a healthy physical vessel to be able to channel your art from (and I think of art as a kind of channelling of myself). I tend to be too ‘top heavy’, meaning I tend to live too much with my head in the clouds. Having yoga reminds me my body exists and deserves to be loved and taken cared of as you would a child.
Tell us about how you create physical space for practicing yoga and being creative. What does your space look like?
Having a “safe space” is very important for me. I think of my studio (where I also do yoga) as my foundation, the base from which I can create things. As such, I love to surround myself with things that calm me, make me smile, or sacred objects, or objects with history, and stories that feed me their energies. ☺
Nowadays, I practice yoga mostly mat-free in the same room. I have a CD collection I play when I do yoga to get me into a certain state of mind. Although I feel like the creative switch for both activities is identical. My body has been disciplined into “switching” to a meditative mode when I put pen to paper or when I get onto my imaginary mat; the only decision that I have to make is to choose to be in that space. In other words, saying “yes” to wanting to create or practice (and that can be surprisingly be hard at times!).
Do you have a favourite yoga pose? How have you represented it in your art?
I’m such a sucker for inversions, particularly handstands. I love how they challenge my sense of possibilities. I love the push-pull play with gravity. I love that it makes me feel embodied. When I do handstands or inversions, I think of my core as my foundation from which I am channelling energy. From that place of stability and serenity, I have the freedom to play around, to go from one arm balance to an inversion to a backbend. I love the playful nature of it all. It’s also practice to let go of effort and to let your body tell you what to do. If you are exerting too much force and you feel you are trying too hard, you are probably doing it wrong! It’s a kind of alchemy in which you have to create space and strength from within in order to invert your own expectations of what is possible.
As for art, I have created a series of poses, some of them being my favourite. My favourites from that series are probably the one of vrischikasana in pincha mayurasana (scorpion pose in forearm stand) and balasana (child’s pose). Looking at both make me feel strength and serenity. Drawing a pose feels a bit like being absorbed within the energetic signature of each pose and the stories, energies and feelings that lie embodied in the pose. My yoga series, as such, was really fun to do because it was also an exploration of my own practice.
Who or what are some of your artistic inspirations?
I would say that life itself inspires me, as cheesy as that sounds. I feel that life has its own rhythms and patterns: learning cycles of which you pass through to get to the next phase of growth. My drawings contain a lot of organic motifs, as I am very inspired by the life/death/life cycles that pre-modern life was centered around. I feel, too, that the soul has its own cycles of life, death, and rebirth. I also love feeding my world with things that inspire me to think and feel in different and unexpected ways: this, too, is a kind of “gardening” of my world’s inner vegetation. When I see a piece of art that makes me shiver and obsess for days, or when I read a book that opens a dimension of thought I didn’t know existed, I also feel inspired to create. It’s not a direct inspiration, but it definitely stimulates my world and what stimulates me also influences what I produce.
In your career and life, what’s been your greatest asset? And, if you care to share, your greatest hindrance? How did you overcome it?
My greatest asset is my resilience and my obsession. Is that considered an asset? I feel like I have been through a whole lot. Natural disaster proportions of internal and external dramas, you could say. And having survived that, I have found myself fuller than before mostly because I had to go through the hard work of dragging my soul from the underworld into daylight again.
My greatest obstacle is probably my own spaciness, which I have mentioned before. I tend to tune out too easily and this makes me neglect physical imperatives like eating, organizing, doing the basic things that normal people have to do. It does not help that I have OCD and ADD inclinations so my mind is either a continuous explosion of overwhelming sensations or a calm blue sky if I do not develop a system to manage the various stimuli I have to interact with on a daily basis. So yes, having a system– I call it downloading a program– to work reality through helps a lot. If I am failing to do something, I download the software that enables me to do it. This constant ‘reprogramming’ of myself is a daily work and it’s sort of something I have to do in order to be able to function in life.
Do you ever feel self-conscious or insecure about putting yourself or your art out into the world? How do you deal with those feelings?
Oh ! I had “imposter syndrome” for the longest time. I started drawing in 2010 and pretty much got offered a show from the start, but it took me two years of drawing daily (and producing a drawing every week) to feel like I could call myself an artist. I feel what works the best is just separating you-as-an-individual and you-as-an-artist, because as an artist, you are essentially your own facilitator for bringing your art into the world. What you-as-an-individual feels about the matter is really irrelevant. So I had to sort of put on my artist face and do the work that had to be done to bring my stuff out there, to get it to as many people as I could, even if I felt like I did not deserve to be called an artist. I pretend Amy Goh the Artist is an outer persona and I swear it helps me to “switch gear” and treat it with detachment and not feel personally involved in the work I need to do to push my work out into the world. Fake it till you make it, and eventually you find yourself being the thing you said you were and embodying it. It’s a kind of magic manifestation! But do not be deceived- a lot of work goes behind-the-scenes to make it happen.
We sort of have to push ‘us’ in the world, but also know that the Us the world receives is different from the Me who introspectively dives and seeks myself in order to create art. So there is a huge disjunction between Artist and me but I don’t mind it. It’s a bit like a game and it’s fun.
What is your personal measure of success?
I am not sure what defines “‘success’”! My goal is to get my work out to those who resonate with it or who will connect with it on a soul level. Because art is such a cathartic medium, I want to be able to share that with others. So being able to connect with people who resonate with my work touches me deeply. The ability to reach out and connect is already a type of success for me. I would love to have larger platforms for my art, but I think everything has its time. ☺
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
What you need is already in you. You are your greatest resource. I’m not sure who said this (it may have just been me giving myself a pep talk, ha!), but that statement resonates with me deeply.