Currently on view at L’Espace is an exhibition of lacquer paintings by Nguyen Thi Mai, who asserts her artistic credentials not only through her masterful control of the formal aspects of her artistic production: the medium, the refined color sensibility, composition and stylistic form, but also as a talented and thoughtful artist, who has developed the full potential of her stylistic vocabulary and whose work commands the respect of the viewer with the silent power of this attainment.
Nguyen Thi Mai’s paintings impress at first sight, showing off the artist’s unhesitantly immediate grasp and the organization of the pictorial space, which she has elevated to a stylistic feature with the status of a personal art signature.
They impress with their nuanced — sometimes delicate, sometimes heavy — deep color pallet, which retains a painterly aspect in spite of the flatness of color application demanded by the lacquer technique.
They impress with their seemingly easy to read cartography, resolving the formally static compositions with an inbuilt movement of line and dynamism of form.
These works invite the viewer’s curiosity — like some just discovered and infused with as yet undeciphered meaning objects, that have a story to tell.
Some are multi-paneled creations, unfolding as a stylized presentation of an epic act of being — frozen in time, mysterious, dream-like, familiar, ‘déjà vu’ ancient and yet contemporary narratives of the ritual of life and love — which in spite of its simplicity remains an enigma.
These painted narratives carry an aura of beauty, which the artist is not shy to express as an integral quality of her work that conveys the sense of a woman as a state of being, without judgmental constraints, without aversion to the monotonous, or further romanticizing the poetics of life, without overdramatizing womanhood.
For Nguyen Thi Mai a woman is not a hero, not a goddess, nor a symbol… and yet she is… as in her paintings woman is a keeper of love, a giver of life, a custodian of mystery and knowledge, tradition and time — present and constant as nature itself — eternally and naturally equal to everything else in her Universe.
Looking at the paintings in Nguyen Thi Mai’s exhibition “Woman”, one comes to realize that they are a gentle statement of profound respect and deep understanding of the meaning of womanhood.
Writer: Ilza Burchett
(This article first appeared on Hanoi Grapevine 28/03/2014)
Ilza holds the deep conviction that there is nothing more damaging than indifference and that only a critique, based on peer to peer assessment of contemporary art practices, is the way to broaden and encourage the creative thought and new original artistic ideas — fostering a better understanding of contemporary visual art and the role of the artist as a creator of cultural values.
Ilza Burchett is an internationally exhibiting artist, now based in Hanoi, Vietnam.