Time is like a river, some say. In this river, events are carried from the past through the present and into the future. The river flows and brings about the continuous changes through which we live. The concept of time has been diversely and colourfully explored in the world of art, be it in subtle or vivid ways, and using different styles and techniques.
In the exhibition Artists of Vietnam: Perspectives of Time at ION Art Space, which runs from the 13th – 16th March, six upcoming artists from North and Central Vietnam come together as time travellers to take viewers down the river to tell their own stories of time. Some of them attach themselves to memories of the past, staying passionate and nostalgic about subjects of the old days and their perceived eternal beauty. Others, by contrast, remain loyal to what they see in the present by adopting the approach of realism. Yet others take off into the future to explore the space around them in a more undefined way. This contrast of perspectives on time will create an interesting experience for art lovers, leaving them wondering and asking for more.
The tales of the past are told by artists Pham Hoang Anh and Tran Quang Huan. Born in the North but influenced by the rich beauty of the old kingdom of Hue, Pham Hoang Anh immerses himself in the classic themes of nature and tradition, yet sets himself apart by giving them a distinctive romantic touch through delicate and sophisticated details. The women in his paintings often have a heavenly and mysterious look, and the settings around them make it feel as if they have walked straight out of a fairytale.
Also hailing from the North and having graduated from Hanoi Fine Arts University, it seems only natural that in his work Tran Quang Huan pursues and explores Vietnamese women in different settings of yesteryear, especially focusing on their activities at the countryside market. While his narrative is simple and direct, the vibrant colours, minimal but skilful lines and the unique facial expressions of the subjects offer a breath of fresh air and make these traditional images come to life with a touch that is undeniably modern and yet still sentimental.
Moving to the present, Nguyen Ngoc Anh is a realist who connects yesterday with today. He is fascinated by the notion of things from the past still finding their place in the present, an act that defines the concept of eternal value. Finding his muse in old, outdated and worn-out bicycles, he follows a road less travelled by painting them in their barest conditions and turning them into the carriers of memory. Using the finest level of detail, he pushes the boundaries of realism in order to describe his subjects in the most genuine and affective manner. His paintings may at first glance appear almost like ‘still life’ works, but the emotions they create in the viewers are nowhere near as static.
As the youngest member of the group show, it makes sense that Nguyen Hai Anh is also the one living and working totally in the present. Even though his roots are in Hanoi, he actually grew up in Saigon, where he started his painting career. He is known for his large portraits of everyday people, executed with strong decisive strokes and a rich colour palette. In his most recent works, the journey of urbanization in Vietnam is brought to life through the eyes of those less fortunate, mainly farmers from the countryside. The artist portrays his subjects with genuine empathy and admiration, depicting them as full of faith and hope for a brighter future despite their lack of material possessions.
In choosing nature as their main subject, Than Trong Dung and Vu Cong Dien both adopt a more futuristic perspective, freeing up their imagination to combine romanticism with abstract expressionism. Dung depicts fish and lotus flowers, going for daring experiments in colour in which the intensely bright palette in one painting is contrasted with the mild and subtle tones of another. His unusual compositions and the use of golden sunlight tones – his artistic signature – create an impressive effect, making the works half-vivid and half-dreamlike.
Finally, the nature in Vu Cong Dien’s paintings exudes an amazing sense of tranquillity, an effect that is described as something akin to meditation, achieved through bright yet monochromatic tones and rich texture. He depicts the various shades of the changing seasons through large fields and unusually shaped trees.
The tales told in Perspectives of Time will take viewers on a journey that stops at various points along the river of time. It is the variety and diversity of subjects and styles that makes this exhibition one not to be missed. Vietnamese art is represented in a very unique way, which promotes memories of the past, admires the reality of today and explores the unknowns of the future.
The exhibition is presented by www.goldenlotusart.com
Exhibition: Artists of Vietnam: Perspectives of Time
Date: 13 – 16 March 2016
Time: 11am – 9pm
Venue: ION Art Gallery, Level 4 ION Orchard, 2 Orchard Turn, Singapore 238801