KVT writes an essay in praise of memory and painting
This year it seems that Ho Chi Minh City is surpassing Hanoi as the focus of Vietnam’s art scene and I was missing out on seeing some really good contemporary work by exciting Hanoi-an artists. So when I discovered that another of our best talents had been tempted to bypass the local scene with its dearth of good, professional galleries and take his new series down south, I decided to get a peek.
I contacted Tuan Anh, the artist in transit, and he agreed that he’d let me have a survey of his body of work called ‘Xa’, translated as ‘Faraway’, in his studio
After being completely taken in by the intellectually engaging canvasses and listening to Tuan Anh’s passionate discourse about them I decided to write about my experience with the artist and his work.
As usual I hope that my story, my listening ability, my interpretations, guesses and prognoses do not stray too far away from the artist’s intent…and even if they do they can’t disparage a grand and engrossing array of work.
My knowledge of Taoism is not strong enough to decode a lot of that symbolism that Tuan Anh uses to add meaning to his work and I leave that for those more adept.
For an excellent overview of Tuan Anh’s exhibition at the Craig Thomas Gallery read the Curatorial Essay by Craig Thomas and Xuan Mai Ardia
The artist, his wife and small son visit his wife’s European homeland
One day, alone, he walks down a street in a strange city surrounded by strangers and strange words and his nose twitches as faint aromas of nuoc mam-fish sauce drift across his path. Perhaps from a south east Asian restaurant.. For a long, nostalgic moment he is returned to the cooking fires of his childhood.
An old, 1955 song pushes into his consciousness and refuses to leave. It is ‘Perfumes of Yesteryear’ by Cuong Tien . ….
Have you ever let your soul wander along a dream?
A dream carrying you far away to dear home
Where leaves are whispering
Where remembered trees still stand
Where I was at one with stars and sounds of peace
And where I still remember a thousand once upon a times
When life was filled with sweet dreams…………..
Landscapes and memories of his childhood in rural Dong Son, Thanh Hoa, flood his mind
He muses on the possibility of someday relocating to his wife’s homeland and thinks about the memories and objects he would bring with him so that he could stay connected to the places and people of his past.
He recalls a taxi he rode in recently, driven by a Bangladeshi. The inside of the cab was thickly decorated with mementos from the man’s home community. It was scented with memories, sweet and sad
As he wanders he ponders the essential values of his life, about those closely dependent on him. He is keenly aware of his role as a father and. he knows that part of every father longs for his own boyhood to be understood by his son.