French artist Gerald Gorridge will come back to Ha Noi in November with a new exhibition of cartoons featuring portraits of Vietnamese and French people.
Manh Song (Pieces of Lives) is the fruit of collaboration between five Vietnamese and French artists. After Ha Noi, the exhibition will move to the Angouleme International Comics Festival in January 2014.
Gorridge works at the Casterman Editions and has been teaching the art of drawing cartoons at the L'Ecole Superieure de l'Image d'Angouleme in France for 20 years. He talks with Culture Vulture about the project and his love for Viet Nam.
What have you done so far to ‘produce' the exhibition?
To prepare for the upcoming exhibition, we organised three workshops. Two workshops have already been held in Ha Noi since last November and the last one will take place this November [before the exhibition is held].
We, French and Vietnamese artists, have met mostly at L'Espace - the French Institute – to discuss the project. After each meeting, we come back to our house to work on individual works. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the French Institute in Ha Noi and the region Poitou-Charentes (where I live), which co-financed the project.
Why do you want to portray people using cartoons?
Portraiture has been my personal passion since the publication of my book Les Fantomes de Ha Noi (Ghosts of Ha Noi).
While cartoons are very developed in France, cartoon portraits are still rare. And I know that portraiture is absent from Vietnamese cartoons.
As an artist, I've always wanted to try to be more adventurous and experimental while staying simple and accessible to the public. It's important for me to make the public discover that we can create good stories that are inspired by real life, not based on imagination.
Who are the Vietnamese artists participating in the project?
They are young but talented. The most well-known are Nguyen Thanh Phong (Nha Nam Publishing House) and Nguyen Thi Mai Hoa (Kim Dong Publishing House).
Each person in the group chose to make a portrait of someone living in Ha Noi, whether in the past or the present.
For example, Phong made a portrait of a participant in the game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Hanh made a portrait of a young Vietnamese teacher of French and Linh Rab talks about how French-Vietnamese tour operator Fredo Binh adopted a little monkey from a mountainous region.
Two Vietnamese artists of this group will take part in Angouleme International Comics Festival, to be held in France in January 2014 as one of the events celebrating the Viet Nam Year in France.
Which story will you bring to the exhibition?
I will talk about a little story that I love about the origins of Viet Nam's pho (noodle soup). It has been always my favourite food in Viet Nam. I think it is the food that is most adapted to the conditions here.
I make portraits of two people – French chef Didier Corlou and a Vietnamese girl named Hoa – through their different visions on the origin of pho.
I am convinced that pho is an French-Vietnamese invention, one of the strongest reminders of colonial influence. Pho was not mentioned before the arrival of French people. The cartoons depict a meeting between Hoa and the French chef in his restaurant La Verticale, on Ngo Van So Street. They discuss their ideas about the origins of pho. I drew on extensive research about Indochina as well as my own gastronomic experience in pho restaurants in Ha Noi. The end of the story will be surprising.
Will Viet Nam inspire your next project?
Gastronomy is also the theme of my next book project in Viet Nam. The book will use text, photos, drawings and cartoons to talk about gastronomic creations in the north of Viet Nam. I am very excited about that. My latest books, including Les Fantomes de Hanoi and Riviere des Parfums (Perfume River), were the fruit of several trips to Viet Nam. — VNS