The Hanoitimes - Four artists Nguyen Van Phuc, Nguyen Huy An, Nguyen Tran Nam and Vu Hong Ninh have opened an exhibition entitled “Tam Ta” (Pouring) at Bui Gallery, 23 Ngo Van So Street, Hanoi.
The display of installations is a passionate assault on the challenges faced by young artists and their questions about art in the new era. Each of the four artists presents their original installation in one of the gallery’s four rooms.
For Vu Hong Ninh, art has always been a way to address society and community in direct interaction and in his provocative sculptural work “Soap Boy,” this instinct is clearer than ever.
“Soap Boy” stands boldly amid a working sink, trash can and paper towel dispenser. The sculpted soap is unapologetic about its nakedness and its defiant rude hand gesture, effectively insulting anyone who looks at it. A riff on the ancient tale of the Buddha pointing his finger up at the sky and declaring his own greatness, “Soap Boy” too pronounces itself all-important and, of course, youthfully irreverent.
However, visitors to the gallery are asked to interact with “Soap Boy,” not just look from a distance. The artist invites the viewers to wash their hands, using whichever part of the sculpture their choose as their soap. Interactivity is key to the strength of this piece, which asks each viewer to step forward and be part of the art.
As the son of an artist, Nguyen Huy An grew up expressing himself materially. It was after his introduction to installation and performance that his work took on the strong character it has today, where he explores the dark and quiet spaces of his childhood and brings them out into the light.
Huy An proposes a room of photographs, sculpture and performance, all of which act together as one piece that addresses the nature and culture of the shadow. For this piece “The Shadows,” the artist uses black materials like ink and charcoal powder to materialize and concretize the shadow of a simple table. once this is done, says the artist, “[the shadow] comes to a stop and its existence becomes absurd.” It is this fact that fascinates Huy An, and prompts him to explore the shadow through installation, sculpture, photography and performance.
The success of Nguyen Van Phuc is in his clever mixing of media. He does not classify himself as only a painter or an installation artist, but rather bridges the gap between the two to create something wholly original and contemporary.
“Star Lantern” is a perfect example of his skill; it is a piece that might stay in the realm of conceptual art, except that Phuc brings his own craftsmanship to the work by painting and embroidering the façade. “Star Lantern” is no ordinary light, both in its large scale and in its unusual structure. Phuc’s lantern is not made of ordinary wooden poles, but rather of crutches, a strong reminder of the hidden wounds of history that still eat away at the architecture of contemporary Vietnamese society.
Nguyen Tran Nam is one of Vietnam’s most adventurous young video artists. He draws on his love for moving pictures and inserts it into his sculptures, making pieces that challenge the viewer in their movement and elusiveness.
Like his fellow Tam Ta artists, Nam invites the viewer in. Visitors are encouraged to touch, even push, his sculptures, which depict his family and himself. They will not fall though, because instead of standing on solid ground, the members of Nam’s family who make up this work have no feet, only a weighted ball. Nam’s work for The Bui Gallery looks inside, rather than out, affording us a rare view into a mind bent on questioning and experimentation.
The exhibition runs till August 27.