Nguyen Quan
Nguyen Quan - Born in 1948 near Hanoi, is a painter, art critic and art historian now living in Ho Chi Minh City. The most important painter in the early 90's as Vietnam was moving toward opening to the west and moving toward market economy and more freedom for artistic expression. Quan was the artist that many young artists, who wanted change, looked up to as a leader. As such he was the first to break many taboos as an artist. His work is greatly concerned with tradition, the village and Vietnamese heritage.

1948 Born in Vinh Phu, Vietnam
1971 Graduated from University Meresburg, Germany. As early as school age, initiated to painting by the veteran painter Nam Son (1890-1973)
1980 Painting awarded prize at National Fine Arts Exhibition. Author of numerous articles and nine books on fine arts including "Art of the Viet"; "Fine Arts in the Lang"; "Notes on Art"
1978 - 1984 Deputy director of the Theory and History Department at the Hanoi College of Fine Arts. Since 1987, works exhibited in Vietnam, Europe, America, Asia. Works are in public and private collections in Vietnam, Europe and Asia
1984 - 1989 Secretariat, Vietnam Plastic Arts Association
1986 - 1989 Editor-in-Chief, My Thuat (Fine Art) magazine. Deputy Director of Fine Arts Publishing House
1989 Exhibition at Art Gallery 7 Hang Khay, Hanoi. Consultant, Fine Arts Publishing House
1990 Exhibition at Tu Do Gallery, Ho Chi Minh City
1991 - 1992 Exhibition at Art Gallery 7, Hang Khay, Hanoi. "Uncorked Soul", Plum Blossoms, Hong Kong & Singapore; Art Fair Miami
1994 Exhibition at Mai Gallery, Hanoi. Festival Vietnam, Hong Kong
1995 Exhibition in Paris
1996 Exhibitions in Switzerland and Hanoi
1997 Exhibitions in Hong Kong, Brussels, Oslo and Ho Chi Minh City
1998 Exhibition in Singapore
2000 To Du gallery, Ho Chi Minh City
2003 Group exhibition at the Goethe Institute in Hanoi

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Nguyen Quan's Apotheosis
By Nora Taylor

Being at once Vietnam's best known art critic and one of the country's leading painters is no easy matter for Nguyen Quan. He is often torn between his own intense desire to paint and the critical eye that he exercises on other people's work. But he does manage somehow to separate his painting from his writing and in chameleon-like fashion switches from analyzing the country's artistic developments since 1925 to finding his own true voice in his art. His success is perhaps due to the fact that he can be two different people at once.

While his writing provides him with an open forum for expressing his ideas about the nature of Vietnamese art and enables him to exercise his authority on intellectual matters and sharpen his analytical skills, his painting reveals his inner soul, the complexities of his feelings and immediate desires. Luckily for him, his critical skills have not inhibited his painterly impulses. He has maintained his natural ability to be spontaneous and free in his painting. Although he has spent much of his life promoting the integration of Western artistic concepts into Vietnamese painting, his own work is intensely personal and delves deeper into his obviously problematic relationship between Western-style modernism and Vietnamese spirituality.

His latest works especially reflect this dynamic opposition of style and content. In the series of works he titles "Altars", headless women with stone-like flesh stand like sculptures in front of platforms laden with fruits and flowers. Women act as altar stands rather than as offerings in themselves. Many Vietnamese painters have taken the habit of adorning their paintings with images of nudes as if to counteract the years when female nudity was prohibited from being displayed in public spaces, but the nude women in Quan's painting are not there for display, revelation or worship. They are props for his dialogue with himself and his longing for peace and harmony. In Quan's world, nature and culture, the material and the human become both enmeshed and opposed to one another. Rock and flesh, representations of the figurative and abstract, yin and yang merge into and against one another. In his newer "Gift to Asia" series, he seems to have freed himself from having to use the human figure at all as a backdrop to his compositions of the objects that make up the Vietnamese spiritual landscape. Instead, these forces stand on their own as if he contained them in a miniature taoist garden. Puddles of water, porous rocks, thorny plants and round, colorful fruit interact with one another linked with the scratch of an imaginary wire like a mobile hanging in the air.

Quan is one of the few painters in Vietnam today who has truly come into his own. His work no longer speaks of "Vietnameseness" or "tradition." He has so matured and evolved in the process of consistently putting Vietnamese painting on the international art map that he has freed himself from the reins of the collective consciousness of being a painter in Vietnam and risen to the level of a universal painter who has come to terms with what it means to be himself.

See the paintings

See the paintings