Tales of Chewing Gum, Noodle Soup, and Other Stories is an exhibition that brings together for the first time new and rarely seen works by acclaimed HCMC-based artists Nguyen Trung (born 1940) and Hoang Duong Cam (born 1974). The exhibition explores a complex set of social and historical narratives where history and memory are layered with fantasy and hope.
Vietnam’s most accomplished and respected abstract painter, Nguyen Trung unveils rarely exhibited paintings that collectively span a decade of the artist’s creative output. Drawing upon personal memory conflated with broader cultural sources, Trung’s works are lyrical investigations into remembrance and Buddhist thought. In the ‘Moonlight’ paintings, Trung reflects on his wartime recollections of the Vietnamese countryside. The works conjure scorched and ashen landscapes under silvery moonlight. White, a color commonly associated with mourning in Vietnam, features prominently in these ethereal works that are grounded by stains of earthen pigment – a reminder that destruction brings forth renewal.
A decade later Trung’s paintings display the artist’s continued interest in textured surfaces. In the ‘Urban’ works, old walls and temple ruins surface from within the compositions and draw the viewer into the mysterious and opulent worlds of past civilizations. With Crying River, meditative and enigmatic, the artist creates intimate yet powerful works that allow viewers to pause and contemplate the vagaries of daily life.
For his latest paintings, Hoang Duong Cam draws upon the historical accounts of Hanoi in former East German journalist Thomas Billhardt’s 1972 photo essay Hanoi Am Tage vor dem Friede. Combining photographic technique with painterly skill, Hoang has produced works that are evocative and enigmatic in both appearance and subject matter. The works were begun with Hoang re-photographing particular images in Billhardt’s book using a pinhole lens, intentionally creating gaps and distortions of the original images, which are devoid of captions. The paintings themselves depict deceptively innocent images that are simultaneously figurative and abstract with elusive forms and suspended, colorful fragments. Personalmemory and stories of childhood fantasies play an integral role in the new works, as the artist celebrates with characteristic irony a dramatic period of Vietnam’s recent history.