Opening: Sat 05 Dec 2020, 05 pm
Exhibiton: 05 – 13/12/2020
Fine Arts Museum
66 Nguyễn Thái Học, Hà Nội
From the organizer:
Born and bred in the delta of Northern Vietnam, the region’s ancient religious architecture, such as pagoda, temple, shrine, or communal hall, always holds a dear place in my heart with not only images of time-honored architectural features such as roof, pillar, carving, etc., but also the atmospheric vibrations of the play of shimmering lights, the echo of the golden old days, or the unpretentiousness of stone and wood, still very much alive, still possessing great spiritual values.
In the dialogue between visuals and perceptions, I come into contact with the channeling energy of heavens and earth and the interchange between the generations past and present and all supernatural beings, invisible but real and near, encompassing all, infusing all, leading one into an other-worldly realm.
The language of my body of works is inspired primarily by the shapes and forms of Vietnam’s traditional religious architecture, in particular the ancient cloud carving. Cloud is a formless natural phenomenon that was given a form by traditional artisans and craftspeople using a swirling motif which has become a common decorative feature in traditional religious architecture, creating an effect which is both natural and familiar on one hand and mysterious and heavenly on the other. Cloud has also been used as a religious symbol, one that connects our mundane existence with the higher religious and spiritual realm.
In my body of works, shapes are covered, infused, and connected by cloud. At times, cloud is but a half-hidden grain on the surface of a minimalist block of stone. Whenever touching a stone surface, I come into dialogue with this primal material that is as old as the earth itself. During my sculpting process, be it cutting, carving, shaping, polishing, or coloring, I can hear the echo of the past and the quiet but never-ceasing voices of the by-gone days.
Monumental and Fetishistic
The Village culture has been a primary source of inspiration for the majority of Vietnamese artists in a dual manner: “promoting the traditional heritage” and “modernizing and globalizing art”. A foreign art critic once commented, “The artists (of the đổi mới* era around the 90’s) arrived at the modern language of art via the Village path”. This path is confirmed once again by Luong Trinh in his very original and contemporary collection of sculptural artworks. The surreal and imposing hollow blocks of mystifying black stone deconstruct the roofs of pagodas, temples, and especially communal halls – the most celebrated and symbolic motif of Vietnam’s traditional architecture. The seemingly endless curve of a Vietnamese falchion like a soaring primal bird cutting into the blue sky also makes one think, curiously enough, of the minimalism of shape much appreciated in modern-day design. Layer upon layer of stylized clouds form a regal coat that covers all material beings. The majestic constant is but one with the everchanging impermanent. The cloud-like breaths of mountains and rivers remind one of the olden oath of loyalty to the nation that remains intact through time. The combination of contrasting forms and movements – stationary and flying, static and floating, permanent and temporary – makes the artworks as monumental as they are romantic. What most Vietnamese artists love about the Village culture is often described as simple, folkish, unpretentious, quaint, charming, cute, quirky, so on and so forth. Very few appreciate it the way Luong Trinh does, for what is fundamentally more important: its sacred grandeur, its standard-setting aesthetic, and its Upanishads spirituality. What is even more significant is the artist’s courageous belief that this great stature and depth of the Vietnamese soul still exists in each and every one of us today. The temple roof sculptures, laden with the weight of time and history as an ancient citadel wall, open up airily like an umbrella casting its looming shadow when turned upside down. The multi-level pagoda or temple sculptures overgrown with moss and vines reach proudly and quietly heavenward among ancient limestone mountains mirroring themselves in the crystal-clear water of the village river. More than just pieces of contemporary art, they are stupas of the spiritual realm. More than just artworks showing off their smart and modernistic concepts, they make one reminisce about the mantra-carved stone pillars of Dinh Lien and the thousands of stupas built by King Ly Thanh Tong for humanity all over the world. Definitely adequate for any decorative purpose, be it outdoor or indoor, for a private home or a luxurious hotel, Luong Trinh’s sculptural artworks reach for a much deeper inner world in each individual.
When not covered with cloud patterns, the sculptures boast of curves both soft and sharp, liberated and defined, sensual visages, tender yonis, assured lingams, etc. all made of black stone and brought together in an ensemble most peculiar and fascinating, full of moving forms and lights, echoing ritualistic fetishes in primitive communities.
The new collection of sculptural artworks by young artist Luong Trinh provides the viewing public with a precious experience, artistically and humanly, and touches something deep in our sub-consciousness, which is hard to come by in the local art scene in the past decade.
Art Critic Nguyễn Quân
The article in Shifting Cloud Exhibition, October 2020
(*) “Renovation”, or the economic reforms launched in Vietnam in 1986.