The works of five neo-expressionistic painters will be on display at a group exhibition opening in Hanoi on April 3.
The artists are Nguyen Van The, Phạm Thanh Toan, Hoang Khanh Du, Dang Thanh, and Le Thua Ngoc Hai, who have chosen neo-expressionism to send a message about life and their dreams.
It is a rare exhibition, according to Bui Quang Thang, art director of the Viet Nam National Institute of Arts and Culture Studies (VICAS) Art Studio.
“Neo-expressionism appeared in the late 70s, initiated by a group of German painters. It was developed as a reaction against minimalism and conceptualism which were dominating European art at the time based on things not connected with reality or the sensuousness of art.
“Neo-expressionism then spread to various countries in Europe and flourished in the US with important artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel, Elizabeth Murray. In everyday language, this movement is also called ‘bad painting’.”
The five artists selected for the exhibition are clearly neo-expressionists, though some are spontaneous and instinctive while others researched about the genre and are more deliberate, he said.
“It is their contribution to making the language of neo-expressionism today more diverse and more personalised.”
Self-taught painter The went through a period of doing abstracts before switching to neo-expressionism though he did not have any idea about this style. He said he merely paints following the instincts of an artist.
“In his abstract style, we can see the sprawling and transformative colours,” Thang explained.
“His symbolic strokes flow unobtrusively with the rhythm of jazz. They are always charming.”
Toan, 27, is the youngest artist in the group but has imbibed consciously from major neo-expressionists.
“He understood and mastered the spirit and the characteristics of this style to gather them all and create his own works.” Thang said.
“The unconscious obsessions are always somewhere in his paintings, such as death obsession, thoughts on eternity, dreams of flying high, nightmares about free fall, big scenes full of colours, sounds and sexuality that are only seen in big dreams.”
Du, an ethnic Tay man, said he always brings his ethnic culture and identity into his works.
“I believe there are two parallel worlds existing and having a strong connection, our world on Earth and the world of gods and ancestors.”
Thanh became a neo-expressionist after a bout of depression. A year ago he was faced with hardships in life that caused severe psychological hurt. His passion for art helped him overcome the problem, and selling his paintings also helped him escape from financial difficulties.
He almost forgot what he learned at art school and found his own style, painting completely from his imagination. At the exhibition he has a series of paintings on feminism.
Hai said he loves “bad paintings” because the genre reflects the negative side of society.
“The chair symbolising social power and those who desire to occupy it along with the people with wings wanting to fly high but unable to escape from that reality frequently appear in the series named ‘Wings’ in this exhibition,” Thang explained.
“I think that is the complicated and contradictory inner self of the artist himself and of many others in our society today. Yet, his paintings are more romantic than gloomy.”
The exhibition, at the VICAS Art Studio, 32 Hào Nam Street, will run until April 28. Viet Nam News/ANN