Exhibition “Heebie Jeebies”

Exhibition “Heebie Jeebies”

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Artwork by La Ba Quan

Opening: Thu 12 Dec 2019, 5 pm
Exhibition: 12 – 29 Dec 2019, 9 am – 12 pm and 1.30 – 5 pm
VICAS Art Studio
32 Hao Nam Street, Dong Da District, Hanoi

From the organizer:

In the world where natural and social sciences have all developed, the human beings are likely to have been decoded/deciphered in every aspect. But in fact, contrarily, they have not been seen thoroughly. People are more and more recognizing that the materialist ideas and sciences cannot explain well the extremely complex and mysterious spiritual side of human beings.

The human being is a complex entity consisting of the body and the soul (‘hon’ and ‘via’ / ‘phach’ in Vietnamese). According to indigenous belief, soul is the spiritual part of man. The soul and the spirit always exist within the body when one is alive and only is apart from the body once the person is dead. Therefore, it can be said that the soul is the part that determines the personality of the person.

1. There is a Vietnamese idiom which goes “hon xieu phach lac” (meaning panic-stricken or get the heebie-jeebies) to describe a state in which man loses their spirit and energy out of fear. In folk culture, when scolding someone, Vietnamese would say “Mind you soul!”. They also have ritual of soul summoning as their traditional custom which all show the preference towards the soul. In case the soul somehow gets hurt, lost, occupied or invaded by another evil souls, then the person, even if not dead, is considered “a rotten one”.

Every Vietnamese is brought up with that belief even though it is not taught in any school. The artist La Ba Quan is not an exception, the only difference is that he is able to express his experiences through artworks. Of course, no one can see the soul which is invisible, even the artist can only see and express it through the body: The faces, the bodies corresponding to various positive or negative spiritual states. These may be smeared, “crushed” and unidentified faces with large streaks of color, showing a state of “spiritlessness” or “out of wit”. There are melting bodies showing the state of the soul slowly leaving the body, while other paintings depict evil energies like evil spirits (to signify the invasion or the rise of evil spirits or the negative part inside the soul of a human being – those who are distorted by lust and by drugs). On the other side, La Ba Quan also has works that manifest positive energies in the human soul.

Anyone who knows La Ba Quan’s previous paintings will see a sharp change in his thinking and artistic language:
* From figurative painting (human figures in distorted forms but still reflecting a certain human character in reality), to more closely to non-figurative painting to abstract the states of souls;
* In terms of style, he continues his familiar fast and strong brushworks with large and thick colors but more extreme;
* In terms of color, he also shows the difference with works from previous phases: less colors, more saturation, less hot / bright colors, more cool / dark ones.

I think this is an adventurous breakthrough, which can be seen as an artist’s transformation, and fortunately, it has successfully and actually created a new La Ba Quan, who is different and can go further. With this new series of paintings, La Ba Quan contributed a unique voice to Vietnamese contemporary fine arts, bringing about a complex visual impression, which is the harmony between the visible and the invisible, between the positive and negative energies, between rationality and intuition and between excitement and panic…

Artwork by Nguyen Thanh

2. Also being interested in the soul but artist Nguyen Thanh concerns about the soul of the society instead of the individual. More precisely, his artworks are about the collective unconscious states, which are affecting the mentality of Vietnamese people today. At this exhibition, he did not paint but made sculptures: Busts with unidentified and soulless faces placed on top with various objects: guns as symbols of war; dragons, phoenix or purlins normally seen in temples as symbols of long lasting tradition. Everyone can naturally feel that these works are about the war obsession of the people who have suffered so many sorrow of wars or felt the burden of tradition. In my opinion, what the author wants to trigger in each work are not only some metaphors, new shaping features or surfacing techniques of the statues, but also questions and dialogues with the audience: Whether or not does exist a social mental state: “Lost of soul” or “heebie-jeebies”? Why those kinds of mental state still haunt the Vietnamese people even when the wars had receded for decades? A nation cannot be without its tradition, but how can the tradition not become an obstacle and burden for the social development?

Hanoi, 30 October 2019

Bui Quang Thang
Art Director – Vicas Art Studio

VICAS Art Studio
32 Hao Nam Street, Dong Da District, Hanoi
Opening hours: 9 am – 12 pm and 1.30 – 5 pm, Monday – Sunday

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