Nguyen The Dung
What has in common among a crowd people but in the same in way of life, in thought, in both habits, tiny acts and a herb of cows? What has in common among a regular docile herb of cows and a regular crowd (people)? With Nguyen The Dung artist, his answer is the plastic image of Cow-Human hybrid. In many years of following arts, the head and the face of a cow, human hands are emphasized, described with light, blended with classical techniques, and repeated in both paintings and sculptures. In contrast, the whole body, with plaid clothes and tie to platforms, cushions, floors ... or space, are just convective bits, with flat graphics language. In some details, the artist intentionally makes the cutting effect, Pop as a highlight or metaphor for vision. All of Nguyen The Dung cows are headless, instead of human head. A transformation from real to surreal, from sensible to absurd. The cow-heads - hands, spread out, back out, grabbed its tail, grabbed its hind legs, grabbed hands. To pull, to get throat, resentful or resigned. Called the herb of cows are also called a cow is not wrong or is it one cow in herb of cows? Because they are all the same, stick together, overlapping, horizontal or vertical aligned, gradually increasing, gradually decreasing, gradually fading. The similarity and the absurd shall generate a series of why questions. Why is cow-body or human-hand? Why are cows exactly the same from posture to shape, to color? Why do the cows keep sticking together? Why is human-body or cow-head? Why is quiet so motionless? Different from the mythical creatures derived from Greek mythology (the type of sphinx, birdman ...) of divine, sacred color; The cow – human of Nguyen The Dung are a secularize image, metaphorical, implicitly jesting of human life today. A full physical life, comfortable, conduce to a new snobbish man with a low mental life. A life is formed from simple and truths, in the age is called globalization according to Le Anh Hoai writer.
NGUYEN THE DUNG
1985 Born in, Thanh Hoa province
2008 Bachelor of Arts, Vietnam University of Fine Arts, Hanoi
2014 Graduated the master course in paintings, Vietnam University of Fine Arts
2012 Nguyen The Dung Oxen – Human Beings, Viet Art Centre, Hanoi.
2011 A herd of Unidentified Cows, Cactus contemporary art gallery, HCMC
2016 “At the hind sight” exhibition at Green Palm gallery, Hanoi, Vietnam
2013 Connection exhibition in Vietnam, Viet Art Center, Hanoi and Laos.
ASIAN Contemporary Art in Hong Kong
2011 Printing and painting international exhibition, Bangkok, Thailand.
The National Festival for young artists, organized by the Ministry of Culture – Sports and Tourism, Hanoi
2010 One day, Trung Nguyen Creative Center, Hanoi Abandonment, Viet Art Centre, Hanoi
2007 Red River fine arts prize and exhibition, Korean Cultural Center in Vietnam
2006 Group exhibition in Germany.
“My selection of cows as a theme for my works simply stemmed from my inclination to draw what is dear to me. I was born in the countryside, where I used help my family herding cattle and collecting grass to feed them, and working on the farm, so the image of a cow is all the more familiar to me. And in the process of observation, researching and learning from my experiences of life, I want to share a viewpoint and outlook on some phenomena in the present society. Life in this era, when people are very much dependent on advance technologies, caused the human development to, at times, trod down a well- worn path. Besides the tendency of repeating oneself, people also adopt the approach of following the crowd, or to put it simply, the culture of “huddling together in a herd”. That is the cause for their portrait with an “ox-head” despite of their elegant outfit.”
Nguyen The Dung confided
A herd of one single cow
The subject matter in art is a patch of reality. Each artist has a key theme defined by the reality in life which is most familiar to him. But art icon is not so, though such icon also stems from life. Each icon being used in art works is perhaps the artist’s personal obsession, thus his own choice to adopt this symbol, this object, this animal but not any other ones for his artistic creativity. Such choice is closely connected to the artist’s past experience in life, even a remote one, related to the events that caused the changes in his emotion, and a variety of other areas such as memory, psychology. Artistic obsession symbolized by art icons is, in most cases if not entirely, undecipherable.
In the case of artist Nguyen The Dung, it is a cow. His very art icon is a cow. He is obsessed by cow.
Certainly, cow as the artistic icon does not equate to his artistic goal. Cow is not the subject matter that he endeavors to depict, but the means for the artist to reveal, unfold his inner world.
As such, despite of his realistic style, with the thorough use of light, shades and chiaroscuro effects, none of his cow is complete nor in full shape, yet identifiable. All of his cows are headless. In lieu of the cow head, a hand, a human hand sticks out. Such depiction has transgressed the border between realism and surrealism, between reasonable and unintelligible. The cow heads-hands extend out, flip upward, hold their own tails, hold their own hind legs, hold each other. Is it a state of mental tug-of-war, of tormented, of silenced wrath or of endurance? They could be called (plural) cows or a (single) cow, it works either way, or could that even be called A herd of one single cow? Because all his cows are the same, sticking together, overlapping each other, lined up in ranks and files, in linear and atmospheric perspective. Such homogeneity and unintelligibility shall, in turn, became reasonable through a series of “why” questions. Why does the cow body has the human hand in place of its head? Why all the cows are identical from the posture, shape to colour? Why do the cows stick together? Why the human body has a cow’s head? Why does it seem like a dead silence?
Such personified ideation in itself is readily a method of creation, not only for painting, not only for now, as it has always been in arts, East and West alike. However, it does vary from time to time, from each artist to another. Each artist has to handle his individual circumstance and experience to find his own solution of personification in a significant way. Such significance could only become achievable and sensible in the idiosyncratic personification.
Unlike literature, the art of painting is not about describing or telling a tale, neither does it illustrate a literary idea. But the paintings of today are so different from that of the past. Instead of solely focusing on the demand of visual aesthetic, the art of today needs to offer a “story”, a “question” as well. Nguyen The Dung put forth many a questions. Yet there is no answer, or to be more precise, no absolute correct answer. The image of cows lying submissively on the red-carpeted stairs suggests juxtaposition between the rural and the urban, the rich and the poor, the formal and unruly. Fashionable office guys with identical striped shirts, suits, shiny black shoes are in human body but having a cow’s head with the wide open eyes. Human is cow, cow is human. Is it the impact of the rural nativity or the absurdity of the urban dweller that opted to learn the bad habits of the peasants, and vice versa the peasant just want to adopt the bad influence of the city life? The composed setting, in which the identical cows lined up on an unidentified flat ground, alludes to the cattle-herd mentality that is so popular in the present society, from the way of dressing to the way of thinking. People are even identical in their feelings of happiness or sadness. They copy each other to dress in fashion, feeling a fashionable sadness or fashionable happiness.
Viewing the works of artists from the older generation, an aesthetic assessment could be achieved immediately, and spectators could in no time sense the feeling being conveyed through the painting, be it joyous, optimistic, dreamy or sorrow.