KVT likes the urban tales of Luong Trung
The first paintings that I saw and liked by artist Luong Trung were foreshortened canvasses of young men around their inevitable motor bikes as in this link and this cheeky one called ‘No Argument’ from a previous, joint exhibition
In his latest solo exhibition, Life Stories, at Nguyen Art Gallery in Van Mieu, he includes another. This one, ‘Waiting For Work’ is extremely powerful and, for me, portrays the fate of hordes of young men in the city who eke out existences relying on low paid casual work.
Apart from the above, in this series of paintings Luong Trung uses children as subjects, often using foreshortening as a device to draw you right into the scene.
Now a few know it alls in the local art scene will naturally compare Trung’s work with recent stuff by excellent and successful artists such as Pham Huy Thong, and others will yell too Chinese!!! To all of these I say sucks!
Trung is no stranger to painting kids as this link indicates but I prefer the portrayals in these latest comments on life in Hanoi for those inhabitants who live in relocated housing developments.
As I read the artist’s statement, when people are relocated from old neighborhoods to new high rise apartments in areas where construction is going on non stop, the new ‘settlers’ have to leave older established community and neighborhood mores behind and attempt to stitch together new ones. New neighbors are usually alien to each other and to the constraints and contradictions of huge, impersonal high rise living.
The effects are well documented in myriad cities in myriad countries worldwide. In the West the dilemma was first and dramatically portrayed in the 1961 novel ‘A Clockwork Orange’ by Anthony Burgess which was brought to terrible cinematic realization by Stanley Kubrick ten years later.
It is common for authors and film makers to ascribe the new ‘relocated’ high rise areas that house the workers and the unemployed as being areas of dystopia, especially for the young who grow up without a sense of purposeful community and who often grow to dysfunctional adulthood and parenthood. Thus they end up perpetuating vicious cycles of physical and sexual abuse, criminality, victim hood, drug abuse, unemployment and low standards of education
I think that it is to the above conjectures that Luong Trung is referring in his sometimes powerful societal comments and it is perhaps pertinent that he uses children to indicate his concerns and on site observations. One has to be full of trepidation for their futures.
Not that all of his urban scenes are dire. Some have a nice sense of childish innocence about them and if they weren’t in the company of their up yours peers, or you didn’t look closely enmoiugh, then they’d even be cute.
I like the way in which the inhabitants of his canvasses are often painted thinly, whereas their living environment is thick, almost swamping them with its definite unconcern.
The very powerful works for me were the couple that showed the children, the victims of a lifestyle lacking in traditional cultural community and family norms, victimizing and taunting beggars. These very lowly ones are shown with adult faces, perhaps to re-enforce the disappearance of the age old respect for the elderly and empathy for the disadvantaged.
The pimp and the prostitute is stomach churning
Anyway….enough from me and more from Luong Trung. It’s best to see the works live as the images don’t do them vivid justice.
The exhibition closes on Monday and its very worth while spending time in the company of the very real inhabitants of Luong Trung’s world. It’s funny, sobering and not a little scary!
PS: all the opinions expressed above are those of the author and my apologies to the artist if I got it wrong
|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.|