Viet Nam News
At his recent exhibition, Vietnamese artist Bùi Công Khánh seems to have little sympathy for the concerns of his audience, as he takes them to a dark room and shows his replica of a city ruined by war. Entitled Mê Cung Trắng (White Maze) the work is being displayed at the first ever contemporary art collaboration by Vietnamese and South Korean artists in Hà Nội.
Khánh’s work is a multi-media installation using ceramics, pedestals, projectors, videos, camcorders and spot lights. He reproduced a broken maze with traditional Bát Tràng ceramics. A whole ruined city is enveloped in white clouds, which go slide through bloody battles, and might vanish without a trace.
"My work is a maze or a city without people," said artist Khánh. "Images of the ruins of villages and cities in war zones, especially in Syria where the most brutal fights are going on inspire me. I want to depict the wealthy urban areas that have been left empty and broken."
"The boundary between life and death, prosperity and ruin, peace and danger, has become very thin. The fate of these cities is in the hands of external forces, who do not belong to where they are running the brutal war in order to rearrange the world the way they wish," said Khánh.
"The cruel downfall led by the war haunts me, with the grey white colour covering the walls pierced by bullets, and the collapsed houses blocking the paths, making the city a totally closed-off maze."
Ruins of war: White Maze by Vietnamese Bùi Công Khánh.
Khánh is an artist deeply fascinated with social assumptions of cultural heritage. As one of the first local artists to gain an international reputation in the 1990s, his practice has since embraced painting, sculpture, installation, video and drawing with significant shows across the South East Asian region and beyond.
He has participated in many exhibitions at home and abroad, including Hong Kong, Istanbul, Thailand, South Korea, and Australia.
"By replicating a city from a bird’s-eye view, Khánh poses questions about the undefined or unstable state of human shelters, under the light of historical nostalgia, diving into the most rooted meaning of what we call home in our perception," said Vietnamese curator Nguyễn Anh Tuấn.
Khánh is among eight artists who were invited to display their works at the exhibition entitled Undefined Boundary which is being held at the Korean Cultural Centre in Việt Nam. The exhibition was organised as a programme of NEXT Expert Training of Korea Arts Management Service and is co-hosted with the Korean Cultural Centre in Việt Nam.
The Vietnamese artists include Phi Phi Oanh; Ưu Đàm Trần Nguyễn and Lại Diệu Hà and Korean artists are Seulki Ki; Heaven Baek, Woosung Lee and Hyejin Jo.
The exhibition is being held at the Korean Cultural Centre and Heritage Space contemporary art centre in Hà Nội from March 3 to 31, aiming at presenting arts in various forms such as painting, photography, installation and video centred on the theme of "boundary".
As a Vietnamese-American artist, Oanh is interested in Vietnamese natural lacquer. At the exhibition she displays a sculptural light installation consisting of a projection of miniature "lacquer skins" on to a translucent silk screen.
To create the lacquer skins, Oanh uses the traditional technique of sơn mài (lacquer painting) directly onto glass slides, then laminates the glass. These skins are projected through "Lacquerscope" devices that she has created to see lacquer paintings in a dematerialised form, as light, to create a different visual encounter with the medium.
"As an artist I’m interested in symbolic boundaries and how they are sustained and the way we can overcome them," said Oanh. "Stereotyping and tagging are forms of boundaries I try to confront by creating works that resist simple binary categorisation such as traditional and contemporary, local or global, male or female, authentic or contaminated, human craft and technology".
Oanh studied Vietnamese traditional lacquer painting in Hà Nội in 2004 thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship. Her work combines lacquer with new materials and technologies to extend the scope of the medium as images, reflecting on cross cultural histories and situate the medium in a broader art discourse.
"Oanh’s work continues to break down the perceptive limits of lacquer - a type of art with many conventions and complications from traditional to modern plastic art," said curator Tuấn. "The form of art changes, forcing the creator and the viewer to change their way of conversing with the artwork, when it appears to be more than just an ‘object’."
Unique view: A photo from the ’Unfamiliar corner’ series by artist Seulki Ki
Korean artist Seulki Ki brings her work Unfamiliar Corner to the exhibition. Her work includes six photos telling a story of space which is familiar around people. Even though on the surface her works may show different characteristics of people who are actually all alike, in that they involve a very personal experience of looking at the subject from a certain space.
"The personal impressions that I get from the objects from events, sensation, and phenomena that happen around me are important to me. Such impressions function as a filter which indicates both the attitude in approaching the object and the product of the sensation. My impressions are converted into attached images.
"For me, the boundary is defined as the point of decision which pertains to how an artist tries to perceive the world through one’s own filters.
"It is difficult to see my photos," said Ki. "They evoke the curiousity of viewers. One day I hope to separate familiar spaces in accordance with my imagination. Each work represents for a separate space. My works focus on awareness sequence of human."
Ki majored in photography at the Seoul Institute of the Arts and graduated as a Master of Fine Arts. She has held solo exhibitions and participated in numerous group exhibitions in South Korea and Japan.
"Ki dismantles the audience’s visual and perceptual memories and experiences by framing familiar places into two dimensional planes of photography," said Korean curator Hye Young Kim.
Artist Lee presents fabric and gouache-on canvas works at Heritage Space, 28 Trần Bình Street. The fabric works, measuring 2m by 2m, look like moving images which viewers can touch and go through. The gouache paintings include three pieces, measuring 65.1cm by 50cm, with the theme of Broken Heart.
"It is first time I have shown my works at an exhibition in Việt Nam. The artworks are created in different mediums but I can feel about the audience and how the artists try to communicate with people through the works," said Lee.
During the exhibition, the artists participated in a roundtable with eight professionals of visual arts from South Korea and Việt Nam to discuss each country’s respective art scenes.
Undefined Boundaries is a project hoping to establish active networks in the visual arts between the two countries on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of their diplomatic relations this year.
"I highly appreciate this exhibition," said Dae Joong Lee, the director of the Korean Cultural Centre. "We should be promoting contemporary artists and their creativity. I hope through the exhibition contemporary artworks by Korean artists will be introduced to Vietnamese audiences and Vietnamese artists will be popular in Korea." — VNS