Written by: Nguyễn Anh Tuấn, Phạm Út Quyên
English translation: Trần Ngân Hà
Heritage Space, Hanoi, July 2018
Photos: Dương Thanh Quang, Thùy Linh. Heritage Space 2018
Under the main concept around the number 9, using the slim metal sculpture, and the understanding that sculpture is the organic entity in the artist-centered space, the exhibition “3 . 3 . 3” presents a rational, but equally aesthetic with a figurative and symbolic visual language, forms sliced into a large surface, and a constant interest in the physical space structure. physical space structure. Approaching from a different angle when the volume is not emphasized or the statues available at the artist’s workshop are not used, the sculptures in the exhibition are interpreted in a transforming manner of the artist’s thinking, opening a new view on the undiscovered potential of sculptor Lê Công Thành. Three clusters of thin metal sculptures, each consisting of three bronze statues selected from three sketches of the artist, are enlarged in different dimensions, at the height of 1m8, 2m7, 3m6 and 4m5. All measurements are divisors and multiples of number 9 (nine) – the perfect number according to ancient oriental philosophies, considered to be capable of expressing the artist’s highest integrity of spiritual concepts. The sculptures selected for the exhibition represent the typical forms appearing throughout the creative career of Lê Công Thành : the female body, totem objects, endless column, full of mystery, sensuality, desire and grandiosity.
Enlarging a statue is not just a technical job with calculations on proportions, measurements and mechanical manipulation. A straight line, enlarged or contracted appears to be no different. A curve that, when magnified, retains its sense of amplitude, curvature, round arcs, requires a precision in arithmetic, and a sensitivity of the aesthetic sense. For a sinusoidal curve with different rhythms, or folding lines, the degree of difficulty is much higher by adding the ability to control and balance the accuracy with intuition, and the skill of ‘coordinating’ that synchronization. These lines combine together, then put into a three-dimensional interface, is the sculpture body. With sculpture, therefore, it is not easy to transform a small statue into a big one, especially for different kinds of space and environment. In addition to the skills of art and aesthetics, it requires the caliber of the artist, the ability to explain and transform the elements, characteristics of space into sculpture, and the ability to re-define that space with one’s sculpture.
The change of artistic style from sculpture with circular and solid blocks to slimy-sliced blocks, is definitely not just a short and simple process. Globular and spherical blocks are flattened, extending indefinitely. Flat and elongated slim blocks open up the flexibility of inner motion, when the whole mass can bend into folded rhythms, dividing the space into sub-regions that move according to the curvature of the block – which at the time serves as the boundary. From the subject of guiding the sight and imposing on the space, the sculpture block becomes the auxiliary element when it ‘only’ acts as the ‘visual convention’ maker of that space. And the hollow space becomes a ‘virtual’ sculpture, but it is more flexible, omnidirectional and multifaceted, because of the mobility capacity, the variability of the masses – the slim ‘sculptures’. The shift from the ‘subject imposing the gaze’ to the ‘conductor – leading the view’, the ‘permutation’ of the substance of the mass is a major transformation in terms of cognitive and artistic language. It represents a distinctly sculptural status, which is maneuverable and serene in harmony with the movement rhythm of society, the capacity to create visual conflicts, raids of dimensions and multidimensional interfaces. Certainly it is a great reflection of external factors on the artist, and it is ‘reflected’ in turn in Lê Công Thành’s own artistic language.
Not just placing the works like conventional sculpture exhibition, the entire exhibit space is intervened so that the sculptures become a harmony and integrated with the surrounding space, as well as serve as a guide for the audience. The space was set up both vertically and horizontally also coincides with the totem-shaped objects and endless columns of Lê Công Thành’s sculpture. The vertical axis makes the viewers look up – the horizontal axis separates the public from the work. The podium is carefully calculated to give the public just enough space to admire the work. The ‘look-up’ of the audience leads to a sense of ‘admiration’. The graphics in the gallery space used white decal paper as main material, which creates a sense of hidden and suggestive: it was there and not there. Graphic, taken from the no.3 in the form of visual (typo). No. 3 appears in the exhibition title to give the original visual perception, then it is transformed, cloned and inductive, to form the nonlinear visual series on the flat wall of the gallery. The visual augmentation of this graphic solution aimed at not conflicting with sculpture – the main object of the exhibition and the ‘main entity’ allowed to exist in that space. So the graphics are represented by ‘invisible’ material, which is located on all sides of the wall but the viewer needs pay attention to recognize them. And when they do appear, they do not appear to be all-encompassing, but rather ‘eclipsed’, in order to open up and guide the sight to the massive, solid, possessed and still of the sculpture.
Lê Công Thành’s thin metal sculpture was born in 1985 after he decided to retreat to his own artistic world after completing his only monument work at Nui Thanh. It’s not that Lê Công Thành hates monument sculpture. He was only disgusted with the empty, nameless, non-characteristic, and non-artistic way of making monuments. In a small workshop almost closed to the world, no longer tied up by the so-called ‘orientation’ of composition, Lê Công Thành activated fully his creative power by experimenting with all the different ways of expressing that image and forms could bring. Lê Công Thành “dreams of monument works comparable to what Moore or Calder has done for the UNESCO office in Paris” fearing that “my dreams will die with me”.
This exhibition first aims at realizing a hypothesis in Lê Công Thành’s work: for the first time bringing his work into a large space. Knowing that all these are small and medium-sized sketches, composed in a modest and closed space, viewers will be amazed at the capacity of the works to be enlarged to fit the diverse forms and functions of urban spaces or natural environments. This requires from the artist creativity, extraordinary imagination, computation and control over material, work structure and space. The exhibition then wants to reaffirm Lê Công Thành ‘s position as a contemporary artist who is still breathing in the atmosphere of modern sculpture and is still creating with all his passion.
(1) Jeffrey Hantover, Uncorked Soul: Contemporary Art from Vietnam – NXB Plum Blossoms (International) Ltd, 1991
Some images from the exhibition: