MoT+++ and their artists to watch
MoT+++ is a new concept from the art space previously known as Dia Projects. The space will remain at its Binh Thanh location in Ho Chi Minh City while expanding its program to four main projects: the MoT sound project; + a contemporary project space exhibiting the works of Vietnamese and international artists; + a place for experimentation that encourages artists to investigate less traditional working methods; and + 1 museum by any other name which will see installations critically chosen by the MoT+++ team exhibited in partner locations around the globe. Each installation of the +1 museum will last for a minimum of one year to challenge the experience of the work, the audience and the environment as together they build a relationship and change over time. Additional +1s will be added as the space continues to grow and develop its artistic and collaborative practices.
Thy Tran is a Vietnamese-Australian visual artist currently living and working in Vietnam. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Art from Monash University in Australia. She worked as a freelance photographer, collaborating with several fashion publications in Melbourne. Since moving to Ho Chi Minh City in 2015, she began collaborating with other local artists, as well as devoting more time to her personal documentary projects.
Photography, in the artist’s own words “helps me make sense of my life; it allows me to see more clearly what I am looking at.” While her artwork focuses on people, faces are rarely shown and identities are concealed. The viewer is invited to engage with human figures, looking into its shapes and forms, without making sense of the individual or its stories. The sensation is of intrusion, like illicit glimpses into personal spaces.
The act of obscuring faces demystifies the person’s identity as the artist explains: “I find the face is too distracting and has too many emotions to deal with. Portraiture without a face allows me to stay more focused on body language, the physical contact between the subject and me. It’s somewhat precious and intimate like I should not take any of that minute for granted.”
Her practice is composed mostly of scenes carefully staged by the artist: light, composition, colors all contribute to the creation of these ethereal images within mundane and everyday places. All elements and steps are part of the artwork and the photography is the medium used to convey the whole creative process, which engages, inspires and intrigues the viewers.
Tuyp Tran (Tran Quoc Huy, b. 1988) is a self-trained Vietnamese artist who uses a wide range of themes, symbols and forms to explore our hidden nature. Tuyp uses pen and color markers on paper and wood to create intricate works, which slowly reveal itself to viewers.
His subjects encompass food, sex and spirituality among various other topics. In his first solo exhibition, Psyche, Tuyp sought to confront the contradictions and desires of the mind, repackaging them in allegorical and alluring imagery. In Persona, his second solo, Tuyp zooms out a little and raises many questions, which are made visible through an exploration of religious, political and scientific narratives. His trajectory and development as an artist follow his desire to stay open and explore what he calls “the deepest corner of the mind […] the unexplainable.”
The power of Tuyp’s work lies in not only in the diverse choice of subject matter but also in the obsessive level of detail. Tuyp tells of a complex world of culture, sexuality and beauty via suffocatingly detailed illustrations. From afar, his works resemble a baffling explosion of vivid colors and intertwined designs but each detail is a memento from deeply personal experiences and ineffable sensations the artist hopes to simply “provoke ideas;” from his audience by visually tapping into the collective unconscious.
Nguyen Quoc Chanh
Nguyen Quoc Chanh is a ceramic artist living and working in Vietnam. His artworks mix traditional techniques and materials found in the ceramics of Bien Hoa, a city located in Dong Nai Province, with contemporary form.
Bien Hoa has a long history in ceramic production—some 300 years—and found international fame from the late 19th century to the early 20th century. Attentive to the position of Bien Hoa ceramics in global and nationalist imaginings, Chanh writes in his artist’s statement: “Rather than nostalgic reproductions or subcontracted production, I make use of local clay, glazes and techniques to evoke Bien Hoa’s eclectic tendencies, blurring the boundaries between artisanal craft and art, between sentiment and concept.”
Putting together multiple symbols, not confined to a unique genre and style, one can identify traditional references—snakes, monkeys, buffalos, rubber tires, folkloric symbols in dong ho woodcut paintings as the serene faces of The Bayon at Angkor Thom and Easter Island. Positioned alongside are more contemporary symbols on a shared substrate: casts of credit cards, face molds of footballplaying children and images borrowed from the facets of Ben Thanh Market, rubber tires.
Often, the molds used are not made by Chanh himself but were found, gathering dust in his adopted studio in Bien Hoa. In this way, the pieces proceed from multiple histories and are shaped by generations of artisans in different cultural and historical contexts. In collecting these tools, Chanh acts as a gatherer and a disruptor. The recognizable motifs must exist in relation to each other and are rendered unfamiliar in a state of disorder and uncertainty—a surreal and alluring effect is achieved.
At a glance, his artworks seem chaotic, but as one spends more time, the balance is reached. The pieces take on two main structural forms. Many of them have an outline we can discern easily: a large pot, a car’s tire or Cham Lingus. These stand in contrast to more surrealist shapes. Bulging and unrecognizable, they express a powerful conception of poetry whereby internal flow is more important than outward conventional beauty.
Chanh’s rejection of unblemished white clay in favor of natural earth ensures that he is more of a collaborator in the lifespan of his sculptures rather than the sole creator. His clay is produced by years of natural mixing, capturing the soul of the soil along with its collected debris of trees and bones. Chanh’s hands act as just another step of each piece’s journey into the eventual fire of the furnace. Rarely do you see ceramic art rooted so deeply in abstraction.
Images Courtesy of the Artists and MoT+++