Light Movement in “Interface” by Oanh Phi Phi

Light Movement in “Interface” by Oanh Phi Phi

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Written with photos by Hà Bi and from the artist’s website (last photo) for Hanoi Grapevine
Please do not copy or re-post without permission

With a desire to bring lacquer – Vietnam’s national art form – out of the borderline of “handicrafts”, Oanh Phi Phi put all her strength into “Interface” in a game of light and movement. “Interface” makes people admire its magnificent beauty, but also enjoy the new, liberal way of expression…

The solo exhibition entitled “Interface” by artist Oanh Phi Phi has been on display from early May 2019 in Saigon, with two works: Specula and Palimpsest. Specula is made up of 24 traditional-style mosaics (paint on curved materials, then polish and repeat until the work is thick and glossy) shaped into a magnificent dome tunnel. Palimpsest is a different game of modern materials, placing small lacquer templates on a lense then projected them on the screen.

Sketches for Specula

Taking two years (2017-2019) to create and realize (2019), Specula is one of Oanh Phi Phi’s most passionate works in terms of both size and experiment with time and materials. She called this “a photographic installation work”. The tunnel was big enough for viewers to be immersed in layers of illuminated patterns. Move a step and the variation of light and angle brings a new perspective to the viewers. At this point, the viewers themselves are on the duty of an “endoscope”, entering and freeing their minds. This may be a sparkling galaxy with millions of tiny dust particles, which may be the motifs of the cathedral dome, or the view of a child through a kaleidoscope … Such creativity contributes to the value of the work.

Continuing the essence of previous artworks, Palimpsest places lacquered ‘skins’ (paints
on clear film) on a lens then projects it onto a large screen. This projection allows tiny details to be revealed, as if looking through a microscope. A piece that could fit into your hand, in the blink of an eye, zoomed into millions of meticulous details. This project therefore touches on brightness control, constant changes in sizes and viewpoints, and even technology dependence… – all reflect how we interact with reality in every moment.

Not just using lacquer to create paintings, photographs or handicrafts, Oanh Phi Phi wants to put this magic material under the light of a projector, clear film, glass … to discover brand new shapes, letting go of old, pre-existing concepts of lacquer. Oanh Phi Phi’s fifteen years of working with the technique has given contemporary lacquer an opportunity to free from the old ideas on this very potential type of national art that has yet to be utilized and invested properly.

“Interface” is on display at The Factory, HCMC from 10 May to 21 Jul 2019.

A part of the Specula tunnel
The audience immersed in a game of light and lacquer
Palimpsest or an adventure of lacquer and modern technology (photo by the artist)

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