Cristina NualART

Tag: digger

The Ghost of Cho Van Thanh

After nearly 3 years, I finished this layered drawing. It didn’t take 2 years of work, but perhaps I needed that time to reflect on my disappointment at what I perceived to be the destruction of a cultural icon. In 2011 I witnessed the demolition of the market in Saigon known as Cho Van Thánh. I’d grown fond of the rusty old letters on what appeared to be a greyish modernist building.

In fact, the large, covered market was built in 1994, during the Doi Moi period, when Vietnam was implementing the economic reforms that would reshape its route to progress. The geometrical details that reminded me of 1960s architecture took on a poignant meaning. After the war, the country had been so isolated from the rest of the world that the designs it produced had not evolved for a whole generation, they were frozen in time.*

Diggers have become an interesting artistic subject matter for me. A Vietnamese friend told me that some people refer to them as ghosts, and that when passing in front diggers, many Vietnamese will remain silent omeprazole 20 mg. Diggers are scary. In this rapidly developing land, they can destroy ancestor’s graves, and there was a time when the Vietnamese government wouldn’t allow the relocation of graves. Ancestor worship, a popular belief system throughout the country, requires visits to ancestors tombs, to pay respect.

This subdued image pays respect to the defunct market, symbol of a faded era that has been left behind, much to the relief of many in Vietnam, who are instead embracing the introduction of a market economy.

ghostofchovanthanh_cnualart

Cristina Nualart. The Ghost of Cho Van Thanh. 2011-2014.

Pencil, watercolour, acrylic, house paint and gold leaf on Saunders Waterford paper, 76 x 56 cm.

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* A similar thing had occurred in Spain after the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). According to Antigüedad del Castillo-Olivares (2011), Spain was left out of international developments in architecture for over 10 years, and it was only when the country’s economy started to improve, from well into the 1950s, that architecture returned to a ‘normal’ stage of progress.

Antigüedad del Castillo-Olivares, María Dolores, 2011, ‘La Arquitectura después de la Segunda Guerra Mundial’, En: Mª Dolores Antigüedad del Castillo-Olivares, Víctor Nieto Alcaide, Amparo Serrano de Haro Soriano. El arte del siglo XX : metamorfosis del arte, Madrid: Editorial Universitaria Ramón Areces, 165-205.

Digger exposes French beauty

frenchsaigonwatertower_cnualart

The last grass-roots cafe on Ho Cong Rua, a roundabout in central Saigon, has been demolished. It was the cafe where I used to stand every morning waiting for the bus. The cafe from which I got an insight into the lives of the disabled girl selling newspapers, the vendor with the soya milk cart, the women doing exercise in the midst of traffic, and the men sitting down and drinking coffee endlessly. Researcher Erik Harms did some interesting sociological writing on the ups and downs of ‘plastic stool’ outdoor cafes on this crossroads, and the influx of the newer, wealthier models taking over.

One thing of old beauty does stand out now, though. The wonderful old French water tower is now clearly visible, guarded by a puppy and a man in a hammock. Grass roots.

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 omeprazole capsules.

 toydiggersissy_cnualart-jpg

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Goodbye Saigon

I’m leaving Saigon (temporarily) to participate in Contemp’art 2013, a conference on art and urbanism in Istanbul. I’ll be talking about how artists in Vietnam have reacted to the rapid urban development around them. Speedy development looks a bit like the picture here: these are 20 layers in the process of making this lacquer painting, with some additional screenprinted layers, and a dusting of cement from demolished houses.

DiggerStart2Finish320

If you’d like more information on the materials and processes of Vietnamese lacquer painting, read this post.

Drawing I’m working on: The Ghost of Cho Van Thanh

I make slow art because I like to explore each idea with lots of documentation and different materials. But this type of labourious drawing just can’t be finished in a matter of hours. The good news is that, little by little, over the past month this work has grown a fair bit. Regular visitors may remember the first sketch from 2011.

cvt_march2013

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The Gold Digger Ate my Homework

This little painting is my donation to the Arts For Mobility art auction that will take place this Saturday in the Saigon Opera House.

 

The Gold Digger Ate my Homework, 2012

Acrylic, old book pages, Letraset, pencil, gold dust and ground demolished HCMC house pieces on canvas.

On a regular day in HCMC, I might easily spot at least 5 diggers around the city, tearing down buildings in their mission to renovate Vietnam. These mechanical giraffes with the power of an elephant are fed houses and shops, or whatever other constructions get in the way of their flattening path. They relentlessly cause a daily ‘fall’ of Saigon.

The paintings in this series contain actual ground up bricks and cement taken from demolished buildings. This ‘gold’ digger is painted over old book pages, torn from Vietnamese books published pre-1975, before the real estate ‘gold rush’ started. In recent decades, wealthy developers have metaphorically eaten up the homes and places of work of the less privileged, at a speed that has made the country one of the fastest growing economies in history.

Watch this short film on the wonderful, if sad, story of a Vietnamese fisherman who was moved away from the place he lived and worked. I used to see his shack regularly on my commute. Not anymore.

‘The rapid transformation of the environment was seen merely as a casualty of progress, not as the regrettable passing away of an age and the erasure of a whole set of values.’ Tay Kheng Son and Robbie Goh (2003) in  Theorizing the Southeast Asian City as Text.

 

What I’m painting:

I’m making a few paintings on diggers using traditional Vietnamese lacquer, with the odd departure from tradition, to fully explore the material. Here is a detail of one of the pictures:

diggerlacquerdetail_by_cnualart

Unless otherwise specified, text and images © 2017 Cristina Nualart

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



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