Vietnamese paintings of Agent Orange victims exhibit in Berlin

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A exhibition of paintings by Vietnamese artist Nguyen Xuan Huy focusing on victims of Agent Orange will run until February 26 at Galerie im Körnerpark, Berlin.

Entitled Blackout, the exhibition depicts just a fraction of the millions of people that have been born, and are still being born, with crippling birth defects -- without arms, without legs and often mentally impaired -- due to alterations in their genotype as a result of exposure to the poisonis chemical dioxin used in Agent Orange.

The US military and its Southern Vietnamese counterparts sprayed Agent Orange -- a poisonous defoliant -- across the southern Vietnamese countryside in a bid to deprive the Vietnamese resistance of food and cover.

"It's insensitive to imagine that because I was born healthy that I am untouched by this issue" said Nguyen Xuan Huy in a press release this week, "Because so many people are potential carriers of the altered genotype, this is a problem which could affect each and every citizen of Vietnam."

The painter, who currently lives and works in Berlin, evokes the horrors of war through those who have been previously concealed from view. Thirty five years after the end of the Vietnam conflict , the delineations of Nguyen Xuan Huy transport them, from the gloomy depths of the jungle, into the light .

Huy lived and studied in Vietnam until 1993 and was an architect before he was inspired to paint the resultant deformity because, in his words, "it belongs to my Vietnamese identity."

In 2005, as a student of Burg Giebichenstein Art and Design Academy in Halle, he traveled throughout Vietnam searching out and photographing Agent Orange victims.

At that time he only knew the war through stories told by his father, who fought in it. But he needed to see it first hand.

"On his return to Germany he began to paint what he had seen, initially against a jungle background; a woman with two torsos squats amidst tree branches, a small boy without legs performs a headstand amidst a towering thicket of bamboo," said the press release.

The "Blackout" series "not only depicts images of crippled children, but the cloud of poisonous gas billowing out across a valley; the view from the cockpit of an aeroplane and the resulting strike; a woman peering out from one of the small protective bunkers that still litter the landscape," said the release.

"Solitary black canvasses hang between each of the paintings, symbolic of the blackouts that war leaves behind," according to PR material for the exhibit.

Blackout is on display at Galerie im Körnerpark, Schierker Str. 8, 12051 Berlin.

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