On a cold and rainy morning, just as winter was starting to nip at the heels of New York City, we traveled deep into Brooklyn to meet with an illustrator, creative director, and designer all rolled into one person, Rich Tu. Despite his young age, he has already exhibited at galleries and festivals from New York to Berlin and worked with The New York Times, The New Yorker, Alfa Romeo, Bombay Sapphire, NPR, NorthFace, and Bravo, to name a few. We sat down with Rich at his Bushwick studio to learn more about what was at the core of this young artist.
Like many in the creative community, there’s a reluctance to define words like “creativity” and “art.” It’s as though they believe that as soon as you define it, like a bird of paradise once free and now caged, its feathers will never be as bright or beautiful. Rich was just as guarded when asked for his thoughts on this subject, but he eventually opened up. “Creativity is the ability to think in a way that shapes the world in your image,” Rich said during our meeting. “It isn’t necessary, but there’s something about it that is the intangible of the human spirit.”
Looking at Rich’s art, we were immediately struck by this notion. His pieces, crafted with vivid details and vibrant colors, land squarely in the viewer’s subconscious. Each is familiar and welcoming, but frustratingly unknowable. Each piece he showed us spoke to a story and a memory that had a different context for us and him.
“Art is free of context because it is the context.”
Our interpretation of this statement is that art is really about the context of what the viewer creates in the piece — that’s what makes it so essential. It is a reflection of each of us, unique to the person, unique to the mood, unique to the moment. It’s both fleeting and permanent. It’s what makes creativity so essential.
Outside Rich’s quiet studio, Bushwick was bustling with life as people ran to avoid the now heavy rain. As we joined the fray, we passed grocery stores, clinics, schools, bus stops and more — all necessary for human life, but none of them essential.