Galerie Quynh is pleased to present Hoang Duong Cam’s fifth solo exhibition at the gallery. Titled The day before the Renaissance, the exhibition features new and rarely seen works by Hoang. The show focuses on two bodies of work by the artist: ‘Pinhole, 1972’ (2012 – 2013) and ‘The Bathers’ (2009), both of which are inspired by the Renaissance, a period of history that the artist equates with personal liberation.
The era was marked with a desire to learn, to improve oneself, as well as the wider world, and brought with it exhilaration, promise and change. Hoang imagines the same atmosphere in Vietnam in 1972 when the country was still at war with the U.S. For ‘Pinhole, 1972’ the artist draws upon the historical accounts of Hanoi in former East German journalist Thomas Billhardt’s 1972 photo essay “Hanoi Am Tage vor dem Friede.” The works began with Hoang re-photographing the images in Billhardt’s book using a pinhole lens, intentionally creating gaps and distortions of the original photos 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. That Hoang focuses on images from 1972 is significant as the year marks the marriage of his parents. The series is a highly personal one that involved research into his family archives resulting in a journey that has revealed complex and layered histories, memories and stories of resilient individuals uncertain about the future yet filled with hope.
The most recent ‘Pinhole, 1972’ paintings include images the artist culled from the web of central and south Vietnam during this period. As Billhardt’s book reflects only narratives from the North, Hoang wanted to include stories and perspectives from other regions of Vietnam in this series of work that celebrates and memorializes a dramatic period of Vietnamese history.
‘The Bathers’, too, was inspired by photo essays but from those originating in North Korea while Hoang was in Tokyo on an artist residency. Hoang states, “I felt anxiety about North Korea nearby. Then down on the streets I felt the contrary. People hurriedly walking; they seemed to be very indifferent. In the news, the complaints of the journalists about the difficulties when taking photographs of North Korean people struck me. I found the daily photo essays from North Korea interesting. It was like a big deadly show.” Referring to the theatricality of war, Hoang’s characters appear as masks and communicate a state of confusion as experienced through the photojournalists. Borrowing its title from Michelangelo’s unfinished fresco of the Florentine army, nude after a dip in the river, hastily preparing for battle against Pisa, ‘The Bathers’ suggests that change is afoot and hope and desire will endure.