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December 6, 2016
November 5, 2016
Nguyễn Đình Hoàng Việt

?! – a solo exhibition showcasing two new series of paintings by Huế based artist Nguyễn Đình Hoàng Việt.

Having quietly made a name for himself in the past few years, Việt is best known for his trompe l’oeil portraits of rodents and fish looking peacefully content, trancelike, as if captured by a wonderful dream. Although playfully depicted, the works seriously have us question our eyes, as on closer inspection all the creatures turn out to be dead, for mice don’t lie face up when they sleep, and fish cannot breath without their gills. The latest work in the continuation of the animal series - presented as the first half of ?! - features flawlessly painted renditions of dead chickens, ducks and crabs. This time, however, they are flanked by comical exclamation marks and empty, black speech bubbles. The animals seem to be communicating something with us, but are ultimately failing to get their message across. How can they, really? For they are dead and we are not animals (or are we?!)

The second half of ?! showcases Việt’s venture into a new area of interest - everyday objects - for which he has been producing 2D replicas of things we see and overlook daily with his trademark photorealist precision. Broken glass, a bent nail, pieces of paper and a wall crack are now the center of the stage. However, the obvious and mundane here is made obscure and abstract - not in terms of style but content. Objects perceived to serve a specific function are rendered useless: a painted nail cannot hold a piece of art, a painted crack cannot be fixed, a painted broken piece of glass cannot be swept up.

Việt’s work – with its elements of light, school-boy humour – gives new input to the ever-evolving, decades-old conversation surrounding realism in art. Its ability to cause intrigue, elicit a giggle and give pause for contemplation is a reminder that the contested discussion of whether or not realist painting is relevant, or could be used as a medium for contemporary art, is not over. Yet.

Likewise, painting is not dead. Yet. And may never be.

Maybe… ?!

*This exhibition is part of Manzi’s art programme supported by CDEF of the Danish Embassy


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