Are arts a means or an end? There is unlikely an absolute answer to this question. But there is a choice artists can make. For Nguyen Khac Chinh, it is the former. For him, arts are a means to express his thoughts, feelings and reflections of life.
Let Time Pass By – Nguyen Khac Chinh
The series “Life of Mannequins” consists of several different topics (e.g. “Looking for the real face”, “Gossips”…), but throughout there is a consistent hidden underlying idea behind each painting: that is the being of loneliness in this modern life. Is it because of the human race towards wealth or fame that people have to be reactive in every moment in life and thus have to wear different faces? The internet, facebook, and other connection devices born as gifts of high technology, are in fact disconnecting people from other real human beings living right next to them. Everybody claims that no one understands him, but does he really understand himself? People are lonely in this very crowded life. Not with sarcasm or criticism, Chinh simply wants to reflect genuinely the nature of human psychology through his paintings.
Figures of girls in traditional outfits and with monotonic actions lure viewers into mysterious ancient space, but here and there signals of a modern life can still be found as reminders of reality (e.g. an iPhone, a laptop, or a glass of wine). Do they co-exist, or conflict with each other? It’s not to be known. But as you look at the paintings long enough, you will see loneliness hidden from all those tiredness and anxiety. Loneliness emerges as a co-product of all those statuses. Chinh uses oil paint with hot and deep colors and smooth surfaces, together with some reasonable decorative details, which are typical strengths of silk painting. With his proficient technical skills, such intentional mis-use of materials is in fact quite exciting and compelling, making this series unique.
However, Chinh would not have made a breakthrough and differentiated himself from many other artists who reflect life through arts in a typical, normal way if that were all about his paintings. Actually, with a close look, we will find consolation and humanism, subtle but by no means insignificant. Examples include “Contemplating flowers”, “Zen”, “Let time pass by”, and “Practicing”. They bring us back to our personal selves and urge us to look into things deliberately and slowly and not to be distracted. Peace in mind will then come. Like Diamond Sutra teaches us, “All composed things are like a dream”, an understanding that all physical things are just temporary and fake combinations will bring peace of mind, which in turn will bring you happiness. Loneliness will disappear before you notice it. Mannequins are fake human beings. Leave them and get back to who you are.
In short, this is a very unique, oriental series of painting, yet very modern and full of compassions. Arts are a long journey. Keep up the good work with even more refreshing contemplations!
Seeking For The Real Face – Nguyen Khac Chinh
Hanoi 3rd September 2014.
Pham Binh Chuong