Metamorphoses – Between reality and fiction


THE MEDALS, each 173x140cm, oil on cancas, 2007

Katia Sabaliostis

Positioned between reality and fiction, the artist’s work and the motto is true for the genre as well as the subjects. Nguyen Xuan Huy paints photo-realistic, and if he makes documentary photographs included in his work, then that’s a bridge to reality, which has already been exceeded for the first time at the moment when the image is painted and presented so as to be fictitious. 

Nguyen is Vietnamese. Born in 1976 in Hanoi, he belongs to a generation that has been born after the war, but even today still has to live with its consequences. Because Vietnam’s history in the last century was more than just moves: occupied by French and Japanese, the country split in 1954 after the end of the French Indochina war in the communist North Vietnam’s capital Hanoi and the Western-backed South Vietnam with Saigon as its capital. 1965-73, the U.S. is officially the war in Vietnam, the real end was only in 1975, with the surrender of the until then by the Americans continue to support South Vietnam and Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City. Since 1976, there is the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. 34 years have passed and yet there are images that have dug deep into the collective memory and realities that are still part of everyday life for three generations. One of these pictures, a timeless symbol of the horror and futility of war is that photo that sparked worldwide in the spring of 1968 a storm of indignation and vehement protests against the Vietnam War. It bears witness to the massacre at My Lai, American soldiers as unarmed civilians, including many women and children brutally executed him. Nguyen has created two pictures: one shows that the massacre, and one that shows the same empty country road, as it could give him a thousand times around the world. There are various possibilities of the spontaneous interpretation: one might think, whether they are a before-and-after image, or a juxtaposition of peaceful nature and human cruelty. Anyway, the picture with the body, which, put it on my own, just a nice natural image would be acting, in the strange juxtaposition of cold and absurd in light of the tragedy that happened there. But even at that it seems not to really go Nguyen, just about to accuse his work.

He documented, objective, emotionally uninvolved and apparently he does what is possible for him as an artist, who may look at the role of the documentary, but at the same time also has the ability to create a new version of a story.Nguyen told a story in which the past is erased, it covers the tracks to the hervorzustreichen that preoccupies him: the absurdity and inhumanity of war. War, which manifests itself in a drawn face and abnormalities of insanity. Accompanied by jingling medals that bear witness of questionable heroism and none are of any real use. Vietnamese American religious harmony dangle beside the T-shirt and the laughter has nothing to be happy. It is an insane laughter, self-sufficient … In this picture he has himself served as a model. Like most photo realist who work on large canvases, he also uses the projection method, where he developed his themes in the form of collages on the computer. Nguyen’s collages are subject to this the pressure of a controlled repetition, so that, from a mouth three, from one arm four or legs suddenly find places where there usually are none. A Cabinet of abnormalities, monstrosities, which are often hidden behind seemingly perfect women’s bodies that act only once, at first glance, very attractive and sexy. Only at first glance. The second view turns desire into anxiety when the viewer finds that Nguyen’s not like the Venus of Botticelli may be because their legs to not be able. 

The artist cites not only photo-documentary material, but also well-known images from the art historical context, which he, as the photos, as other than a story to tell. The wind god Botticelli is a woman with chicken wings and a megaphone, the cloth to cover the nakedness of the goddess of love, a red flag of communism behind the stretched thumb and by the Communist rulers also like to one shown to the front open and Forward-looking hand from view. Miss Designed bodies are part of Vietnam’s war history. Even today, three generations later, still children are born with severe deformities. the evil behind the innocuous name Agent Orange, which means something like orange-colored substance, according to the colored bands named, were on the drums. There are other, lesser-known agents such as Agent Blue and Agent Green. The largest amounts of these substances have been sprayed in the war-intensive phase of 1967/68, there were a total of up to 1971 with more than 6,000 missions around 80 million barrels of toxic substances, the half of it was Agent Orange. A dioxin-containing defoliant, which decomposes very slowly. In case of contamination through direct contact or by itself still available residues in soil and uptake into the food chain, there is physical damage, immune deficiencies, cancer and probably genetic changes that mild to severe birth defects in unborn children bring with them. Today there are approximately 5 million of a total of 85 million Vietnamese in the effects of Agent Orange. But Nguyen is far from having put his pictures directly in this context. The malformations act as a carrier for him: The photo realism “ideal world” of the deformed body parodied as post-communist propaganda pictures of the courting with soft pornography capitalist advertising. Physical and mental abnormalities visible, it is important to Nguyen. 

The part of the Vietnamese war history implement figuratively, in which the effects of “hot war” overlap with those of the “cold war” with the ruling order and the rule of promise of Vietnamese Marxism-Leninism, Maoism, and the current “red” capitalism. The human mind as modeling clay, and any arbitrarily according to ideological convictions deformable. Man as a raw material for the revolution, for an evolution that leads to outlandish creations. Monumental monuments and propaganda images of socialist realism – in Nguyen’s large format oil paintings, they experience a rebirth as a parody of another kind, as the “inverted world”. The beautiful appearance and the ideal world is a world of “hard facts”, which on closer inspection nightmarish character. Or to an absurd world, as in “Beat It”, where reducing the material man in part on pure meat chunks, where Agent Orange nevertheless remains present as genetic information, or to those memories of older friends are Nguyen’s awake, the theaters of war limbs and other human remains had to collect. War material, material of evolution, revolution material – man as a pure mass, stretched between giant fists, which the GDR created specifically colossal monuments. are the hammer and sickle, ultimately only the tools to process the meat. A little jab here on industrial and agricultural revolution in the form of the carpenter’s hammer, as the great industrial revolution in Vietnam itself is limited only to many small craft. 

The one-sidedness, the foreign rule, the curtailment of freedom – that was Nguyen’s reasons for his homeland to leave 15 years ago and his mother, who had traveled over three years before the turn of a foreign worker in the East to follow Nordhausen near Erfurt . Nguyen wanted all the information it gave, not only those who were agreeable to the party. He wanted to read all the books and not only those who were selected and only a few people as possible. Nguyen freedom and those who do not really want to live like the women in his image “Spring”, which is in the composition of Goya’s etching “Disparata ridicolo” from the “disparate” oriented. Here it’s all about the Tet festival, which has for the Vietnamese about the importance for us as Christmas. It is a celebration of family and celebration, it corresponds to the Chinese New Year and marks the beginning of spring. His symbol is the peach blossom here on big sticks and artificial at the otherwise dead tree trunk. Food and drink, enjoy playing a role, the red book of Mao Tse Tung, however, is the incidental-dressing, the red flag to a Winkelement that less homage to Communism as a modern Vietnam in the form of a football. And even in uncertain times, food and drinking and celebrating secured, for there is always something like a life preserver, and whether in the form of corruption. Even if no one listens, tells the woman seated to the right, its history, happy and entertaining almost caught up, double sets of hammer and sickle in the belief that nothing can happen to her because she had so many of them yes. . Not asleep but not awake, in a state somewhere in between If you look at the pictures closely to determine, is that Nguyen has a lot of humor, though – in view of the topic – rather “black”. That shines through when he makes his characters grow chicken wings or so-called “fig leaf” sets that were produced by them, by the way never seen as concealing the nakedness, but as censorship. “Anyway,” the artist says about his own work, “I intend to another version, my version of (…) to create – through my story changed, updated through my experience with the driver of that cave people, their painted version of the present on the cave wall. “One should take time for personal discovery of this version and the own history Nguyen Xuan Huys. He has a lot to tell ….

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