Galerie Quynh is pleased to present ‘The Orient, The Occident’, an exhibition of ambitious new paintings by Lien Truong. The show spans both the De Tham and Dong Khoi spaces and marks Truong’s second solo exhibition at the gallery.
Informed by her research on Orientalist paintings, Imperialist landscapes of the 18th century, and the writings of literary and cultural critic Edward Said, Truong’s new work examines the confusing nature of judgment and the complexity of cross-cultural belief systems.
Rich with symbolism, the allegorical paintings fuse Eastern landscape space with Western oil painting technique to depict fantastical, watery landscapes. Truong integrates human figures, animals, mythical beasts, and hybrids of her own creation into the paintings to interrogate our collective history and invent new narratives.
A phoenix symbolizing empire hovers over eastern peacocks in The Salvation of the Heathens, perhaps referencing western colonial expansion. A white tiger violently accosts a Chinese dragon in Blue, White and Red. The pearl, representing desire, consciousness, and wisdom, becomes an object of exchange in the largest and most symbolically complex works. In The Apple, a western type siren offers a pearl to a kinnari – a half-female, half-bird creature in Buddhist and Hindu mythology –referencing the Fall in the myth of Adam and Eve and even alluding to the history of social taboo proscribing mixed race and same gender unions. In The Dilemma of Consciousness and The Visitor, pearls are offered from one creature to another, their exchange bringing dubious benefit and subtly foreshadowing calamity.
Also showing are paintings that address the myth of the unicorn and its interpretation in Eastern and Western history. In My Trophy, Your Saint the sacred cow of the Hindu world becomes a hunter’s trophy on an Occidental wall. Truong compels us to reflect on the way longstanding mythologies and unexamined conceptions wreak havoc on living animal and human populations.
Several smaller work feature heads of state in hybridized form with their corresponding Chinese zodiacal animals. These portraits show the emotional side of power by evoking the qualities of human temperament as represented in the Chinese zodiac and in Greek mythology.
Truong represents mythology, but she also questions the relationship of myth to our evolving morality. She similarly collapses our notions of East and West in paintings that both harmonize and interrogate, echoing Edward Said’s assertion that “Neither the term Orient nor the concept of the West has any ontological stability.”