16 January 2013
"KVT Lacquered and Mapped"
I’m glad that I got back to Hanoi in time for the crush that comes with pre-Tet. I really enjoy the bustle and cold and color… and just as glad that I got back to see Oanh Phi Phi’s and Vu Kim Thu’s
collaborative exhibition at L’Espace. I guess we’d call it an exhibition of drawings, but whatever noun we use, the correct adjective would have to be scintillating. Now I’m pretty biased because I’m Phi Phi’s biggest fan and her delicate lacquer skins suspended throughout the airy space have drawn lots of awed wows from me. Phi Phi always stretches the concept of traditional lacquer usage every which way, and this way at L’Espace is truly beautiful. At times the architectural images are transparent and some fool you because the reverse image is entirely different.
Now, again, I’m pretty biased because I’ve watched with interest over the past 6 years as Thu has taken her journey with ink on paper throughout the world, adding new dimensions and maturity to her conceptual ideas each time she returns to Hanoi. Her work on show here picks up on themes she’s explored before and adds aerial mapping to her doodling expertise. The maps are explored in 2 dimensions and also twisted and warped to give unexpected vantage points. Some are suspended in Perspex boxes on Perspex platforms and float and sway like flat planets. I love the one in which the ‘maps’ are piled in small cubes.
Both artists have an ability to make grand statements. Who could ever forget Phi Phi’s immense ‘Specula’ or her series of lacquer coffins (both of which are on my indelible list of the ten best things Hanoi art has had to offer). Thu’s incredible adventure at Bui in 2010 after an incredibly potent residency in India was a memorable viewing adventure.
Both artists have an ability to pull back and create things that seem to come from quiet interior spaces and this exhibition is one of quiet and calm reflection.
I’m really glad that I caught it… and if you brave the gorgeous chaos that seasonally swells around us, with cumquat and peach trees bobbing up and down amidst the surging traffic, and get to L’Espace before mong mot, Jan 23, then I bet that you’ll be just as glad.
Kiem Van Tim is a keen observer of life in general and the Hanoi cultural scene in particular and offers some of these observations to the Grapevine. KVT insists that these observations and opinion pieces are not critical reviews.