Though the artist’s trademark humor and irony is evident in Ideal Fall, the exhibition reveals a new maturity in Hoang Duong Cam’s practice. Hoang is now looking inward to create a highly personal series of works that illustrate contemporary Vietnamese society in all its complexity. Inspired by the life of his father, Hoang began to ponder the idealism of his father’s generation and how it mitigated the hardships of war. Beauty existed in romantic nostalgia and served as an alternative temporality; dreams of civilization and modernity brought freedom.
The Weirdness of an Ideal Mind series depicts distorted, imaginative scenes of the circus and magic shows, hinting at the oddities and chaos of reality. The paintings are a satire on the ideal world of those who wish to escape from reality. Each painting is coupled with a wire paper sculpture that is covered in concrete. The absurd sculptures seem to anchor the idealistic scenes in reality, perhaps representing the heaviness of thought. An interesting addition to the painting sculpture duo, in the form of burned workers’ protective uniforms, is the reference to Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International, a utopian structure embracing modernity. Designed as the headquarters of the international communist organization following the Russian Revolution in 1917, it was a spectacular vision that was never realized.
While delving into the sources of idealism, Hoang began recalling the myths and stories of U Minh Forest, a mangrove forest in the south of Vietnam notorious for its revolutionary past. Once occupied by criminals, renegades, Chinese refugees, pirates and soldiers, the forest is metaphor for the confused state of the ideal mind. U Minh literally translates as a dark place but the word usually refers to a state of mind, which could signify anything that is not clearly understood. It could be a chaotic, unclear or confused state. The Lightning in U Minh Forest paintings are complex, fantastical stories that offer insight into the present state of Vietnam through examining its past.