Galerie Quynh is delighted to present Between Two Mysteries, an exhibition featuring new and rarely seen work by Ho Chi Minh City-based artists Hoang Duong Cam and Truc-Anh. Two ambitious canvases from Hoang’s Lightning in U Minh Forest series will be shown publicly for the first time since 2011 alongside Truc-Anh’s ongoing Ink Kingdom project.
Taking inspiration from a vast flooded woodland in the southernmost part of the country, Hoang Duong Cam’s Lightning in U Minh Forest paintings vividly portray their namesake across colliding layers of myth and history, conceptualization and sensory exploration, external landscape and internal state of mind. Seemingly arranged in organized chaos, abstract shapes and colorful blobs enshroud a macabre undertone suggestive of the folklores and disconcerting past lives that haunt at the heart of the forest, where once roamed near-mythological giant snakes, pirates, Chinese dissidents, outlaws, and Communist guerrillas. Rife with narrative traps, hidden imagery and barely-there stories, the U Minh Forest paintings function almost as playful jigsaw puzzles, depicting scenes from parallel realities, inviting to be made sense of, instilling in viewers an eerie awareness of the Unknown and the Other.
If Hoàng’s U Minh Forest can be read as a metaphor for the confused – the name U Minh, literally translating as ‘a place without light’, also denotes a mind not-knowing – then Truc-Anh’s work represents the microscopic instants when flashes of lightning strike the forest, when the shapes in the dark reveal themselves, and the mind stares at its deepest fears in the eye. Curated from the artist’s hugely ambitious Ink Kingdom project (to consist of 888 drawings when complete), these works on paper reveal varying degrees of clarity and grotesqueness as well as a breadth of techniques and influences. The works reference a host of fantastical figures and images from world history, popular culture, fiction, and imagination – some images more recognizable than others, some to be felt, the reference turned on its head, perhaps not to be analyzed. Indeed, as with the U Minh Forest works, at play here is an element of mischief (whether hinted at through a deliberate tear across Striptease, or through the esoteric Christobalt and Julie painted on drink coasters), working to counter the nocturnal mood and inject a welcoming dynamism. Paired with Hoàng’s work, Truc-Anh’s drawings suggest a certain enlightenment and lucidness that is found even in the most nightmarish visions, the longest nights, the most impenetrable mysteries. As the artist poignantly states, “There is more to see in things we don’t want to see. It’s here, at the edge of our possibilities, that we have to open our eyes wide.”