Exhibition ‘ARCHIPEL’ Truc-Anh

Truc-Anh zooms in on the speed of change processes


aper has been a loved and trusted image carrier for centuries. Still, the status of the art of drawing has long been subordinate to that of painting. For a long time, drawings were perceived to be valuable but hasty finger practices. Useful exercises with pencil, ink, and paint on paper formed a stepping-stone towards a translation into the superior painting. The past decennia have been characterized by a fresh turnaround in the way of thinking about the hierarchy within the two said visual disciplines. This ‘palace revolution’ has everything to do with the speed of the drawing medium. Drawings demand a form of diligence that matches the high speed with which fast image changes are consumed in contemporary society perfectly. Visual artist Truc-Anh (Paris, 1983) anticipates these developments.

In the spring and summer of 2015, he created more than two hundred paper drawings, which are presented by Albus Lux Contemporary in an installation-like setting, enhancing the cinematic character and the physical presence. A cinematographic approach and physical experience are the main characteristics of the drawings cycle, which is also distinguishable because of a diversity of styles and reference frameworks, because of a breathtaking mixture of intuitive approach and expressionistic visual language and because of a portrayal of mankind that pushes its spectators back and forth from chaos and fear to a zest for life and energy.

Truc-Anh is not afraid to make statements about the human condition. Everyone who sees the distorted bodies and deformed heads cannot move along untouched. Various associations arise. First, there are the clear references to the entire spectrum of human emotions, varying from disorder and lust, fear and insecurity to the struggle with entity, the desire for security and intimacy and the search for one’s own identity in a society becoming ever more complex and incontrollable. On top of that are the countless art-historical reference frameworks that, from time to time, clearly manifest themselves, but more often merge in a wonderful mix of styles and references. Crossovers with the works of Goya, the German expressionists, Dix and Munch, but Hokusai and Warhol as well, however, never lead to pastiches. Truc-Anh developed his own autonomous visual language that cannot be traced back to directly demonstrable art-historical pieces. His drawings cycle is an exciting melting pot in which wide-ranging cultural influences organically come together. In a flow of deformed faces and distorted bodies, Cyclopes and monsters appear, but also easily recognizable portraits of Marlène Dietrich, Batman, Gandhi and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In the exhibition ‘Archipel,’ Truc-Anh confronts his spectators with the speed with which change processes take place. In the more than two hundred drawings on rice paper that he produced in a flow, the experience of changes, transformations, and metamorphoses is essential. The artist stresses that paper is a simple and patient medium that requires fast and efficient work. Because of that, suspense and concentration can be kept for a long time. However, paper is also a treacherous and merciless medium. When one makes a hasty mistake, this cannot be undone. Whereas a painting offers the possibility of painting over or retouching, every action is definite in an ink drawing. There is no way back. There are no escape clauses. Restorations are not possible. The use of ink, watercolor paint and gouache paint on paper is more unrelenting than working with oil or acryl paint on panel or canvas. For Truc-Anh, a special kind of challenge lies in ‘speeding things up’ and ‘keeping up the pace’. The fact that he produced dozens of paintings in addition to the more than two hundred drawings created in a record time proofs that he is driven by a creative urge unheard of. Life is too short to give in to the temptations of inertia.

Nothing lasts forever. Everything is constantly in motion. Despite the progress of science and psychology, the nature and capacities of humankind remain a mystery. Truc-Anh seeks and cherishes that mystery, just as he cherishes the need for change. In addition, he lets intangible discrepancies, frictions, twists and paradoxes lead him. He plays with dualistic characteristics such as inside and outside, foreground and background, dark and light, good and bad. The fact that a large portion of his drawings is executed in black and white emphasizes his fascination for extremities and contradictions. However, the artist takes it even further by literally placing the images upside down or inside out. Part of his black and white drawings refers to the old negatives of black and white photos. The parts that turn out dark in the photos are light in the negative, and the other way around. This way, paradoxical and absurd images are formed in which reality is completely turned around. Truc-Anh draws and paints the opposite of what we see as a concrete perception. In addition, he plays a manipulative game with meaning relations. Unpredictable twists are thus more rule than exception. Furthermore, abstractions of reality are frequent. Through it all, however, the enthusiasm of the artist, his unrestrained creative urge and engagement remain visible.

Truc-Anh’s head is full with thousands of images that he can only control by putting them on paper. By drawing as a maniac, he keeps the demons at bay and is able to grasp the relentless stream of images and thoughts that overflow us on a daily basis. We look right into the bright eyes of a woman wearing a burka after which we are suddenly overpowered by a face that is mutilated and almost torn apart. We see a body that bends itself elastically. Almost at the same time, we are overwhelmed by the harrowing sight of a human in a state of great distress. In addition, there are poetic portraits, sometimes with a clear political message. In other drawings, divergent forms of spirituality set the tone. At other times, the depiction of the magical number 8 is determinative and at still other times, the drawings take on labyrinthine proportions. In all cases, the drawings on paper speak to the imagination. They anticipate the human desire to understand life and get things straight. This desire for grip comes under pressure due to the explosion of images that Truc-Anh causes. He follows his intuition in an ultimate attempt to control the chaos of this time. In some recent drawings, the lack of overview and structure in our society is strengthened because two drawings have been glued over each other. This partial overlap deprives us of the view of the underlying reality. With this utterly effective and artistic intervention, Truc-Anh emphasizes the fact that it is impossible to see and know everything. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since he implicitly also makes the statement that every piece of art offers us the possibility to escape reality. The experience that nothing lasts forever can also be liberating. That ‘reality’ does not exist is a fact that artists, just as scientists and philosophers, cannot deny. From this mentality, Truc-Anh provides us with an image stream that is as complex, heterogeneous, pluralist, chaotic, poetic, and exciting as life itself. The message is clear: the person seeking structure, grip and coherence ignores the diversity of society of which we are a part.

Wim van der Beek

Writer/art critic
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