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Arca Noa

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February 5, 2023
December 24, 2022
Nguyễn Phi Phi Oanh

Coming back to manzi after six years (since her solo exhibition ‘Scry’ in December 2016), Phi Phi Oanh displays new results of her ongoing exploration in expanding the abilities and unfolding possibilities of the Vietnamese lacquer medium. ‘Arca Noa’, features a series of 10 small and medium sized paintings from different series and two Lacquerscopes.


"‘Arca Noa’ attempts to hold still and record, in lacquer form, our relationship to the earth and our will towards the domestication and objectification of nature around us. The works are conceived as vestiges of this epoch currently hanging in delicate balance and as iconography of its human centered gaze."


The works here also explore a type of realism in lacquer based on repeated direct observation over many days and layers then sanding away like erosion - a journey simply reflects the passage of time, as well as fossilizes and preserves all the mental & visceral states of the artist along with the outer conditions of space. This whole process of continuous accumulation and subtraction, for Phi Phi Oanh, “leads to an image of the observed that seems to exist at different moments and times. While not tonally realistic like a photograph, this lacquer realism is more involved with the slippery ever changing experience of sight and of memory which I consider to be son ta’s major potential contribution to the field of painting.


The paintings in ‘Arca Noa’ explore new representational models of son ta lacquer painting in both the physical (though experimentations on different materials and substrates) and in the symbolic (through what can be interpreted and a broadening of its theory). For Phi Phi Oanh, sơn ta lacquer is not an inert image - making medium rather it assembles a wide range of relationships in locality, culture, environment and nature.


Objecthood versus dematerialization, domestication and possession, the physical embodiment of memory built to last, the correlations between the micro and the macro, between cherishing one’s own personal memories and questioning the position and scale of the human being, are some themes that run through Arca Noa.

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