Dao Mai Trang: ART & TALENT: a foreground on the 8X contemporary artists generation of Vietnam

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Introduction

In 2010, I produced my first publication 12 contemporary artists of Vietnam (The Gioi Publishers, Hanoi), collecting research articles on 12 leading contemporary artists of  Vietnam. Then, I started to think of my own book on younger artists born in early 1980s because in 2010, most of them were turning thirty, crossing threshold of mature knowledge and personality. In other words, they are on the brink of the mature of art creativity with certain success and fame and social position. I decided to focus on artists born in the first five years of the 1980s for my convenience of research because they are in the same generation. And from now on in my book, I call them the 8X artist generation.

With the above in mind, I started to observe the 8X generation’s artistic activities and to investigate their circumstances of artistic works. This 8X generation have had a more expanded environment of profession. They are completely acquainted with contemporary art and many of them actively work in this field. However, in the pecialized context of Vietnamese society, Vietnamese painters, sculptors and contemporary artists have been facing quite different issues to those of their colleagues in other countries in the region and all over the world. For a quite long time now, there have been too many or even opposite viewpoints on definitions of contemporary art, of mainstream art, of professional artists in Vietnam. Meanwhile, the Vietnamese cultural authorities have promulgated a number of regulations in contemporary art activities which are based on superficial viewpoints completely contrary to the common practice of contemporary art in the world. On the other hand, the biggest issue is the insufficient and unstandardized legal corridor and cultural mechanism for fine arts and contemporary art in Vietnam. Many artists have discussed the passive influences of the sociocultural context to their creative motivation.

An aspect of practice worth noting is the existence of all kinds of aesthetic concepts, from premodern to contemporary, in the visual art life in Vietnam. One can see the complication of the Vietnamese social context: In general, Vietnam is still an agricultural country in the process of moderrnization – industrialization and at the same time, Vietnam has been intergrating globalization.

While facing to disadvantages in life, people can show most clearly their existent instinct and knowledge. Therefore, in this book, I want to raise a discussion that the social context is always external to real artists although it is full of advantages or disadvantages.

The core importance on the art road of real artists must be their will and mettle that is nurtured inside themselves. I have been working as an art journalist since the middle of the 1990s as a way to understand many paintings and sculptural works around me. It’s time for me to write what I really want to share about Vietnamese visual art life. This book can be seen as my sincere thoughts about the threat of our art life lagging behind other countries in the region and in the world. Besides, I do not want to hide my slight disappointment as well as my hope about our 8X artist generation. They have been plunging into the field of creativity that is more difficult than ever. I hope they would find in this book my sympathy and encouragement for them. I also hope that they will always be of sound minds on their creative journeys and recognize the true value of art at the end.

Works of nine artists in my interest are quite distinguishable. The distinction must be seen very important to take artists far on their art road. They can do more in art to make the public hope and believe in a new Vietnamese art life, brighter, more splendid, although it has been deadly dull period.

When my book was nearly completed, I got an email from the Vietnam Theater of Songs and Dance with its report that the Theater would change its name to The Vietnam Theater of Contemporary Art. Besides, this more was mention of using contemporary art such as a light installation and electronic music and contemporary calligraphy “to renovate the Binh Da traditional village festival”. Two stories made me think it seems that the cultural crisis and the confusion of cultural and artistic concepts in Vietnamese society have peaked. This situation also shows that cultural life has lagged to the bottom although it has been containing every expression of culture and art in the world as well as trying to preserve its traditions. But no one knows, “in the end, things will mend”, from the peak of the crisis, Vietnamese art life will gradually go to a new period of development, substantial and civilized, with important contributions of painters, sculptors and contemporary artists.

Dao Mai Trang

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