A much more sedate installation, in tranquil blue and white, but also aromatic, has opened in Galerie Quynh. Nguyen Phuong Linh’s solo show coincidentally also has a short, resonant title, ‘Dust’. The first pieces on view are cubic tons of tobacco, soap and rubber. The scent of these raw materials permeated the neighbourhood in Hanoi where Linh grew up.
The walls upstairs are divided by a horizontal line of small scale blueprints, made in Japan with the now barely used original blueprint method. The intense cobalt blue has a purplish hue. The clean, somewhat minimal display of the whole gallery makes the rich, warm colour appear colder than it could, but the closeness with which one must look at the work means that a gentle intimacy infuses the show. It’s a beautiful feeling to examine the little collections of images, tidy like a lavender-scented wardrobe. I’m particularly drawn to the title and the topic. I want to grow a sisterhood rapport with this artist who admits to noticing subtle change in air colour and texture. I share a love for the little observations Linh has recorded methodically, connecting routine urban visions with memories and the little surprises of noticing unusual characteristics of foreign places.
The little blueprints skirt around a large ‘Whitescape’, 2 tons of powdered limestone, a breathtaking sight. Disguised as a landscape, the room appears to dwarf. It reminds me of the striking miniature snowscapes by Mariele Neudecker. The dust has been whitewashed, sitting harmlessly like fresh snow. The perils of lung damage have been swept away by the poised visual reconstruction.
Finally, the artist leaves two books on a table. One is a neatly finished collection of blueprints. The other is a grey copy of it, but with Vietnamese replacing the English text of the blue book. I can’t help laughing at the grey book, with its cheap texture characteric of photocopied books – so widespread in Vietnam. An inferior product, the grey book is the only real nudge amidst these artworks that speaks literally of the dirt of dust.
Our big thanks to Cristina Nualart for agreeing to provide us the article and images.
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