KVT – Almost wordless (but not quite), with appreciation

KVT – Almost wordless (but not quite), with appreciation

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I always attempt to go to art galleries and exhibitions with a mind like an empty jar. For the present show at Art Vietnam I had to do a metaphorical looking at the wall meditation and allow any loaded words spill onto the ground. So once I got rid of a few like Tet, gang, scholar, spiritual, ancient, nom, calligraphy, intellectual, Zen, philosophy… and once I reined in my anticipation… I was ready to have a look.

And the exhibition is a triumph. It’s exciting… and very worthwhile making sure you get to the gallery when you can have it all to yourself. If, like me, you were initially blown away you’ll need a return trip to digest it all. It’s only after the second foray that I’ve decided to read the blurbs and the text in the extremely handsome catalogue. These have added an historical and intellectual aspect to my appreciation of the work but it’s my initial ooohhhh and aaahhh reaction that will remain embedded in my mind.

If you’re an old timer Hanoian art looker then you’ll have been anticipating that the work by the Gang was going to be impressive, particularly if they were to outdo previous shows. And of course just the name Le Quoc Viet is enough to send anticipatory shivers up a load of viewers’ spines.

Not to denigrate in any way the curating of this show, but one day I hope that Le Quoc Viet’s installations will be shown in isolation without any peripheral visuals. The vertical mirror wall with attached ceramic balls is stunning and the immense altar frames strung with blue and white plates would be even more overwhelmingly good in a long space. Once you’ve seen them then imagine a field of four or five more. You’d spend a couple of hours in their presence.

One day soon Le Quoc Viet is going to have one of those seminal textual art works that sets the international art world alight. I can see it standing beside Wenda Gu’s 1998 Temple of Heaven or Xu Bing’s Book From The Sky (1987-91)… both of which are ‘wordless’.

The installation on the top floor is also impressive and seems to be a logical extension of very effective earlier work. If you can, see the image of the lanterns as presented in the catalogue and see which one you prefer. If I was curating a major exhibition of the artist’s work in, say, a biennale, I’d be tempted to have each in adjoining, but isolated spaces. The lanterns are great lit from within or, by daylight, as externally illuminated objects.

The rest of the Gang’s work is also extremely aesthetically pleasing and, at times, very exciting. Undoubtedly art critics and writers in respected art journals will, and should, properly interpret, analyze and deconstruct the works or the exhibition. For me, my fascination and long time obsession lies with text that works as good, contemporary art. And it does work, excellently, in the individual and combined work of the four other Gang members.

Initially I favored Nguyen Duc Dung’s pieces but then Tran Trong Duong rose to number one, but then when I made that hypothetical choice of purchasing one, I had to buy one from each of the four… and if you are interested in getting a very good art work on paper at a very reasonable price then you can’t go wrong with any here… and they’re never going to be cheaper.

It’s a show that all art aficionados, and even first timers, should see.

I know that it’s a bit timorous and cheeky to suggest a co-operative venture in the very competitive world of commercial galleries, but to show off Le Quoc Viet’s present work to full advantage I’d love to see it in glorious isolation in, say, the Au Co.

If more post-Tet commercial exhibitions are as good as this one I’ll be in hey diddle diddling right up over the moon.

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.


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