Galerie Quynh is pleased to present The Leavers – an exhibition of new work by Brooklyn-based artist Trong Gia Nguyen. For his second solo exhibition at the gallery, Nguyen will exhibit a series of paintings informed by his ongoing film project, DONG, an exploration of family history through the imperfect lens of memory.
The colorful and playful paintings belie a deep reflection on history, culture, and the psyche of those uprooted and transplanted to foreign lands. Sourced from old family photographs, the paintings depict coloring book images that have been filled in but with the black outlines removed, suggesting the skewed ways in which we remember, shape, and colorize the past. Nguyen asks of the viewer to mentally redraw the missing lines, to give definition to this fuzz. Employing oil pastels, a medium that never fully dries, Nguyen reiterates how memory is organic and ever shifting.
Driving stuffed together in a little Renault Dauphine from his uncle’s house to the dock, the artist and his immediate family of 11, plus 3 relatives, fled on the last boat to leave Saigon on April 30, 1975, the day of reunification. Immigrating to the United States, they became assimilated in American culture and literally never spoke of those events again, moving on and leaving the past behind. This forgotten history is the starting point for Nguyen’s documentary project DONG, in collaboration with artist, collector, and film producer David Raymond. Narrated through the unconventional lens of art, the film also enfolds Nguyen’s creative process for The Leavers, as it is specifically tied to the instability of memory, one that embellishes, misremembers, and forgets.
Nguyen’s parents took only a few family photographs with them, thus the actual visual material the artist draws on for The Leavers is scant. The brightly hued, childlike paintings are a way of observing and respecting the absentmindedness of the past. History is something that cannot truly be captured, after all.