Let Us Now Praise Famous Women
The above photographs are from a brief visit to friend and artist Phi Phi Oanh‘s studio, out near the capital’s West Lake. She’s preparing new work for a few shows in Hanoi in December, and was kind enough to let me stop by to see the progression and to chat about art, the universe and everything else for a while. Using local materials and a natural tree resin lacquer indigenous to northern Vietnam, her new body of work, Specula, is a brooding mix between an ancient fairytale of sorts and a really intense acid trip-like journey through the way way long ago. In the best way possible. She’s literally building a cave, and even brought up the idea of blackening out the entire room and handing out mini lights for people to shine over the installation. I don’t pretend to know very much about very much, particularly art, so in the artist’s own words, the new work is:
Inspired by sources such as the Altamira cave paintings, Plato’s allegory of the cave, Gothic naves, Buddhist temples, and contemporary works from artists such James Turrell and Richard Serra. Specula highlights my interest in incorporating traditional mediums to create viscerally engaging spaces that reference instances throughout human history when fantasy and art are called upon to cope with our metaphysical inquiries. Re-occurring throughout many cultures and time, the cave is a space for private individual thought.
Unfortunately, my hippie new school degree didn’t give me prose/praise-worthy art school chops like that. So I’m stuck with half-baked ideas and phrases like “the way way long ago”. For those interested and in the area, I’ll try to keep updated on the shows’ openings and so forth. They will definitely be worth attending.
Of course, what I like most about her studio, and what I tried to convey in the images above, is how it has become something of an extension of the art and of the artist herself. It’s sometimes difficult to see where the lacquer ends and the floor begins, and the walls have taken on the same layered, subtracted and washed away feel that many of the works portray. It’s brighter than a cave, but the more work she produces there, the more history seems to gather and stick around the edges.