Craig Thomas Gallery has announced Manimal, a solo exhibition of mixed media paintings by Saigon-based artist Tuyen Nguyen.
The opening reception for Manimal was held at CTG’s Tran Nhat Duat gallery on Sep. 25, 2020 from 6-9pm.
Tuyen Nguyen’s debut solo collection Manimal is in a sense uniquely suited to resonate in the peculiarly “socially distanced” time during which it was created and will now be displayed.
Of the collection, Tuyen says, “The central theme and idea behind this collection is the loneliness and isolation of an ‘unreal’ man. He has become estranged from the greater society around him which is represented in the paintings by boxes and other geometric forms. They are emblematic of urbanization and concreteness. Within these forms there is an inner soul that finds itself lost and shrunken in a damp room while surrounded by a big and bustling city.”
While Manimal will be his first solo exhibition in a commercial gallery setting, Tuyen’s professional demeanor and the confident exactitude apparent in his work evince a mature artist who is already creating on an engagingly advanced level.
There is nothing experimental or naïve about the works of this collection.
The paintings manage to appear lithe, fluid and appealingly abstract while being underlain with a base of composition exhibiting great precision all resulting from a deep mental process undertaken by the artist.
There is a strong marriage between conceptualization and implementation that runs like a through line through all the works.
The original planning for Tuyen’s solo took place in those halcyon days of late 2019 before the appearance of a worldwide pandemic and all its attendant disruptions.
While this attenuated the time before their showing, it gave the artist the rare luxury of ample time to create an array of works that avoid similarity or repetition.
Each piece is the result of a well intellectualized process and represents the successful visual manifestation of Tuyen’s inner monologue.
The twelve paintings that make up the Manimal collection on display have been curated by the artist himself from a larger group of works that he has created over the past year and are even stronger for that act of self-awareness.
Most of the works of Manimal – the Vietnamese title “Con Nguoi” speaks to the split nature of man as an amalgamation of both “human” and “animal” aspects which are often in conflict – feature full or truncated humanoid like figures that are merely suggestive of homo sapiens as they writhe and contort on the canvases.
They might be human beings if they had been turned inside out or bent into some neo-natural shape which our normal corporeal form cannot bear.
Tuyen’s color palette is rich and seductive in many of the works and then dark, black and austere in other pieces.
Tuyen says, “Vivid colors like reds, purples, blues and yellows are symbols of modernity while black and white represent the past or old objects for me. This collection is a study in colors and shapes which both contrast and compliment each other.”
Perhaps the greatest representation of Tuyen’s visual aesthetic is found in the painting Slip which was also the last painting of the series completed.
The painting radiates the confidence of an artist who has already completed a full collection of works and is free to use the fullness of what he has learned along the way to make a signature piece that crowns it all.
The world of Slip is free of any human forms and is like viewing the technicolor melting of reality while in the grips of some strong hallucinogen.
The painting pulls the rare trick of being both slightly disturbing and aesthetically pleasing.
With his collection Manimal, Tuyen Nguyen has managed to create a new visual language that is both arresting and distinctly his own. He has achieved his desire to bring “an energetic new breeze” to the Vietnamese visual arts.
As we enjoy this first offering, we cannot help but imagine what more there is to come from this exciting young artist.
Exhibition dates: Sept. 25 – Oct. 16 2020
Craig Thomas Gallery is at 27(i) Tran Nhat Duat St., Tan Dinh Ward, District 1, HCMC