starts 2020 with the beautiful and sensitive work of Thao Nguyen Phan, titled Monsoon Melody. This exhibition, her largest to date, presents three film installations: Tropical Siesta (2017), Mute Grain (2019) and Becoming Alluvium (2019). These are featured alongside paintings on different supports: from silk and lacquer paintings to watercolours on the printed pages of a book.
In her work, Phan draws from the rich and turbulent history of her native country, Vietnam. Her art transgresses a purely historical point of view to incorporate an interest in literature and language. Through storytelling, mixing official and unofficial history, it subtly reveals the forgotten and the forgettable while proposing an alternative present-day reality infused with beauty. Each film is accompanied by a series of paintings, whose fairy-tale imagery is undercut by the suggestion of violence.
Monsoon Melody is a trilogy of works that takes a poetic approach to pressing questions such as food security and our ecological responsibilities. They explore the agricultural, political and social context of the Vietnamese countryside. Tropical Siesta is a two-channel colour film, located in an alternative version of present-day Vietnam where everyone is a farmer. It takes a 17th-century text by the Jesuit priest Alexander de Rhodes as a lens through which to examine the colonisation, depiction and languages of Vietnam. Mute Grain is a three-screen black and white film, which Phan describes as a lullaby dedicated to the loss of lives, to the separations of the living and the dead, unable to reconcile due to the tragedies of war and famine. Combining video, sound, painting, installation and archival material, it recounts a seldom discussed 1945 famine in Vietnam. Becoming Alluvium is Phans latest work, a single-channel colour film building on her research into the Mekong River. It observes the environmental changes due to the expansion of agriculture, overfishing and the economic migration of farmers to urban areas. Of the film, Phan says this is my contemplation on the glory and the tragedy of the Mekong River, my attempt to collect testimonies for the captured sediments and the variety of species that are sacrificed for mankinds constant seeking of perpetual brightness.
This exhibition is the outcome of Phan winning the 2018 Han Nefkens Foundation LOOP Video Art Award. It also marks the beginning of a series of collaborations between the Han Nefkens Foundation and WIELS, bringing together their resources and expertise to support and present ambitious audio-visual work from around the world.
This exhibition is also a collaboration with: Fundació Joan Miró (Barcelona) & Chisenhale Gallery (London).
It is accompanied by an illustrated publication also titled Monsoon Melody. This monograph features reproductions of Thaos recent work and contains texts by Zoë Gray (WIELS), Sam I-Shan, Lila Matsumoto, Han Nefkens, Pamela Nguyen Corey, Thao Nguyen Phan, Hilde Teerlinck and Thomas D. Trummer.
The publication is designed by Ok Kyung Yoon, edited by the Han Nefkens Foundation and co-edited by Fundació Joan Miró, WIELS and Chisenhale Gallery with the support of Galerie Zink Waldkirchen. It is published and distributed by Mousse Publishing.
Born 1987, Vietnam. Lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Trained as a painter, Phan is a multimedia artist whose practice encompasses film, painting, installation and performance. Drawing from literature, philosophy and daily life, Phan observes ambiguous issues in social conventions and history. She started working in film when she began her MFA in Chicago. Phan exhibits internationally, with solo and group exhibitions including Rockbund Art Museum (Shanghai, 2019); Lyon Biennale (Lyon, 2019); Sharjah Biennial (Sharjah Art Foundation, 2019); Gemäldegalerie (Berlin, 2018); Dhaka Art Summit (2018); Para Site (Hong Kong, 2018); Factory Contemporary Art Centre (Ho Chi Minh City, 2017); Nha San Collective (Hanoi, 2017); and Bétonsalon (Paris, 2016), among others. She was shortlisted for the 2019 Hugo Boss Asia Art Award. In addition to her work as a multimedia artist, she is co-founder of the collective Art Labor, which explores cross disciplinary practices and develops art projects that benefit the local community.