Cristina NualART


El silencio en el armario

casoalcacer1998_80x80_cnualartTengo un secreto en el armario de la ropa que no se usa. La ropa que está siempre fuera de estación, porque cuando salen las prendas estivales, entran las de invierno. Nunca es temporada para lo que esconde ese armario.

Detrás de los abrigos largos, donde más oscuro está, hay un cuadro que no ha visto la luz, casi, casi, desde que lo pinté, en 1998. El caso Alcácer fué el primer feminicidio mediático que me golpeó de jovencita. Me dió pesadillas.

Enfrentada al horror humano, una pila de vendas (¡vendas!), alambre del que pincha, y pintura roja y negra se ofrecieron a mis manos como chivo expiatorio del subconsciente. 20 años después del crimen, el repelús sigue vivo, también en ese cuadro negro coronado de rosas sangrantes. Culpo al inconsciente colectivo por la simbología demasiado arquetípica.

Me asombro (nunca mejor dicho – me extirpé la sombra…) de las horas de trabajo, moldeándo a mano cada pétalo, con plena consciencia del tema del cuadro, y ningún recuerdo de lo que pasaba por mi mente.

Terminado el cuadro, participé en una exposición colectiva en el centro juvenil de la población donde vivía. Pero rechazaron este cuadro, y yo sabía que me lo censuraban. Igual que la verdad de lo sucedido, la pintura espinosa desapareció en el armario que apenas se abre. Y allí sigue. Cubriéndose de polvo como las investigaciones cerradas.


Con otra obra, el mes que viene participaré en una exposición colectiva de arte feminista en Inglaterra. Para que no todo lo que hay que gritar se quede amordazado.


Playing with toy diggers in ‘New Saigon’

I’m creating a mural of Saigon made from rubble from the houses demolished in what will be the future ‘New Saigon’, a financial district for this developing metropolis. Today I took my toy diggers to play on what used to be a house in this disintegrating community. And to collect more rubble.




Go wild on a Friday evening: buy some art

In Saigon, I just attended a fund-raising exhibition of paintings by children who are HIV positive. Since I have plenty of my own artworks, I really don’t need anymore, but the children had done some really nice work. I had to buy this is a little gem of a painting. The maroon rectangle in the bottom corner just did it for me:


How to save a village and age more rapidly

This exhibition review was published in the August 2013 issue of Word Vietnam magazine.

Artist Le Hien Minh’s use of Vietnamese dó paper

lehienminh_by_cnualart-jpg‘I don’t know how to use a drill, I don’t know how to cut wood,’ says the artist who refuses to call herself a sculptor because she doesn’t know how to use workshop machinery. And yet Le Hien Minh’s exhibition is full of surprising 3D objects.

Le Hien Minh labels ‘real’ sculpture as a noisy activity requiring power tools. Her artwork consists mostly of squashing paper softened with glue into shapes. It can be done quietly, with no tools except her hands. But this simple activity makes her partly responsible for keeping afloat the few Northern villages that still handcraft dó paper, a thin, soft paper made from tree bark.

Over five hundred kilos of traditional Vietnamese dó paper were needed to make one of the installations here. One thousand hand-made dictionaries in a neat labyrinth cover the floor of the largest room at the back of the 1930’s building.

Dictionaries were the tools of Minh’s father, a linguist. Her father passed away ten years ago, but the exhibition title, Dó10, refers to the ten years that Minh has been creating art using dó paper. After training in lacquer painting in Saigon, Minh studied art in America. Far away from family, Minh received a surprise parcel containing some dó paper. Her mother’s gift was more influential than either of them might have guessed at the time. Minh felt immediately connected to her homeland’s traditional paper, and started painting on it.

lehienminh_by_cnualart3-jpgA few more experiments resulted in the first sculptures, and she’s never looked back. ‘I wouldn’t know what to do if I didn’t have dó paper,’ she reflects.

Each finished sculpture is put outside to dry and to age. The weathering effects of sun, humidity and wind change their surface. After a few months, the paper objects look like ceramics, stones or other treasures unearthed from the dusty depths of history.

This process gives a solid, weighty appearance to the hollow art objects. The weight is also psychological. She laments that women carry a heavy load in life. ‘Do we have to carry that much weight with us? We don’t know! We’re always asking ourselves,’ she exclaims, pointing to the sculpture of a woman floored by her struggle with ropes hanging down on her.

Weight doesn’t floor Minh, though. She sometimes wonders if, being a woman, she carries too much baggage, but as a feminist, she looks for balance. The underlying concept for all her artwork, she shares, is looking for balance. Not just the balance of a fair society, but internal balance as a person, and balance with nature. Minh makes work that will return to earth. ‘The paper will disintegrate and disappear, like me. Accept and make peace with nature.’

Hanoi-born artist Le Hien Minh exhibited at the Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Museum (20-25 July 2013). Some of the artworks in this show have appeared in previous exhibitions in Hanoi, HCMC, Korea and the US.



Cambodia’s hand painted signs in a book


My friends from Very Ngon Homewares were on a recent business trip to Cambodia, and kindly brought me back a book I’d wanted for a while, Hand Painted Signs of Kratie by Sam Roberts. Sam and I share a love for crafted things, like hand painted advertising. Here’s a paragraph from the book:


As I received the book, I heard that the ‘last’ hand painted sign in Saigon has now gone from Hai Ba Trung street, replaced or overpainted by a less captivating image than the original one.


