Group exhibition

7 March 2014

I am participating in a group exhibition at the Goethe Institut in Hanoi.  Please come by if you are in town.  For more information please see


KVT reviews Palimpsest Exhibition in Hanoi

15 May 2013

"KVT in palimpsest with Phi Phi Oanh"


Phi Phi Oanh never ceases to amaze me as she experiments with the properties of traditional lacquer, bending and breaking the rules, opening new pathways and bewildering the purists. It’s little wonder that I’m one of her biggest fans…

At L’Espace Phi Phi has mounted a daring exhibition of lacquer works called ‘Palimpsest’ which is one of those hard to pronounce without getting your tongue tied in knots words and which comes from Ancient Greek (palimpsestos) sort of meaning scraped clean.

The Romans used to work on wax coated tablets that could be smoothed and re-used and Cicero used the term palimpsest to describe the practice. Later it referred to parchment (in the days when parchments and paper were expensive scarcities) that was scraped of its original text so that a new one could be written or drawn on it. Often, and over time, the original text was often visible by transparency, a palimpsest.

You can still occasionally buy those magic slates for kids that erases the text when you lift the plastic coated page you initially wrote on. However you often find that the palimpsest of previous fun appears like a phantom.

Gore Vidal’s memoir is evocatively titled ‘Palimpsest’ and fits this remarkable novelist so well as it scrapes away the present to reveal images of the past, scratched and uneven and present a transparent truth

The word crosses many boundaries and in archeology it is used, simplistically, to describe repetitions of designs on the various layers of a dig.

It can be used to describe the lines left when an appliance is removed (a picture frame from the wall!)

I guess those urban walls that are plastered and re-plastered with posters could use the term and in Paris a permanent street art project is named Palimpsest and local and international artists coat and recoat Francois Mitterrand Mall with works on paper that are eventually covered by another’s paper work.

And I also like this piece, of the same name, commissioned for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and for the aging baby boomer rockers here’s an attempt by Palimpsest 9 to reconstruct a Cure hit:

And a You Tube clip of a palimpsest performance during Superformances in Strasbourg which pushes the term into the avant garde.

Which brings me back to Phi Phi and her ‘Palimpsest’ exhibition which definitely stretches her lacquer concepts and techniques into the avant garde.

Phi Phi uses pieces of her last year’s exhibition at L’Espace…lacquer on transparent film, and uses pieces of these as slides in redesigned projectors that use led lights. Like slides of medical specimens they are projected onto silk screens stretched over extra large wooden frames in a blacked out room.  The slides are changed during the day so that the macro/micro images are never the same and so that I don’t get my non scientific mind tied up in more knots than my tongue, I’ll follow with 3 images of Phi Phi’s wall statement that have a blurred enough touch to them to be interpretations of palimpsest statements.  The screens can be viewed from a variety of angles and are almost palimpsest echoes of the very brilliant lacquered metal tunnel she exhibited to enormous acclaim locally and at a triennale in China.

Pieces used as slides are displayed in a side cabinet as are originals, from the previous show in the same venue. 

Ever the exciting innovator and inventor, Phi Phi’s intent was to have her palimpsest images projected, from the interior of L’Espace, onto the windows at night, creating a huge screen to be viewed by passersby. Unfortunately the bright street lights made this almost impossible so she re-invented, almost on the spot, and constructed the present black box arena with slides projected onto 3 parallel silk screens by nine modified projectors…and for those keen to see how traditional mediums and concepts can be pushed and plasticized, then it’s an exhibition that is sure to excite and fire imaginations.

As always, I can hardly wait for the next installment.

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. 

Palimpsest at L'Espace, Hanoi, April-May 2013

17 May 2013

Exposition de Nguyễn Oanh Phi Phi - 17 avr./24 mai 2013 - Hall d'exposition de L'Espace

Palimpseste est développé sur la base de la précédente exposition de Oanh Phi Phi à l’Espace où elle a présenté la peau laque (ou son ta sur un film transparent)

Palimpseste est développé sur la base de la précédente exposition de Oanh Phi Phi à l’Espace où elle a présenté la peau laque (ou son ta sur un film transparent), un concept et une technique qu'elle a développés de l’image de laque dématérialisée. Cette fois-ci, la laque est montrée par l’intermédiaire de diapositives projetées à l'aide de projecteurs spécialement réaménagés sur des écrans de soie tendus sur des cadres en bois. Ces projeteurs "modernisés" avec les LED n’abîment pas les laques dématérialisées qu’ils projettent et sont économes en énergie.

Vernissage :
17.04 – 18h00
Exposition : 

Entrée libre


Hanoi Grapevine Reviews Fragmentation of Space at L'espace

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. 


Parchmentier exhibition at L'Espace, Hanoi, December-January 2011

13 December 2012

This project centers on the idea of creating a lacquer skin, a total dematerialization of the surface of lacquer as a way to extend to the possibilities of production, expression, and appreciation of son ta (natural Vietnamese lacquer) beyond geographical and cultural boundaries.

In this small and incomplete dialogue with Vũ Kim Thư’s Fragmentations of Space, I propose the metaphor of a screen or window as a framing mechanism through which we can perceive spatial and semiotic landscapes. The drawings include intimate places, highly semanticized locations, suggestions of imaginary landscapes that only exist given a frame or demarcation, and words that define the self in these locations.

