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Self-exiled painter returns with new digital artworks (September 14, 2005)

After a five-year absence, Sy Tuan reemerged onto the Ho Chi Minh City art scene last week with an exhibition of works created since the painter discovered a new dimension to his inspiration inspired by website designs.

Discarding the abstract style of the late 1990s that won him a name among artists of the new generation, Tuan now explores other modes of communication that he claims to have worked out while listening to heavy metal rock music, surfing the web and contemplating oriental arts.

A graduate of the Hue College of Fine Arts and a member of the Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Association, Tuan has participated in the Vietnam Fine Arts Exposition in Paris (1991) and the Asia Modern Art Exposition in Tokyo (1994). He has also held a solo exposition at the Saigon Tourist Gallery in 1994.

Still, Tuan was not satisfied with his art and said that he found "something lacking." He stopped short, giving up painting to make a living instead as a graphic designer, devoting the majority of his free time to a search for a new inspiration.

His concept of "digital art" is the fruit of his search, the latest stage in his ongoing quest for a more creative mode of expression.

The on-going Digital Art exposition at Tu Do Gallery in Ho Chi Minh City includes several computer paintings and a dozen or so collages.

"The simplicity of design of websites and the repetition and pixellisation of details have inspired my digital art," Tuan said. He clicked a computer mouse to illustrate his new concept of arts. Printed on do (poonah) paper, or seen on PC monitor, Tuan’s digital works – T 0087, T 0067, T 0081 – recall Tuan’s former abstracts, but they are now highly metamorphosed to reach new dimensions.

In contrast, Tuan’s collages are completely different and defy all the other work the artist has created so far.

What the artist displays is only raw material. The position of the viewer, his feelings, the light playing on the media, all these factors combine to create the works, he said.

For instance, in his piece entitled Samsara, the atmosphere is created by a series of discarded objects – plastic bags, CDs, tin foil, cardboard – arranged in such a way to suggest the recycling process, the feeling of change and mutation, the Buddhist concept of metempsychosis.

"What I am trying to do is establish a kind of interference between my works and the viewers. I try to offer them an atmosphere, an environment, that will excite their imaginations and inspire them to create works themselves," Tuan said.

In Details, the artist tries to enlarge, to dig into the surface of the piece, to make it a wider and deeper space. The piece, almost an entire installation, is made up of pieces of transparent nylon and silver paper sheets that create a sensation of vastness and depth.

"Silver paper reflects light which becomes brighter or darker depending on the position where you are standing. Transparent nylon sheet, meanwhile, creates a kind of background of colors that change depending on the shades of light," Tuan explained.

"It is this position of the viewer vis-a-vis the painting that creates that feeling of depth, vastness and variety," Tuan said, referring to his piece entitled Mirage of Life.

"Our sensations are first energized by colors, then by forms. Depending on the viewers’ position, the small squares of colors change into long rectangles. A kind of interference takes place. The paintings reflect and interface with one another. This painting attracts another painting, but at the same time rejects it, just like a mirage of life," Tuan said.

Importing the concept of performance into his creation, as well, Tuan made How Are You, a work requiring the participation and interaction of viewers. Besides its beauty, the artwork also has a sort of practical utility. The increasing number of name cards and messages that friends and fans have left on How Are You after their visit to the exposition serve as a guest register while giving an evolving life and beauty to the creation.

"Viewers are no longer impassive in front of the works. Their imagination, puzzled by the unusual exhibits, will excite new feelings and sensations and they can create their own personal artwork," Tuan said.

"Along with the artist, the viewer has created this work." (VNS)

Reprinted with permission from Nhan Dan Newspaper


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