Blonde Gold

On a background collage of pages from old Vietnamese books, I outlined a birthday portrait for a friend. Despite my love of linear drawing, I found myself absorbed with the depth of shapes of the smiley face. I worked on ways of painting volume. But after playing  a bit with highlights and shadows, I proceeded to flatten the volume with a layer of light-refracting gold. I’m not sure if that’s a sign that I stayed in my comfort zone, or a big risk that perhaps was taken too far…



Size matters

I’d been working for a week on a painting I started 10 years ago. For the last 3 days I painted non-stop. Loli asked why I sanded what I’d already painted, wondering why the same colour would need to be repainted and sanded several times. Then my sister came along and quipped ‘why don’t you use a bigger paintbrush?’

The reason for all the hard work of painting large areas with a small paintbrush is that I don’t want a flat, uniform mass of colour. I like looking close-up at the painted layers, and the shimmery effect of the subtle texture.

Art trends at Hong Kong Art Basel 2013

After 5 years of rapid growth the Hong Kong Art Fair this year was rebranded Hong Kong Art Basel. The space is the same, but the price of the entrance ticket has gone up – that’s what branding does. The art fair, a commercial initiative that showcases artwork from Western and Eastern galleries in equal measure, has expanded its reach with additional talks and city-wide events.

Intelligence Squared sparked off ideas with a debate on the value of art. Matthew Collings did a great job as a speaker, and the moderator was excellent, but the best contribution came from the man in the audience who told panelist Amy Capellazzo that her arguments for the market being the best judge of art had ruined, for him, the magic of the wonderful art in the fair!

Hong Kong’s art fair is popular in every sense of the word. Weaving one’s way between $20-a-glass champagne stalls and children’s buggies, some themes seemed to resurface intermittently amongst the 2 floors of world galleries. Here is an illustrated overview:

That thinking machine of ours is probably making a frequent appearance to remind us not to leave all intellectual activity to the automated machines.

HK_tabaimo_cnualartShow Through I by Tabaimo
Lithography, gampi papers, nylon thread on teak frame, 2009.

HK_MarbleBrain_cnualartGisant (the Silk Spun in the Brain) by Jan Fabre
Marble sculpture, 2012.

Roman Standard by Tracey Emin
Patinated bronze and wood, 2007.

In 2008, as all things craft were exploding in popularity, a contemporary tapestry exhibition in England led some of the world’s best known artists back to this technique which had been almost forgotten after the Renaissance. A number of examples of the thread weaving art dotted the Asian art fair.

HK_detail_KikiSmith_tapestry_cnualartDetail of a large tapestry by Kiki Smith.

hk_kimsooja_cnualartDetail of a tapestry by Kimsooja.

HK_mohair_cnualartSelf Portrait as a Coffee Pot III by William Kentridge and Marguerite Stephens
Mohair tapestry, 2012. 

Glitter, beading, rhinestones and other bling
Was it the rise of new money, the influence of different cultures on the global catwalk or a defiance of austerity? Whatever the reason, bling has been giving a shine to the art market in the last decade.

HK_RakibShaw_cnualartDetail from The Disambiguation of the Myth of the last Shinobi by Raqib Shaw
Oil, acrylic, enamel, glitter and rhinestones on birch wood, 2011-12.

HK_KengoKito_cnualartCosmic Dust Gold by Kengo Kito
Oil and glitter on canvas, 2013.

HK_FarhadModshiri_cnualartBird Girl by Farhad Moshiri
Glass bead embroidery on canvas, 2013.

HK_CarBonnet_cnualartAn Old Breeze 13-3-2 by Whang Inkie
Car bonnet with pearly rhinestones.

Along with action painting, collage seems to be one of those inexhaustibly inspiring 20th century inventions.

HK_detail_PietroRuffo_cnualartPietro Ruffo’s photographic collage of an islamic patterned globe is captivating because of the 3D effect achieved by using pins to hold each shape in place.

HK_bindis_cnualartMaths by Bharti Kher
Bindis on panel, 2012.

Pictures of Magazine 2: Vase of Flowers after Claude Monet by Vik Muniz
C-print, 2013

Even some sculptures are a collage, such as the shopping trolley full of scrap metal, Wagon (miles and miles), by Ida Ekblad, or the porcelain pieces by Francesca DiMattio below:


Juicy Abstract paintings
Polyester resin (that glass-like chemical substance that Vietnamese tourist shops pass off as ‘lacquer’) or thickly dripped enamel make for a candy-gloss surface.

HK_IvanLam_cnualartI have hated you too much to be grateful of the day (part of a dyptich) by Ivan Lam
House paint, resin and model submarine on canvas, 2013

HK_resin_cnualartPeter Zimmerman pours thick layers of coloured resin over large canvases.

HK_strawberry_cnualartVanilla, Strawberry by Kenjiro Okazaki
Acrylic on canvas, 2000.

HK_Grosse_cnualartKatharina Grosse plays with enamel paint.

HK_metallic_cnualartTiang #2 by Handiwirman Saputra
C-print  and acrylic coating on metallic paper, 2012

But the artwork that made most people smile was not in the exhibition centre, it floated happily in Hong Kong bay: Florentijn Hofman’s Rubber Duck

Unless otherwise specified, text and images © 2014 Cristina Nualart

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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