Students and skeletons, coffins and masks, houseplants and gilded furniture. Enter the mind of Kiv Bui, a Vietnamese illustrator whose fantasies come in shades of grays, golds, and greens. Her work, often accompanied by a simple caption, centers on the joys of simplicity and expressing oneself.
学生和骷髅，棺材与面具，盆栽与镀金家具——这是越南插画家 Kiv Bui 以灰色、金色和绿色调勾画的幻想世界。她喜欢在作品中添加一些文字，传达简单的快乐和表达自我的主题。
Bui believes in the power of speaking through illustration. Art is an effective tool for inspiring others and an even more effective means of non-verbal communication. “When I talk about my problems, my emotions get in the way which affects my voice and the way I speak,” she says. “Not everyone can speak well, and not everyone listens well.”
One issue she’s felt the need to speak out about recently is the discrimination that many Asians in the West have faced due the pandemic. Bui moved to the US a few years ago to study and has encountered racism there firsthand. Through art, she hopes to bring more awareness to the prevalence of racism at large. “It’s our job as artists to create content to help people deal with such situations,” she says.
While she isn’t shy about confronting tougher issues, her illustrations are, at times, also a means of escapism: “I can build my own world, create the things I want to see, and be free doing what I want within it,” she says. “My viewers can live in my world, too.” Sometimes, she’s just happy to unwind with a simple drawing of a cup of matcha latte.
Growing up, Bui had to wear uniforms to school, and unlike many of her peers, it was something she loved. This fondness is clear in her art, where nearly every character is seen in white button-ups, sweater vests, schoolgirl skirts, or dress pants. “Uniforms united us and helped avoid distractions,” she explains. “I always thought that was a brilliant idea, so I make all of my characters wear uniforms; this also helps direct attention to the story.” This focus on storytelling also explains the prominent greys of her work. “Grey is neutral and calming, so it also doesn’t distract.”
The ever-present skeletons are meant to be something of a neutral idea as well, speaking to the fact that everyone is the same on the inside. Despite your gender, background, orientation, or race, you’re still just flesh and bones. “I also like the idea of treating the dead as lively and active,” Bui laughs.
She’s always found skeletons and skulls beautiful, but their associations with death make them taboo in Vietnamese culture. After moving to the US, she’s felt increasingly free to use them. “My goal this year is to be true to myself as much as I can,” she says.
她的插画中经常出现的骷髅也是源于同样的理念，旨在说明所有人本质上都是一样的。不管什么性别、背景、性取向或种族，归根到底，都不过是血肉骨头而已。“我喜欢以活泼愉快的风格来描绘死者。” Bui 笑说。
The idea of death is important to Bui though, it’s just a very delicate subject. She often felt that there was too much negativity in her art, and in recent years, she’s become more mindful of what she depicts in her illustrations. As an example, she points to an artist whose work was meant to raise awareness about suicide but instead attracted overwhelming amounts of comments glorifying the act, and it scared her. “You have to be responsible for your art,” she says. “Each work is like a public speech. I plan my work carefully so I can express myself without harming or provoking anyone.”
虽然死亡的观念对 Kiv 有重要意义，但这毕竟是一个非常微妙的话题。她经常担忧自己的作品是否过于消极，近年来也越来越注意自己在插图中表现的内容。她说曾经有一位艺术家希望通过作品提高人们对自杀的认识，结果却吸引了无数人留言来赞美自杀的行为，这使她感到害怕。她说：“你必须对自己的艺术负责。每件作品都像一场公开演讲。所以我在创作时会认真思考，以使得在表达自我的同时，不会伤害或激怒其他人。”