Nguyen Huy An: “Sometimes, I Think Beauty Is A Trap” | Vietcetera
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Aug 04, 2021

Nguyen Huy An: “Sometimes, I Think Beauty Is A Trap”

This multifaceted artist’s works are never meant to just be beautiful; they also speak to the soul.

Nguyen Huy An: “Sometimes, I Think Beauty Is A Trap”

Source: Nguyen Huy An

The Factor x Vietcetera

In 2004, Nguyen Huy An released his first work of art at an exhibition hosted by Nha San Studio. Over the years, his creations have been showcased across Vietnam and the globe — from Galerie Quynh, Nha San Collective and the Vincom Center for Contemporary Art, to Singapore Biennale (2013) and Istanbul Biennale (2015)...

An doesn’t limit himself within the scope of a single art medium: he can paint, write, act and sculpt. His works usually feature materials tied to the old days and reflect his own viewpoint of universal topics. In fact, An can bring to life inanimate objects like hair, fabric, ink or paper as storytellers.

Contemporary artist Nguyen Huy An. | Source: Nguyen Huy An

Nguyen Huy An admits he’s somewhat of a pessimist with a weak mentality, and there’s a very real influence from it on the way he approaches his art subjects. But An’s works are never meant to just be beautiful; they also speak to the soul.

How would you describe your audience?

A crowd from all ages and walks of life, who are knowledgeable and have an eye for art. 

But I’ve also met people who don’t fit into that description, yet told me they enjoy my art regardless.

How would you describe your works to someone who knows nothing about contemporary art or traditional Vietnamese culture?

A corner of Nguyen Huy An’s art workshop, where he works. | Source: Nguyen Huy An

Sometimes I like to tell them to not even consider what they’re looking at to be art. Instead, how does that pose, that imagery, that palette… make you feel? 

Of course, there are still works that I need to explain if the audience is unfamiliar. But that’s not too hard, because we can always find something on Wikipedia.

What’s the number one criterion you need when deciding whether to publicize one of your works?

A part of the series THIÊN THỦ THIÊN NHÃN. A pencil drawing on paper (2020) | Source: Nguyen Huy An

What’s most important is, at that point in time, I thought it was alright. That means clear, coherent, simple and true to the overall meaning of my message.

Where do you think is the beauty in a contemporary artwork?

I think people only use the word “beauty” as a habit. It’s probably not a fitting measuring system for the spiritual value of artworks — whether contemporary or old, eastern or western.

The production of Cái vũng lớn (The big puddle) using ink. Showcased during the LimDim exhibition at an Oslo museum. | Source: Nguyen Huy An

The power of art isn’t just limited to its beauty, but also what kind of influence it has on its spectators. 

Sometimes, I even think of beauty like a trap. As much as contemporary art tries to reject the idea of beautifying itself, at the end of the day, it’s still caught in that trap.

Which one of your works would you send to someone feeling lost?

That depends on who I am at that point in time, who that person is, and how exactly “lost” they are. Once, I wanted to send someone I know a painting by de La Tour.

People beholding a work of art. | Source: Nguyen Huy An

What do you do when your work reaches a deadlock?

Everything I need to do, just in deadlock.

"Giấy" (“Paper”) | Source: Nguyen Huy An

If there’s a day when you’re no longer making art, what kind of job would you be doing?

I’d probably still be involved with painting. Maybe as an instructor or decorator.

A cut up and sifted dress, part of the project VÁY THUẬN CHÂU (Thuan Chau Dress) | Source: Nguyen Huy An

If you could be invisible, what would you do?

Run a lap. I’ll think about what’s next afterwards.

“Buddha” | Source: Nguyen Huy An

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever received?

To reconsider studying art. It was a long time ago. 

Although, I’m not too certain either. What if it turns out to make sense in the future? How do you know for sure if something’s good or bad?

The Factory Contemporary Art Center (The Factory) is the first purpose-built space for contemporary art in Vietnam, operating under the business model of a social enterprise, The Factory focuses on interdisciplinary cultural activities to introduce and expand knowledge of contemporary art in Vietnam.

Address: The Factory Contemporary Art Center, 15 Nguyen U Di, Thao Dien Ward, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City
Contact information: | +84 (0)28 3744 2589

Translated by Jennifer Nguyen