At just 28 years old, French-Vietnamese artist Florian Nguyen has had successful exhibitions in cities in Europe, America, Southeast Asia and Australia. His most recent exhibition Gesture of Memories has brought him to Hanoi.
Florian is a self-taught artist, who moved to Ho Chi Minh City last year to connect with his Vietnamese cultural side and to attempt to learn the language.
The Gesture of Memories exhibition is a collaboration with Sebastian Ly, and is an extension of the work that they produced together in Ho Chi Minh City last year. That exhibition, Memories X Movements, was a mixed media art event, combining physical artworks with dancers who arrived at different times during the show.
Florian and Sebastian met at a time when both of their art journeys were focused around the subject of memories. They decided to collaborate and have created these exhibitions.
Just as there were dancers in the Memories X Movements exhibition, on Apr. 22 Sebastian Ly himself performed a contemporary dance in the exhibition space in Hanoi.
The pieces in this exhibition are China ink-on-paper, and can be characterised by the precision of line used to create intricate designs. Florian goes beyond the restrictions of the drawings’ frames and extends his line work onto the walls of the gallery, linking the pieces to each other.
He draws on the walls a series of circles, and geometric shapes. These geometrical shapes can also be found hiding in tiny nooks of the artworks, like little explosions of contrasting subject matter, the meaning left up to the observer.
Dancers spoke about their lives, and frames from their dances were captured and recreated by the artist to create these pieces. The artist aims to explore how movements can be related to memories.
One item in the exhibition that stands out is the Hippocampus, a piece that depicts the part of the human brain that is responsible for the composition and recollection of memories. This China ink-on-paper design repeats the motif of geographical shapes.
Florian at this moment is focused on memory and the process of restoring memories. His previous exhibition addressed the issue of the transmission of family memory, and his most recent one is about gestural memory.
The transmission of family memory refers to the memories that are passed down from our elders.
“You think you know people because you have been living with them a long time, but you [haven’t taken] time to ask them about their life,” says Florian. “Sometimes there are things you don’t know about your close family members.”
Gestural memory, in this exhibition, refers to muscle memory. That is, being able to repeat a particular movement without conscious thought, even after a long time off, due to the person having practiced this movement so much.
A previous exhibition, Memory and Oblivion, explores Florian’s grandparents’ memories. They were born in Vietnam, and he recently started speaking to them about their past, their childhood and their lives. He wrote down the conversations, and from this, created his artworks based on his interpretations of their memories.
He wants to encourage his viewers to take time out of their days and have real conversations with their family members, especially those much older than themselves.
The conversations with his grandparents kickstarted his thought process on memories. Florian hopes to create more exhibitions in the future, tackling issues from all different angles on the topic of memories.
“[After viewing the exhibition], I hope people can ask themselves about memories and how they work and how it builds us.”
The Gesture of Memories exhibition can be seen at The French Institute of Hanoi — L’Espace (24 Trang Tien, Hoan Kiem) until Jun. 4. For more information on Florian and his artwork, head to floriannguyen.com
Images from the exhibition, Gesture of Memories at L'Espace in Hanoi