Has the locus of Vietnamese contemporary art shifted from Hanoi to HCMC?
KVT headed south to take a look for himself. The result is a series of articles about his encounters.
Read more articles here.
KVT comes face to face with the work of Nguyen Thi Thanh Mai: part one
This episode was going to be about that excellent independent art space, San Art…and in a way it is. But as every time my mind turns to San Art my inner visuals always switch to the work of one of three artists on display there when I visited… an artist from Hue, Nguyen Thi Thanh Mai. So I’ll save San Art till next time and concentrate on the first of two pieces centering an exceptionally talented young woman. This piece and another in a couple of weeks when I’ve reached Hue and met Mai face to face.
When I visited San Art the final results of San Art Laboratory, Session One, was up and running and I though I was impressed with the installations of Tuan Mami and spent some time with those of Truong Cong Tung it was the vaginal speculums of Mai that brought me to a standstill and had me hanging around the space for much longer than I had intended.
Although a lot of out alpha male artists won’t like this at all…it was suggested to me while down south that the next Vietnamese artists to dominate the international spotlight will be the up and coming females…and I hope this is all too true! And I know that when that spotlight points our way that Mai (born 1983) will be basking in its glow.
Let’s see Mai’s artist statement……to me the female body is a complicated, mysterious and beautiful structure. Any invasion or occupation of that structure can cause serious personal damage….in my work I use medical tools that are used in gynecological pathology, such as vaginal speculums. To me they are the objects that invade female bodies; they occupy and divest that woman’s power, privacy, beauty and sanctity. These instruments are the recurring symbols in these works inferring an obsession, worry, fear and insecurity……my art seeks to discover and reveal the marks that were made by such invasion and occupation….
The first time I came across vaginal speculum was in an historical medical museum in Burlington, Vermont a couple of years ago and I was fascinated by their seeming macabre intent (they were rusted, stained and cold looking speculum from a hundred years ago) and wondered how they could be used in an art piece…and now they have been…modern ones… and superbly!
In a medical cabinet with a see through glass top and pullout drawers Mai has mounted varieties of vaginal speculum. These speculum are bound in young rubber and appear like specimens to be inspected by medical students…..or x rays
Lit from underneath they appear as if they are invading, even tearing soft body tissue. It’s as if you are witnessing the invasion of the body by these speculum that look more like instruments of torture and I guess that when women are faced by a doctor, perhaps a male doctor, bearing down on them with one of the instruments, they may have similar thoughts
Then there is the other dimension of Mai’s installation.
Here she presents the speculum as jeweled works of art worthy of being on display at gallery Vivekkevin.. which was the sparkling subject of part three of my journal.
They are certainly works of extreme beauty.
I’ll leave the work of Nguyen Thi Thanh Mai here- until I reconnect with her and more of her fascinating art at The Craig Thomas Gallery which had the courage to exhibit her ‘Scar’, and again in Hue over coffee- and allow you to digest and comment, if you like, on this body of work
Next chapter is definitely San Art.
|Kiem Van Tim is a keen observer of life in general and the Hanoi cultural scene in particular and offers some of these observations to the Grapevine. KVT insists that these observations and opinion pieces are not critical reviews. Please see our Comment Guidelines / Moderation Policy and add your thoughts in the comment field below.|