Exploring Boxes at the Viet Art Center
It’s amazing what you can find when you amble around the city on a fine and cool weekend! But it’s a pity that I stumbled across the Viet Art Center in Yet Kieu on the second last day of sculptor Dao Chau Hai’s exhibition because, after you’ve read this, most of you won’t have time to get to see one of the most exciting art installations we’ve seen in Hanoi this year.
I’ve seen one of Hai’s anvils/buffaloes (they resemble blacksmith anvils but I think they represent those iconic and wonderful beasts of labor….the anvils of the rice fields!?). I could be wrong but I’m going to continue with that metaphor anyway because once it stuck in my mind I couldn’t get rid of it…..sort of like waking up with a song fixated in your brain and no matter how hard you try you can’t chuck it away.
The main point of reference in the darkened gallery is the huge sculpture in the small gallery space….it looks deceptively heavy but is made of thin steel plate with buffalo hide attached. It’s really good….all of the four individual pieces are displayed in box-like cubes and this one, the real, live thing, rather than being partially camouflaged in a wooden framed cage with nylon mesh walls, is in a metaphoric cage and looks stunning (or is that mainly because I’m a buffalo freak and wish I could ride one home from the fields every sun setting evening?)
The other three, of similar size, are also very engaging. Seen from the outside of the mesh they have a mysterious quality that makes you determined to get up close…and each cage has an entry flap that allows you to enter and talk to the beast.
How could anyone not be impressed with the one made of layered glass and embedded with twinkling lights. I call it the celestial Con Trau. Viewed from within or without its box it is stunning.
The piece made in 3D outline with a skin of steel mesh, lift from within by green fluorescent tubes, is also great viewing.
But it’s the one made of steel plate and with an aquarium full of gently bubbling water, see-through plastic tubing coiled like intestines, and also lit with green fluro tubes, that makes you smile enormously. Con Trau Chewing Cud? It’s a bit Damien Hirst Meets The Paddies and is wonderful.
Wish I’d known the exhibition was on earlier as I’d have dragged a few people along. (Note from Hanoi Grapevine – the announcement for this show arrived very late but it is now online. Read it here.)
It was the first part of an interesting exhibition that began with Hai on the 17th (which would have made me have second thoughts about going due to the rain and chill). The wall blurb states that the work of 3 of Hanoi’s most important sculptors will be shown in separate exhibitions in the same venue, and I assume with the same theme (in a box) until the end of the month ….17 to 21; 22 to 25; 26 to 29; with artists’ talks on the 30th.
If the rest are as good as this one it may well herald a hiatus of excitement in the parade of ‘Safe but Good Art’ that has been our fare since the beginning of the solar new year, Nguyen Tuan’s Dreaming Buddha’s at the Art Museum in January….even though they were a trifle truncated by officialdom…ignited the year with expectation and it’s a relief to see the flame still flaring..
Anyway, if the weather stays cool I’ll keep you posted about the rest of the series. But I’m getting the City Jitters and am looking forward to a warm and clear spell so that I can get on the motor bike for a week or two and explore some roads that wind up and into peaked and terraced peacefulnesses where Tay are rare and Kinh seldom.
|Not a reviewer, not a critic, “Kiếm Văn Tìm” is an interested, impartial and informed observer and connoisseur of the Hanoi art scene who offers highly opinionated remarks and is part of the long and venerable tradition of anonymous correspondents. Please add your thoughts in the comment field below.|