"Cries, Whispers & Remembrances" is an etraordinary exhibition of recent works on silk, paper and canvas by Vietnamese artists Nguyen Cam and Phan Cam Thuong, and Finnish artist Maritta Nurmi. Cries of outrage lifting the whispery veils of illusion and remembrances of a time past form the universal language of these three diverse artists possessed by the enigmatic spirit of Vietnam. In their works Vietnam, a land of exquisite beauty, shrouded in mystery and steeped in deep tradition, has found expression that breathes with the ancients and lives in the present. These three artists, seeking their own individual paths, have found a commonality in their respect for Vietnamese history, tradition and ritual.
Nguyen Cam, returning to Vietnam after an absence of thirty years, was overwhelmed by intense emotions. Rediscovering a once familiar place, the nostalgia breaks free from its restraints, flowing off the canvas in cries of passion. "Through my paintings, I renew with my forefather's land and embrace the ordinariness of things. Crumbling walls, rusted gates, moldy patched roofs, overused rice sacks, all conjure up the past and raise my deepest love. The ochres, reds, and browns recall my land, its outrages and men's sufferings, the memories of a country damaged by history's monsoons, which my exile had hidden. I use rags of jute sacking which I assemble and sew together, my works patched up by fingers still trembling with emotion. The lack of frames reveals an urgent need to hold back a memory that is fast disappearing under the winds of modernity."
Maritta Nurmi, a Finnish artist living in Hanoi since 1993, is on an inward quest. Forging her own language of light with her silver infused canvases, she uncovers step by step, that which clouds her inner vision to open the passage to the Archetype. "In Buddhism there are said to be seven veils of illusion. As each is discarded a person is said to understand another aspect of the true nature of life and the self. To lift the veils makes one strong enough to tolerate what life is about. Also there is in Buddhism a questing action called nyubu, which means to go into the mountains in order to understand oneself and to remake one's connection to the Gods. I am not a Buddhist, but these Buddhist ideas describe well my journey in Vietnam. By living and making art in Vietnam I am able to lift the veils in order to get strong and also to climb into my mountains for being with the Gods."
Phan Cam Thuong, a Buddhist scholar and author of several books on Buddhist art and the ancient sculpture of Vietnam, is another spirit immersed in the world of the ancients. He draws upon this wealth of knowledge for the images he portrays, frequently using themes and images from ancient folk tales in Vietnam, feeling that only when the viewer is presented with historical, political and religious contexts can they truly understand the true nature of Vietnamese art. "The Vietnamese character and ego of the people has not changed from the past up to the present. With the advent of development in Vietnam today, I see many sides of life, some good and some bad. Life always has two faces, beautiful and ugly, good and bad, light and dark, yin and yang. In my works I often paint one person who always has a mask, depicting another face of him."
Although widely different in their styles and techniques, these three artists are each intrinsically moved by the same spirit. Possessed by a reverence for the mystical in life, each pays homage to ancient tradition within a sense of quiet awe of the beauty of the sacred.
Nguyen Cam and Maritta Nurmi are artists in residence at Pacific Bridge during July. Opening reception for the artists Thursday, July 15th from 7-10 PM.
Nguyen Cam and Maritta Nurmi will give an Artists' Talk Wednesday, July 21st from 7-8:30 PM.
Exhibition July 15th through August 14th. Gallery hours Tuesday through Saturday 11 AM - 6 PM.
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