Sticks and stones break bones, but impressions and perceptions can surely work you over like a prisoner dropping the soap. What is reality but a messed up puzzle of colour and form that we imbue with our own individual meaning? Our world is the combination of mental and physical, and with each person infinitely different, there are endless possibilities for reality.
The current exhibition, Between Two Mysteries, at Galerie Quynh in Saigon, leaps headfirst into the idea of our perceptions of the world and juxtaposes two seemingly disparate collections, Ink Kingdom by Truc-Anh and Lightning in U Minh Forest by Hoang Duong Cam, to slap the viewer in the face with the internal. Literally. It’s all about the body for these boys: ribs, skulls, spinal cords and hearts. Truc-Anh and Hoang Duong Cam play with the body as a metaphor for history, distortion and consciousness. But it’s not the general sexy Botticelli way or even the uncouth Schiele form, those guys were still tits and ass types…Truc-Anh and Hoang Duong Cam, on the other hand, are big on the bone.
In Striptease, Truc-Anh peals back the skin to reveal a grisly skull beneath- a vision fitted for the highest quality of contemporary terror films. (Suck it, little girl from The Ring). Although the skull and Texas Chainsaw Massacre-esque remnants of the face are obvious depictions, they’re also just a bit off, which make a viewer stop and stare. Something is not right. And that becomes much clearer when one stumbles upon Soul Archive #02 A bare ribcage with impossibly twisted bones. Twisted on the inside creates a twisted on the outside world view…better recognize.
Hoang Duong Cam takes a more gentle route with colour dancing around and blobs of shape goofily melting together to take a form. Like cubism gone groovy, the paintings in Lightning in U Minh Forest give way to interpretation and various frames of reference. While it’s more subtle, his works are passive aggressive, luring one into a false sense of security. At first the big and boldly coloured paintings are beautiful, eye-catching and abstract, but give it a moment, and faces pop out of the void. A thin and brittle rib cage is illuminated through dense foliage, and a spinal cord cracks out of the top of the canvas.
It’s the old bait and switch trick. Both of these artists use the bare bones to bring the inside out, to force the viewer to consider the world by conscious recognition of their personal, internal projections upon it. Bones are the framework to our physical existence. Brittle, bulky, bent or broken, it’s the framework that matters in life, and more importantly, how we construct it.
Between Two Mysteries can be viewed at Galerie Quynh until July 9th.
By Alice Bauer
Cover picture: Truc-Anh. Toutankhamon. Ink on rice paper. 77 x 97 cm. 2015