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October 31, 2017
October 6, 2017
Nguyễn Trần Nam

The adjective 'undone' contains a host of possible meanings - distraught, fallen apart, unfinished, unaccomplished, ruined, destroyed – encompassing the uncanny nature of Nguyen Tran Nam’s most recent series of work.

The lacquer paintings mark a return to a medium from Nam’s formal training at the Vietnam University of Fine Arts (graduated 2003) after a lengthy stint producing a diverse body of multimedia work as one of Hanoi’s second-wave of contemporary artists, yet his aesthetic and subjects continue in the vein of his more experimental work. Dark and heavy, the series’ brutal beauty reveals the artist’s concern with both the dead and the living and portrays his obsession with the ruins of landscapes and life.

Forming an imaginary realm unbound by truth, time or place, these are images of chases, riots, crushed faces prostrating on the streets, someone’s shadow just gliding through the darkness on the other side of a door. The depictions seem to pass by without reason, no beginning or ending, no explanation. And we humans are left to doubtfully wonder about moments of insecurity in the past, and realise that they are not individual points in time but a permanent presence, that we have been and will always be stuck in.

For Nguyen Tran Nam, drawing is a kind of journaling process, during which he unconsciously chronicles the ambiguity drifting in his mind as a result of stories he has heard, experiences he has been through and the character of life as well as philosophical metaphors, a general state of absurdity and obsessions with literature and poetry or myths. And whether these fragments of his mind were recorded accidentally or noted down intentionally, in the end they come together to turn into an untitled disorder that resembles an everlasting instant without beginning or ending

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


THE HAMMER SPEAKS (by Nietzsche)

<Thas Sproke Zarathustra,
On old and new tablets, 29>

Translation by Water Kaufmann 

“Why so hard?” the kitchen coal once said to the diamond. “After all, are we not close kin?”

Why so soft? O my brothers, thus I ask you: are you not after all my brothers?

Why so soft, so pliant and yielding? Why is there so much denial, self-denial, in your hearts? So little destiny in your eyes?

And if you do not want to be destinies and inexorable ones, how can you one day [2] triumpth with me?

And if your hardness does not wish to flash and cut and cut through, how can you one day create with me?

For all creators are hard. And it must seem blessedness to you to impress your hand on millennia as on wax,

Blessedness to write on the will of millennia as on bronze – harder than bronze, nobler than bronze. Only the noblest is altogether hard.

This new tablet, O my brothers, I place over you: become hard!


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