19 Jan-19 Feb – Art Vietnam – “This is what I heard…”

Art Vietnam Gallery
7 Nguyen Khac Nhu, Hanoi

Opening – Sat, 19 Jan, 6 pm


Le Quoc Viet

“This is what I heard…”

from the press release by Suzanne Lecht:

So begins every Buddhist text – with a simple phrase that links the past to the present…

In celebration of Tet and The Year of the Rat, Art Vietnam Gallery is honored to present “This is what I heard…” a collection of new works by Le Quoc Viet. Viet is a Buddhist, a scholar, an artist

In addition to the solo exhibition of Le Quoc Viet Art Vietnam is hosting an international collaboration between *Le Quoc Viet* and Bhutanese artist *Kama Wangdi*. Throughout the month of January these two artists will work together to construct a contemporary prayer wheel.

Click on the image below to see a larger version of the invitation.


Here is the complete press release:

“This is what I heard…”
So begins every Buddhist text – with a simple phrase that links the past to the present, philosophy to experience and reaches beyond into an ethereal realm that is here, now, if we are attuned enough to experience it. Buddha spoke to his followers not from text but from his own life experience. His followers then interpreted the Buddha’s teachings by listening and retelling, by speaking and writing, by creating and honoring. As a result a myriad of voices slowly propagated the voice of Buddha. It is a process that continues in the present day. It is with this idea in mind that Le Quoc Viet has chosen to create “This is what I heard…” the artist’s most personal look at tradition, modern society, and his own life.

In celebration of Tet and The Year of the Rat, Art Vietnam Gallery is honored to present “This is what I heard…” a collection of new works by Le Quoc Viet. Viet is a Buddhist, a scholar, an artist, and born in the year of the rat like myself. Having received a formal education in a pagoda in Thanh Hoa province, Viet is one of a few people still living who can read and write Nom, the traditional Vietnamese language originating from ancient Han. Viet is the vehicle through which Nom, a once utilitarian language, transforms itself into fine art. Within Viet modern and time-honored mentalities attempt a difficult conversation with one another, a conversation whose essence might be one of the only ways to make the past accessible in the present. In Viet’s work traditional figures and scripts are washed over by the unsettling and intoxicating callousness of progress. It is with Le Quoc Viet’s latest body of work that Art Vietnam Gallery welcomes the beginning of the new lunar year and the possibility for change.

Viet’s work – a combination of calligraphy, woodblock prints, painting, and ink drawing – takes an unabashed look at the moral disintegration of modern society. Critical of the loss of basic ethics when faced with the possibility of advancement, Viet’s works depict the lavish and hallow state of both urban and rural contemporary life. Utilizing forms ranging from highly visceral dismembered bodies to abstract brush stokes Viet creates emotive and fragmentary compositions reflecting the breaking down of society, the disorientation of the people and general moral decay. The artist frequently utilizes two symbols in his investigation of the leveling authority of progress. The first is a royal gown, which appears beautiful on the outside but whose inside is empty or decaying. It signifies a moment in time devoid of culture and critical thinking. In contrast, the second symbol Viet uses widely is that of a monk’s face simultaneously symbolizing the simplicity encountered when leading a morally informed life and Viet’s own desire to be a better person.

Calligraphy figures largely in Viet’s work; most of his pieces are woven through with script. Frustrated by the fact that he is unable to communicate with other Vietnamese through the use of the traditional Nom, Viet has created a script singular to himself, a script composed of Latin, Nom, and ancient Han. These languages are violently forced together in such a way as to leave all three devoid of meaning. The energy of their intersection leaves it visual mark on the script depicting the intensity of Viet’s isolation and his desire to communicate that which might soon be lost forever. And yet he still has faith that his viewers will feel something akin to the original meaning of each script and his own emotional starting point. Only at this personal level does Viet find some tangible hope and a belief that with the beginning of the new lunar cycle change is possible.

And so as Le Quoc Viet’s knowledge is passed down through art, and as we learn to tell each other our own histories and truths, all will begin anew. “This is what I heard…”

Suzanne Lecht
Art Director
Art Vietnam Gallery


Art Vietnam Gallery
7 Nguyen Khac Nhu, Hanoi
10 am – 6 pm, closed Sundays
Tel: 84 4 927 2349
Fax: 84 4 927 2804


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