An interview with Bui Quoc Khanh about his exhibition “Long Lasting Dreams”

An interview with Bui Quoc Khanh about his exhibition “Long Lasting Dreams”

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Written by Ut Quyen for Hanoi Grapevine and VCCA
Photos provided by the artists (unless otherwise specified)
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Solo exhibition “Long Lasting Dreams” is taking place at VCCA from 10 Sep to 16 Oct with 9 brand new works created in 2019 by Bui Quoc Khanh.

“Long Lasting Dreams” is the second solo exhibition that marks a milestone on the artistic journey of exploration and self-expression of Bui Quoc Khanh. If you have seen his first solo exhibition “Mot Vong Di” (“Circle of Life”, Oct 2018, at 29 Hang Bai), you will probably recall being overwhelmed with these vibrant pop art styled paintings, the artist’s meticulousness in every decorative pattern, and the abundance of metaphorical images from pop culture of every era, from the East to the West, expressing the artist’s satirical, sarcastic take on society.

Hanoi Grapevine had had the chance to talk with Bui Quoc Khanh on this exhibition.

How did you collaborate with VCCA for this exhibition?

After applying for VCCA “Young Artists Incubation Program” (more about the program at the end of the article), Mr. Mizuki (VCCA Art Director – interviewer) invited me to this project, through which I have the chance to bring my latest work to the public.

Long lasting dreams

Why did you choose the Pop-art expression style combined with the decorative patterns to create the visual language in the these works?

My current visual language is built on a main foundation: First of all, I studied traditional lacquer painting. In lacquer painting, graphic decoration elements are very strong. However, with lacquer, I still cannot find my own language. In the process of struggling to find my own voice, I discovered that oil painting is capable of expressing the story that I want to tell.

What is this story you want to tell here?

For me to paint is much like to write, the artist’s work must reflect exactly what he experiences, the most honest feelings from within each person. Each artist has a direction for themselves to choose different creative compositions. Unlike many others, my path to art is quite tricky. I studied and worked many jobs to practice art, which helped me to interact with all kinds of people in society and that became the material for my works.

“Long Lasting Dreams” is my contemplation of Vietnamese social context with many issues in economic, political and social life such as: migration from rural to urban areas, social evils, environmental problems, exhaustion of mineral resources, misleading views of family and social morals… All of which becomes a dream that lasts forever with no end in sight. Of the nine works on display in this exhibition, one bears such a name.

Your works are very complex. How did you create them and where do you find your inspiration?

I often consider sketching ideas for a work as script writing, and my painting a stage. In my sketchbook there is actually no image, all are described in words. For example, I will write down all the notes that this character has, who they are, where they will be and what they do in the paintings, and what are the decorative elements.

Quy doi (Exchange)

The idea for an artwork can arrive anytime, anywhere. Like for “Quy doi” (Exchange), the idea came one morning when I went downstairs and saw the maid who was preparing my breakfast, I felt like I was paying not for meals but for other people’s time. And so the painting is set in a restaurant, a feast in which there are people from every era, and it is not food but time on the hands of the waiters. Everything people are eating is the time they have. Everyone has a certain amount of time, and when we spend this time for one thing, there is no time for other. So it all converts to time. and the important thing in life is how we consider using our limited time.

Working many jobs that have nothing to do with art, how do you “exchange” your limited time to have time to paint?

Everyone knows that to be an artist, especially in Vietnam, comes with a lot of difficulties. There are very few art organizations that support artists. While the government encourages supports more common entertainment activities. I had to find a way to earn money in order to make art. After my first solo exhibition, I have put aside all other jobs, except for teaching at Hanoi College of Arts, and use the remaining time to focus on painting.

Teaching sometimes takes up a lot of time, but it still makes me excited. I consider teaching students a way to teach myself. Being an artist is a rather disorganized job, because no one manages me, only I create pressure on myself, and set my own rules to work.

Thank you for sharing!

Bui Quoc Khanh, photo: Nguyen Duc Tung


Taking place simultaneously at VCCA, two exhibitions “In the City” by Doan Xuan Tung and “Long Lasting dreams” by Bui Quoc Khanh promise to be an interesting dialogue of two artists of somewhat different personalities but with the same way of utilize Pop-art expression language as well as concerns about the modern society, following very distinctive directions.

The two exhibitions are part of the VCCA 2019 Young Artists Incubation Program aiming to accompany and support young Vietnamese artists in their career. The solo exhibitions are an opportunity for the artists to approach their audience and familiarize themselves with the professional exhibiting environment, as well as introduce their latest works to the grand public.

Translated by Hanoi Grapevine


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