My Story

Craig Thomas Gallery is pleased to announce My Story, a solo exhibition of acrylic on collage paintings by Hanoi-based artist Nguyen Tuan Dung.

Nguyen Tuan Dung (b. 1990) is a talented young visual artist living and working in Hanoi who will be having his first solo gallery exhibition with CT Gallery in Saigon.   In preparation for his upcoming opening, we posed some questions below to Dung about the My Story collection, his motivations, and his creative influences.

Can you tell me about your family and your life growing up? 

“I was born in Thanh Hoa Province in the North Central region of Vietnam.  My family’s income came mainly from farming.  Despite some difficulties, they supported me in my passion to study fine arts after high school all the way through the Hanoi Industrial Fine Arts University.  Memories of my early years with my family have always had the biggest impact on my art.”

Why do you choose to depict bicycles so often in your work and why do you title them “Friend”?

“The My Story collection is filled with images that will be familiar to many people.  Personally, I am particularly touched by bicycles which are associated with a lot of fond memories for me. For example, the men’s Phoenix bike was used by my parents from the time they first began dating.  It was also a means of transportation for the many extra jobs they took to earn the money to put me and my brother and sister through school and help us become what we are today.

“More generally, I think bicycles are a familiar means of transportation for most Vietnamese people; especially poor laborers who use them to make their living.  The bikes are like friends to them.  I choose to paint them because of the special feelings they generate.  I know that they are fast being replaced by alternative means of transportation and one day may even disappear altogether – existing only in our thoughts and memories.”

Why did you choose to become an artist?

“I just really enjoy drawing and spend a lot of time on it at the moment.  As young people like to say these days: ‘I just do it because I like it.’  I also think that I need to put a lot more effort forth before I can really deserve the title of ‘artist.’  I have chosen painting though and I think I will follow it to the end as I see this as a career that I can love for my entire life.”

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Collage seems like a difficult medium to work with.  Why have you chosen that medium rather than painting on canvas?

“I have chosen to use newspaper as a background for my paintings because I find so many interesting things on the surface of the newspapers.  After experimenting with a lot of different materials, I found that drawing and painting on newspaper was most suitable for this iteration of my work in spite of the fact that it can be a challenging material to work with.  That said, I am also still experimenting with other materials like oil and silk to add variety to my creations.”

How important are the stories and headlines in the newspapers that you choose to paint on?  Do you choose them randomly or with deeper meaning?

“Often times, I choose snippets of newspaper randomly, but, by happy accident, the headlines of the articles turn out to have a relevance to the painting that I am then working on.  Most of the time, however, I choose the text and images of the collage newspaper to fit with the imagery that I am trying to portray in my work.  Firstly, the text and the images of the newspaper tend to be eye-catching and strange when combined with my artistic language.  Besides the headlines, the contents of the articles deal with important news and contemporary issues that I also want included in the painting to make my intentions clearer to viewers.”

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Where does the inspiration for your work come from?

“The inspiration and ideas for my paintings often come unexpectedly but can also result from a conscious pursuit of an intuition.  As I mentioned, my biggest source of inspiration are images from my childhood: my family and familiar objects from that daily life that I knew.  Through that, I want to connect my own personal stories with those of society at large; connect my childhood stories with stories of the present and of the future.

“For example, in my bike paintings I always express other images like old conical hats, baskets, or the latest flying baloons.   The images of the bikes come from my personal story, but I want them to be familiar to viewers as if they were from their own stories.  Many artists have painted bicycles, however, I want to leave some odd but familiar marks in my paintings that will resonate more strongly with Vietnamese viewers.

“I often receive inspiration from the news of the day, “hot stories,” which I see on television or read about in the newspaper and which focus my thoughts on what is relevant.  I think artists need to keep pace with their time and need to speak out with voices that are integrated with current events. This allows them to create useful objects for the society in which they are living through their artistic language.”

Is there anything you want to say to your viewers or anything that you want them specifically to feel when they see your work.

“Since I have a great passion for what I am doing and I feel like painting is a strength that allows me to best express my personality and feelings, I hope that viewers can empathize with the messages that I am trying to send through my paintings. These may be feelings of happiness or pleasure at seeing similarities between me as the creator and them as the viewer, or, hopefully, it may engender empathy in contemplating the ups and downs and the struggles of the artist.”


Exhibition dates:                  8 December – 31 December 2016
Location:                                Craig Thomas Gallery
27(i) Tran NhatDuat
Tan Dinh Ward, Dist. 1   Ho Chi Minh City
Contacts:                               Craig Thomas – 0903888431