arts • 11 Feb, 2015
A Talk With Artist and Architect Trong Lee
L’Usine Celebrates ‘Saigon Xua’ A Love Letter to Saigon
Trong Lee’s ‘Saigon Xua: The Color of Nostalgia’ is a hand-drawn dedication to the charms, but also the chaos and confusion, of this city we live in and love.
To celebrate L’Usine are showing their love with a 20-artwork show that runs till the end of March.
“As with any love affair, you don’t appreciate what you’ve got till it’s gone — like many of the disappearing buildings around us,” Le Hung Trong, or Trong Lee as he’s known, smiles.
So the book’s also a call to conserve Saigon’s heritage, “Some people think to reach the future, we should demolish the past,” the artist shakes his head.
Trong Lee capturing a disappearing city
There are two tear-out back pages of places “that aren’t really around anymore, so you can take them out and throw them away if you like,” Trong Lee jokes as he mimes screwing one into a ball. It’s more likely, though, if you do pull them out, you’ll want to put them in a frame.
Before that the edition has three main sections — existing architectural icons, old city streets, and town transport. ‘I hope I can arouse a real love in young people towards this city of Saigon,’ he adds.
His detailed pen drawings of iconic buildings imaginatively link the past to the present. ‘With every one of these drawings I’m adding in stories, so they’re a combination of historical features, fact, fairy tales, and my imagination.’
In the other two sections, his washes of watercolour accurately recreate bygone eras in Saigon, from tiled floors, to building block facades, to Motobécane mopeds, all pieced together by searching through old books, photos and websites.
Trong Lee’s beautifully produced hardback book is for anyone passionate about, or even with a passing interest in, where Saigon has been and where it’s heading.
L'Usine, 1st Floor, 151/1 Dong Khoi St.
District 1, HCMC
11th February to the end of March
Trong Lee's work in progress
Two of the artist's iconic building pen drawings
A landmark that's already disappeared
Words by David Kaye & Stephanie