Through each work, I move towards understanding the fundamental grammar of lacquer as a creative medium by breaking down its basic elements and patterns such as light, translucency, color, process, and time, setting aside its symbolic meaning and conventional uses.

Hall de L'Espace

Opening14 December, 18h00


14 December 2011 -  23 January 2012

Parchmentier, tiếng Việt

Những tác phẩm nhỏ bé và không đầy đủ được giới thiệu trong triển lãm lần này là khởi đầu cho đối thoại với các tác phẩm trong chuỗi “Không gian phân mảnh” của Vũ Kim Thư. Phi Phi mang vào cuộc đối thoại này phép ẩn dụ về một màn hình hay một chiếc cửa sổ giống như một lăng kính trụ mà thông qua đó chúng ta có thể nhìn thấy được mối tương quan giữa một phong cảnh và nhận thức chủ quan bao gồm văn hóa và bộ nhớ tập thể tạo nên không gian này. Phi Phi vẽ những nơi thân thiết, những địa điểm mang nặng hình thức và ý nghĩa, những không gian tưởng tượng chỉ tồn tại trong một khung hình hay mốc phân giới, và những từ định nghĩa bản thân tại các địa điểm này.

Dự án này tập trung vào ý tưởng tạo nên cách thức thực hiện sơn mài da, để tách rời bề mặt tranh sơn mài ra khỏi mặt vóc cứng để gợi mở khả năng sản xuất, thể hiện và sự đánh giá sơn ta vượt ra ngoài ranh giới địa lý và văn hóa.

Phi Phi hướng đến việc phân tích ngữ pháp cơ bản của sơn mài như một phương tiện sáng tạo, bằng cách chia ra từng yếu tố cơ bản như ánh sáng, màu sắc, tính trong mờ, quy trình và thời gian, tách rời sang một bên ý nghĩa tượng trưng và quy ước thường được dùng trong nghệ thuật sơn mài.

Hà Nội, tháng 12, năm 2011

Exhibition Announcement Phi Phi Oanh and Thu Kim Vu

12 December 2012

logo lespace
exhibition space and space's fragments

Institut Français de Hanoi – L’Espace

24 Tràng Tiền, Hà Nội

Tel: (84-4) 39 36 21 64


Une exposition des artistes Vu Kim Thu & Nguyen Oanh Phi Phi - 14 déc. 2011 / 23 janv. 2012 - Hall de L'Espace

Faisant l’expérience du déménagement et de l’installation, les artistes ont centré leurs travaux sur l’espace et sa déconstruction, à travers l’aventure de leurs voyages et leurs changements de lieux de vie.

Nguyen Oanh Phi Phi construit de larges installations picturales qui évoquent des espaces contemplatifs et se concentre sur la matérialité de la laque pour produire au sein de son œuvre un sentiment de rayonnement intérieur qui suscite la mémoire et la réflexion.

Vu Kim Thu laisse libre cours au processus de création, en usant d’un dessin en noir et blanc, sur de petits objets en relief comme sur de plus grandes surfaces, comme réponse à chaque destination de voyage et chaque nouvel espace qu’elle découvre. 

Vernissage :
14.12 - 18h00 
Exposition :
14.12 > 23.01

Entrée libre



Aizu Fukushima Urushi Art Festival 2011

1 October 2011

Board by Phi Phi Oanh

The Sun, a poem, by Juda al Harizi (Toledo 1170-1235)

Look: The sun has spread its wings

over the earth to dispel the darkness.

Like a great tree with its roots in heaven 

and its branches reaching down to the earth.

1 October – 23 November 2011

AIZU FUKUSHIMA URUSHI ART FESTIVAL 2011 会津 漆の芸術祭, Exhibition Hall of Aizuwakamatsu City, Japan

Female Urushi Artists' Solidarity with the People of TOHOKU, Kizuna Project 

This special exhibition was organized in support of the people who live in the lacquer area of Tohoku (Northeast Japan) and who have been deeply affected by the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima.  Twenty-seven international lacquer artists were sent lacquer boards produced in the Aizu region to create works encouraging solidarity and reconstruction.  

Curated by Sakurako Matshushima and Fumie Sasai.

Hanoigrapevine Blurb

01 Nov 2010

"Phi Phi Oanh in China and Hanoi"


Specula photographed in Wuhan at the Hubei Museum of Art

Specula photographed in Wuhan at the Hubei Museum of Art

Phi Phi Oanh is back from showing her Specula at the first International Lacquer Triennial in Wuhan, China.

Critically acclaimed as a groundbreaking work in contemporary lacquer, Specula brings Vietnamese lacquer to the international stage in grand fashion.

In this ambitious exhibit, the Hubei Museum of Art gathered over 46 artists working in natural lacquer from across the globe under the theme of Lacquer: Material, Process, Spirit. Congratulations Phi Phi!

Back in Hanoi she is showing some of her smaller pieces and studies at Diego Cortiza‘s Chula Home.

Check it out before November 5.


Interior at Chula Fashions 

Interior at Chula Fashions 

21 October 2010, Hanoi

Today the International Lacquer Triennial closes in Wuhan.  One show closes and another one begins.  Oanh Phi Phi birthday celebration and small works exhibition at Chula Hanoi.  Please join us if you are in town!  

Thursday, 21 October, 18:30-late.  Please see this link for directions...

Hope to see you! 

Phi Phi Oanh