arts • 07 Jun, 2016
Looking Back on ‘Memory and Oblivion’
The French-Vietnamese artist gets nostalgic
Parisian based visual artist Florian Nguyen has showcased both inside and outside of France. However, the 27-year-old’s Saigon appearance commemorates not only his debut on the Vietnamese art scene, but also the first solo exhibition of his career. Nguyen’s deeply personal ‘Memory and Oblivion’, running until next Friday, June 17th, is a poetic set of illustrations depicting the intangible belongings of the immigrated: their memories.
Idecaf’s intimate showroom was ideal for the emotionally charged repertory. Affixed at the back room were immense portraits of the artist’s grandparents facing one another. The memories of the two form the foundation of the entire collection. AnyArena sat down for quick chat with the illustrator before the show’s opening reception where he revealed anecdotes behind some of the pieces.
The artist's paternal grandparents in 'Portrait de Papou de profil' and 'Portrait de Mamou de profil'
Tell us about the inspiration behind Memory and Oblivion.
We are all made of memories and oblivion. You have to forget some things in order to create space for new memories.
Why is being in Vietnam significant to the exhibition’s narrative?
The artwork revolves around the memories of my grandparents, my father’s parents who left Vietnam as children. These are memories they’ve carried for over sixty years, the ones that withstood the wear of time.
This collection is a transcription of one’s memories, specifically a chronicle of your family’s history. Which is your favorite story?
When my grandmother was a child, she used to take care of her younger cousin. As a show of gratitude, her aunt promised her a pair of beautiful earrings. However, her ears weren’t pierced which led to a DIY ear piercing involving a sharpened twig from the tree in her backyard. The piercing got infected immediately and she had to go to the hospital. In the end, she got the earrings but couldn’t wear it for weeks.
'Souvenir n°1. Mamou:' one of three illustrations depicting his grandmother's ear piercing memory
Your illustrations are so intricate. How do you achieve the fine details?
I like working with black china ink. I use a Rotring Calligraphy pen which is a tool primarily used by architects for precision. It allows me to go deeper into the fabric, the skin, the hair to really give the elements some texture.
What’s your strongest memory of your childhood?
I remember this one time my big brother woke me up shouting, “our parents have abandoned us! They’re not here anymore!” And I was like, “Whaat?!?!” So we left the house to go to our grandmother’s, which was ten-minutes away by car. Imagine seeing a three-year-old in the middle of the street in pajamas. Our parents were next door with the neighbors the whole time!
How is Saigon treating you so far?
I love the ambiance of the city. It’s growing fast, giving off a weird, good energy everyone can feel. There is life everywhere. Everything seems to be possible here.
Artist Florian Nguyen with 'Portrait de Papou de profil' and 'Portrait de Mamou de profil'
'Souvenir n°2. Mamou:' one of three illustrations depicting his grandmother's ear piercing memory
The 'Memory and Oblivion' will be running until next Friday, June 17th @ Idecaf on 28 Le Thanh Ton in District 1.
Words by Izzy Pulido
Photos by Cao Tri