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September 21, 2021
August 21, 2015
Doãn Hoàng Lâm

em|body - an exhibition of both new and never before seen works by Doãn Hoàng Lâm. A Vietnam University of Fine Arts graduate, Lâm belongs to one of the previous generations of academically-trained artists whose talents were endured and pushed to the limit by the then highly-demanding art education system, and is now considered one of Hanoi’s most accomplished painters.

With a sense of naturalness of an artist and a disciplined mindset of an artisan, Lâm approaches each painting medium with sensitivity and clarity, utilizing its intrinsic vocabulary and qualities as the foundation for the formation of his ideas and experimentations, and an instrument to communicate his thoughts and mental states. In his works, lacquer would often be associated with depth, silk with delicacy, oil paint with fullness, watercolor with lightness and so on. For Lâm, to conduct a thorough practice with the most primary skills like sketching and life drawing, and to have a clear understanding of the most basic things like how to handle a particular paint and how to choose which brush to use, is as important as to continuously explore and refine his thought-, reflection- and creation-process. They both help to form the visual language and express the artistic vision that define Lâm and separate him from his contemporaries.

Comprising four lacquer and five oil on canvas, em|body transforms the walls of Manzi into windows looking out into landscapes that are both cosmic and intimate, recalling images of the galaxy whilst revealing sensuous properties of the human body. The partially rendered human-like shapes look as if they are hovering in space, or emerging from behind the surface. Sometimes vulnerable and concealed, they have their backs to us; but mostly confrontational and powerful, they stare straight ahead, with their bare skin, disembodied figures and provoking positions all on display. Somewhere in this strange galaxy we see snippets resembling body parts: a twisted knee, a sagging breast, a deformed head, contorted limbs or spreading legs. Distorted and exaggerated, the body is repeatedly abstracted through the artist’s manipulations of forms and shifts in scales, acting as much a symbol of desire and a celebration of beauty as an object of fetish and an embodiment of violence. Here, the familiar has been made uncanny. Just a degree or two away from reality, we are left in an uncomfortable position, our senses toyed with, and our perceptions of affection/abjection, normality/abnormality, morality/immorality disrupted and questioned.


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