|From time to time:
(From left) Summer, Wandering Souls III and Time and
Calligraphy are among the 54 paintings by overseas Vietnamese artist
Nguyen Cam on display at his exhibition As Time Goes By in Ha Noi. —
VNS Photo Doan Tung
HA NOI — The ultimate
healer and destroyer – time – is the subject of a new exhibition by overseas
Vietnamese artist Nguyen Cam.
All completed since 2003,
the 54 pieces at the show Dong Thoi Gian (As Time Goes By) reflect Cam’s
hybridity as a Vietnamese man living for the last 30 years in France.
Enhancing the idea of the
cultural and ephemeral, Cam uses a medley of different media from natural
materials like wood and coarse canvas to items laden with cultural significance
like vang ma (votive paper money and goods).
Cam also uses calligraphy
to express the relationship between time, trend and tradition. "I feel
energised when I come to Viet Nam. That’s why I don’t want to learn Japanese
or Chinese calligraphy," he says.
Giving his painting Thoi
Gian va Thu Phap (Time and Calligraphy) an extra-antique feel is
another more unlikely ingredient – tea bags.
"Everyday we drink
tea, the colours and textures of the tea are never the same. I see it as similar
to our daily lives: each day is different. For this reason I use tea bags to
show gradual changes in time."
In his seven oil and
canvas pieces, Cam uses the Japanese Ginkgo tree to express another angle to his
theme – death and rebirth. "The Gingko tree was the first tree to grow
after the Hiroshima bomb in Japan. Everything was obliterated but then slowly
came back to live. I chose the tree as a symbol of strength and endurance,"
War is a big feature of
Cam’s work. Born in 1944 in Hai Phong, a city that was to feel the brunt of US
bombing alongside Ha Noi, Cam’s childhood was riddled with vivid memories of
"I painted a series
of realistic and fantastic paintings called Vong Hon (Wandering Souls) to
relay the memories of the war victims," he says.
His message is universal
but his style is unique, according to one visitor to the exhibition, Andonia
"His paintings are
unlike anything I’ve seen before. His strong colours and creative style make
his work unique."
This sentiment is shared
by journalist Eric Fottorio.
"In his eyes and
through his precious and precise hands, Cam translates the wrinkles of time into
The exhibition runs until
January 1, at the Viet Art Gallery, 7A Nguyen Khac Nhu Street, Ha Noi. — VNS