Fading Memories

A solo exhibition of oil paintings by Hanoi-based artist Nguyen Minh Nam

Nguyen Minh Nam’s latest collection Fading Memories is a further stanza in his on-going paean to the inevitable losses suffered by traditional Vietnamese culture in the country’s headlong rush into the modern world. While there is clearly regret at the fading of culture-defining traditions, Nam’s paintings also portray an intriguing future-present where a new class of liberated women are freed from antiquated notions of their chastity and roles as mere appendages of men.

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The women in many of Nam’s work are often shown partially naked and in semi-lewd or provocative positions. They smoke and drink and exhibit great ambivalence to social conventions such as traditional marriage ceremonies from which they are often portrayed as fleeing. Their older sisters from an earlier time are depicted as serving them—brushing their hair, taking their photo, or simply watching silently over them—leading the viewer to infer a reference to the sacrifices made by previous generations of Vietnamese women to help create a world where succeeding generations can live fee of societal constraints.

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Of his work Nam says: “In the process of living the life of a young artist in Vietnamese society during the late 20th and early 21st centuries, I have closely observed the cultural lifestyle of the country’s youth. I have also studied and contrasted the present with the culture and lifestyle of previous generations. The majority of my works reference cultural issues. In my opinion, there is a great clash between traditional and modern Vietnamese culture which has yet to reach a place of balance. In my paintings, some of the characters are drawn in black and white. They belong to the earlier generation which was very simple, rustic, unobtrusive and straight-forward. They may have been farmers or simple city folk, but they had very rich spiritual lives.”

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Adding: “The young ladies portrayed in my paintings carry the spirit of contemporary Vietnamese life which can be seen as being in stark opposition to the more modest conventions of the previous generation. I do not wish to take a stand between these two conflicting cultural paradigms, however, because both have their pros and cons.”

Nguyen Minh Nam is a graduate of the Vietnam Fine Arts University. This is his first solo exhibition at Craig Thomas Gallery (27i Tran Nhat Duat, D1), until November 15, 2016.

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