Crafting memories

15/11/2019 16:03

With a focus on exploring Vietnam’s rich history, Ngoc Nâu and Võ Trân Châu illuminate ideas of heritage, faith, and the everyday in different ways.

Ngoc Nau
Graduating from the Vietnam Fine Art University with a major in Art History and Criticism, in recent years Ngọc Nâu (born in 1989) has fully embraced and become recognized for her role as a multimedia artist, exhibiting widely in Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Canada, the UK, and France.

Ngọc Nâu has been interested in light since 2013, and researched about light in such fields as philosophy, physics, religion and psychology. Ngoc comes from a new generation of young artists who use new media in their work. Using the languages of lights, digital equipment and technological applications to discuss themes related to culture, traditions and memory is a playful juxtaposition that is representative of contemporary Vietnam. This is a country where there are still many unique intersections between traditional beliefs and modern lifestyles, between the old and the new, the surreal and generative intersections.

In her upcoming exhibition titled Singing to The Choir?” this November, Ngọc Nâu will present her art focused on the Mother Goddess religion - one of Vietnam’s longest-standing belief systems, devoted to female deities associated with agriculture. This enchanting installation combines the digital with the spiritual, referring to broader society’s blindness toward the power of virtuality and its ability to persuade and distort our understanding of real life. Ngọc Nâu’s artworks ultimately ask, in this new age of digital information and communication, how can we encourage our virtual world to better reflect our physical reality? 

While Ngọc Nâu incorporates technological elements such as holograms and virtual reality in her installation works, Võ Trân Châu (born 1986) creates her ‘paintings’ using unconventional and surprising materials.

Born into a family of embroiderers and tailors, Võ Trân Châu understands the language of thread and fabric - materials she uses extensively in her art. Although needles and threads are not popular materials in fine art practice, Châu finds a special and intimate connection with them as they carry a certain degree of her own personal memory. What is interesting is that the artist doesn't use just any fabric but collects garments that were dumped in unidentified containers scattered around Cát Lái dock in Saigon. Võ Trân Châu recalled feeling puzzled by the excessive production of the fashion industry and its impact on the environment. She decided to buy a considerable amount of the unwanted garments, transforming them into a series of mosaic paintings.

Võ Trân Châu

During the process of her art, Võ Trân Châu selects photographs of buildings that have completely or partially disappeared from public memory - such as old textile factories, churches, and the Saigon Tax Trade Center, to name but a few. She turns the digital photographs of these sites into pixel graphs, color coding each square with a particular recycled fabric. The final paintings are hung in the exhibition space, encouraging people to look at both the back and front surfaces. From afar, you can see the architectural sites that were once present. Up close, they become blurry, unidentifiable patches of color. This whole series by Chau is a journey of remembering lost things, retrieving memories, and portraying how personal history can be reflected within a larger historical narrative.

Story: Bill Nguyen & Le Thuan Uyen

Photos provided by artists

Where to see their works?

Ngọc Nâu is exhibiting Singing to The Choir?” this November at The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre (Ho Chi Minh City).

Võ Trân Châu is currently participating in a residency program in South Korea and is scheduled to have a solo show at The Factory in February 2020. 

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