Doan Hoang Lam's Collection
A Geometry of Silence
by Ian Findlay
As Vietnam has become increasingly open to outside influences, its artists have had ever more opportunities to come face to face with new ideas in the art world. The work of the current generation has come to reflect the change in the art environment to which it has been exposed. The work of the young Hanoi painter Doan Hoang Lam resonates with the changes he has experienced in Vietnamese society.
Although there are still many young artists influenced by Vietnam's masters and traditional landscape painting and figurative art, as well as movements such as European impressionism and expressionism, the struggle to find their own voices beyond these influences is uppermost in the minds of the most serious. In the art of those born in the early 1970s, artists such as Tran Viet Phu, Hoang Hai Anh, Mai Duy MInh, Nguyen Minh Quang, Le Anh Quan and Doan Hoang Lam have eschewed the facile representation of contemporary Vietnamese culture. Their work exhibits a sense of urgency, a frankness, and a grittiness that is both refreshing and occasionally raw. In their portrayal of the ever-changing cacophony of Vietnam's urban environment and its knowing people there lies an entirely fecund muse that inspires constantly and is far from mundane.
Doan Hoang Lam, who was born in 1970, in Hanoi, is one of the most impressive artists of his generation. In his resent work it is clear that he is not interested in making art that might be considered cliched or facile. His interest lies in facing his subject head on, seeking within each subject both physical and spiritual forces that combine to make and image of singular strength and character.
The geometry of his narrative and the rough edge and tension that Lam achieves in his work is a constant and imparts a direct power to the viewer. This is something which may well come from Lam's studied both in theater and fine arts. "I am influenced by the expressionists," he says. "I care about the structure of the work and I want that the colors should express the feeling of movement and the strength of the moment."
"I never care about the three-dimensionality of time and space because I don't really care about the environment in which the subject exists. The center of my work is the figure and the figure is isolated. I am not trying to bring real life to my paintings, but it is still there because I am expressing my own reality."
Lam's work moves between spontaneous representation of figure, movement and flow of line and one of studied preparation. As he notes, he sometimes sketches many studies before he begins to put paint to canvas, while at other times he work directly to canvas. By preparing he feels that he is able to control his narrative move firmly than through directly application of pain to canvas. His colors are muted which creates a brooding effect...
"During painting after preparation with sketches," he say, "I pay a lot more attention to the structure of the painting. I am more aware of the line and the sense of volume. When I do this, my color expresses that which is around me in Hanoi in a quieter, darker vision of the place, I take emotion of the colors from a broad range of colors around me."
Young artists today have a much broader range of influences from which to draw than earlier generations. Lam is draw to...
… Both Western and Vietnamese artist who showed immense spirit and individuality in their art. The Austrian painter Egon Schiele (1890-1918) and the Vietnamese artists Bui Xuan Phai (1921-1988) and Dang Xuan Hoa (b. 1959) are three of Lam's most important influences.
While popular, commercial art will be at the center of many successful contemporary Vietnamese artists' works, the artists of the young generation of which Lam is a member are seeking something that will dignify the changes and the reality which they see around them. For, as the world of modern Vietnam changes' it requires fresh voices through which to express the new world.
Asian Art News Sep-Oct 2003