Silk painting exhibition provokes self-reflection

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A silk painting by Le Hoang Bich Phuong portraying a pig with a dripping, swollen red nose. File photo

Can people ever take off the masks they wear every day?

This is the question explored in striking ways by a month-long silk painting exhibition titled "A Transformative Disguise" that opened in Hanoi on Thursday.

The display of works by Ho Chi Minh City-based young artist, Le Hoang Bich Phuong, is co-organized by the Japan Foundation Center for Cultural Exchange in Vietnam and San Art.

The exhibition, which will end on July 27, features a series of portraits that represent herself, including various strangers and friends both real and imagined, wearing the facial mask of particular animals.

In its description of the paintings, a press release from the organizers says: "Donkeys with buckteeth possess skeletal hands, an old bear towers like an oversized hooded jacket over a young child's face, a pig sits sickly with a dripping and swelling red nose, or a Japanese operatic mask of a fox stands pulling at his lips as if he cannot speak.

"Deftly painted in subtle tones of watercolor, what these images refer are the indulgent and insecure habits of the human condition."

It says "˜A Transformative Disguise' questions whether the masks, once worn, can ever truly be removed. It encourages the audience to question what kind of masks they may be wearing every day.

Phuong, 28, is said to be one of Vietnam's most promising young artists. Her study of Vietnamese and Japanese silk painting traditions has greatly influenced her own style and technique.

A graduate of the Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts University, Phuong was awarded an artist-in-residence in Sapporo, Japan, as part of the "˜JENESYS Program: Invitation Program for Creators' of the Japan Foundation in 2011 and the same year, she was also one of the finalists for the DOGMA Art Prize in self-portraiture.

In 2010 she was finalist in the "˜Talent Prize' of the Cultural Development and Exchange Fund.

The Japan Foundation Center for Cultural Exchange in Vietnam is located on 27 Quang Trung Street. Entrance is free.

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