Installation view of Rel Pham’s <em>Temple</em> 2022-2023 on display as part of the <em>Melbourne Now</em> exhibition at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne.  <br/>
Image: Sean Fennessy<br/>

Rel Pham

Rel Pham
(b. 1990, Sydney, New South Wales. Lives and works in Melbourne)

Rel Pham is an artist, designer, animator, illustrator and painter whose multiform practice is based in the world of technology. His work explores digital realities and the way the digital realm plays out in the physical world, conceiving of the internet as a type of town square and the act of ‘logging on’ as an act of congregation.

TEMPLE is a continuation of the themes Pham explored in Electric dirge, 2021, a digital work originally commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary Art, Sydney, as part of its Digital Curatorship program. In the hyperreal world of Electric dirge, thousands of whirring computer fans reverberate in unison, underscoring a fantastical yet unsettling neon scene that combines the visual language of technology, classical Asian architecture and religious iconography.

In TEMPLE, a major new commission by the NGV, Pham yanks this digital landscape out of the screen and into the physical realm, blurring the boundary between the two. Inside the NGV, visitors enter the work through one of four archways into a large-scale, responsive inferno of computer fans surrounding a central Bagua – the set of eight symbols used in Taoist cosmology epitomising the fundamental principles of reality. With its ancient binary language, the Bagua draws clear parallels with the language of modern computing. In TEMPLE, the Bagua symbolises an historic ‘computer’ depicting and translating the physical world, here in conversation with the virtual realities of contemporary technology. The experience of TEMPLE is a visceral sense of the connection between the digital and ‘IRL’ and a heightened sense of the way the virtual is rooted in large-scale, tangible and often landscape-defining hardware.

Born in 1990, Pham is part of the last generation of people to experience the world without the internet, and this idea frequently informs his practice. His work has featured in solo and group exhibitions, as well as public art projects. Recently, he completed Cache, an installation for 4A January 2023, supported by the City of Sydney’s Lunar New Year 2023, Festivals and Events Sponsorship Grant Program. In 2020 he was commissioned by 4A to create Electric dirge for its digital program. Pham was the winner of the Murology 2017 award. He has participated in the Art, Not Apart festival and NFT Illuminated at The Galeries, Sydney, and has completed a residency with Brand X and the City of Sydney.

Rel Pham

Listen to Rel Pham discuss his artistic inspiration and process behind TEMPLE, a major commission seen in Melbourne Now. Visitors enter the large… Read more