Almaz: How to Clean Everything

This has been a week of scrubbing and sanding and sweeping and sanitizing. Which doesn’t sound like fun at first, but can indeed turn quite meditative under the right circumstances. Our little Almaz Collective is coming together. Or is starting to show the beginning signs of a beginning. This afternoon will be spent repainting the walls. Next we’ll wire the space for electricity. After that the world is ours. Or at least one little seventh floor walk-up of it.

It’s been a pretty great past few weeks here in Hanoi. I’m chalking it up to the fact that I saw a white tiger on the first day of the Lunar New Year. And a polar bear. Though it isn’t the Year of the Polar Bear (…yet), so that’s less auspicious. The opening at The Bui Gallery is continuing to receive positive reviews from the local press, and even from the ever enigmatic KVT on the Hanoi Grapevine. A nice crowd crowded in for an art talk a few nights ago, and I’ll meet up with the other photographers in the show on Monday for one more group interview. I also answered a few questions for fellow exhibitor Diego Cortizas on his blog, HERE.

Last but certainly not least, I’ve been meeting up with a small group of local photographers every so often to discuss work and get/give critical feedback. And drink whiskey. Not only is it great to get comments on my works in progress, it’s also nice to see what other people are working on and to take away a little inspiration from that every time we meet up. It pushes me to get out more often and work on those personal projects that sometimes have a way of falling by the wayside. Groupie Julian Abram Wainwright has already posted my rough feelings on his BLOG, so I’m not going to reiterate everything here again. I love the fact that the meeting inspired him to get up early the next morning and shoot his local market, whereas the whiskey from the meeting inspired me to take the morning off and sleep in. Well played, Aaron.

Studio: Artist Phi Phi Oanh

P hi Phi Oanh

West Lake in Hanoi

Detail with Rag

At Work

The Floor



With Apprentices


Tools & Phone

Circle 01

Circle 02

The Artist's Hands

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.