Galerie Quynh is delighted to present Hopscotch, a duo-exhibition featuring new paintings by emerging artists Do Thanh Lang and Hoang Nam Viet. Belonging to the generation of young Vietnamese born at the turn of ‘Doi Moi’ and coming of age into a brave new open-market economy, for their first ever collaboration with Galerie Quynh, Do and Hoang showcase two bodies of work that are markedly different from each other, and yet complementary in their shared themes of freedom and transgression.
Drenched in blazes of bold shapes and colors, Do Thanh Lang’s paintings involve faceless figures and hypnagogic settings evocative of Italian giallo films. The situations and actions depicted range from being unsettling to downright grotesque, their significance not immediately obvious. In one work, bodily fluid floods out from a man’s lower half, as a gun appears to be pointed at a scantily-clad woman – a bubbling tension can be clearly felt, while the use of polypropylene paper and a top layer of glaring plastic convey a crude physicality to the work adding to the intrigue and urgency of the scenes. In another, naked sleepers lie face-down on the floor, lined up in front of a lone figure seemingly of authority – a scene indicating protection and oppression in equal measure. Indeed, the ambiguity at play throughout openly invites viewers to weave individualities into these psychedelic backdrops, at the same time hints at the inevitability of universal history repeating itself.
While Do’s work are inhabited by mysterious characters, Hoang Nam Viet paints the friends around him and does so with an affection that only comes with tender familiarity. Spend enough time in the company of these earth-toned paintings, however, and one might start sensing an undercurrent of darkness. Here and there, curious gestures and odd, dream-like details conjure up a strange air of melancholy and begin to suggest that not everything is in its right place in the mundane surroundings. What first appear as portraits of loved ones are in fact laced with subtle symbolic meanings: as with Do’s paintings, they deliver broader social messages, as well as contemplations on the nature of freedom. There might be a moving defiance and quiet determination to these youngsters, who are not without curiosity and dreams of change; and yet, faced with forces of the status quo, are they still too naked, ultimately powerless?
Nevertheless, Hoang has hope and empathy for his friends and other ‘dreamers’ to whom his series is dedicated, and this shows through the tiny but reassuring spark of optimism in his work. “Tomorrow is going to be a beautiful day,” the artist states. In the meantime, let us get on with our game, one little hopscotch square at a time.