Glorious Descent

Glorious Descent
Acrylic on canvas 60 x 40cm

Friday, March 10, 2017

Vietnam: Visiting Tickets

In November 2016 a series of disappointments had left me feeling fed up with my life in Australia. Having tried and failed to live the pragmatic life I threw caution to the wind and bought a last minute ticket to Ho Chi Minh City and within a week was on a plane bound for the land of pho. 

Nine years earlier, Vietnam had been my maiden voyage overseas, one of my first holidays alone and by far a coming of age trip. Returning nearly a decade later,  I hadn't anticipated the changes I would appreciate in myself against the backdrop of the busy Vietnamese streets. When I first arrived at the tender age of 20, the swarm of traffic, hectic pace of life and gritty street culture had me stepping cautiously and with a great sense of 'otherness'. This time round, I felt like Hanoi, my first destination, swept me up in its street current and I swam with it. With a greater understanding of who I was and what I could achieve, my steps were confidant.

My 2016 trip reminded me of the value of the present, simply because it is nearly impossible to escape the vibrant activity that is everyday Vietnamese life. Every sense is activated when walking down a city street, there is little time to contemplate but just enough to jump out of the way of  a speeding motorbike. The eye doesn't rest, but jumps between the patterned surfaces of roadside vendors and bicycles. Aesthetics are jarring and odd, roadsigns confuse and the dissident bellow and cry of competing karaoke bars keep you up at night. Yet, somehow its enlivening, its fun ! Unapologetic and not self conscious. 

I travelled between Sapa in the Mountains of far North Vietnam and the region surrounding the city of Ninh Binh, about 400km south east. Between these areas I experienced the mountains and small ethnic minority villages surrounding Sapa, the 1600 limestone pillar islands of the UNESCO world heritage Ha Long Bay, the capital city of Hanoi and the farmland, cavernous mountain systems of the Red River Delta. When visiting Tam Coc I was fortunate to befriend a local hotel owner who commissioned a mural in her tropical garden courtyard. This work stay arrangement allowed me to make the small village and surrounding karst landscape home for a week. This lucky opportunity engaged me in local life and landscapes and was an empowering activity to do as a travelling artist so as to exchange with the people.

Farms of the Red River Delta 2017 - ink and acrylic on board

Detail of Tam Coc Mural

 Visiting Tickets is a series of mixed media works on paper that I made from materials and sketches gathered during my trip. I have adopted the palette, colloquial charm, landscape views and reoccurring motifs that I encountered on my journey. Stitched together, glued on, quickly made or painstakingly assembled, each work presents a different reality in Vietnamese life and my time in the country.  There is a Homage to a duck farm (where I don't know how or why the ducks don't fly away) my rendition of street food signs, as well as works that adopt prayer flag imagery. The works are tickets to other lands and my sense of discovery within them, as an artist and a growing human. 

Zipper Shop 2017 Mixed media on paper 29x21cm

Tam Coc duck farm 2017 Mixed media on paper 29x21cm

Votive 2017 Mixed media on paper 29x21cm

Roasted street dog & yam 2017 Mixed media on paper 29x21cm

Dancing Karsts 2017 Mixed media on paper 29x21cm

Karst Reflections 2017 Mixed media on paper 29x21cm

Offering 2017 Mixed media on paper 29x21cm

Jungle Pagoda 2017 Mixed media on paper 29x21cm

In search of Phat Diem 2017 Mixed media on paper 29x21cm

Roadside Prayers 2017 Mixed media on paper 100x70cm

Street Dog 4 Ways 2017 Mixed media on paper 100x70cm

Cave Temple 2017 Mixed media on paper 100x70cm

Try Horse Wins 2017 Mixed media on paper 100x70cm

Hot Pot Cat  2017 Mixed media on paper 29x21cm

I'll Tweet If I Want To 2017 Mixed media on paper 100x70cm

Flying Prayer Call 2017 Mixed media on paper 100x70cm

Duck Homage 2017 Mixed media on paper 100x70cm