And it has chosen to celebrate the new 600 sqm gallery with “The Line”, the first solo exhibition in four years of Vietnam’s foremost abstract painter Tran Van Thao.

Running through January 20, the exhibition finds Tran in a contemplative mood. While previous bodies of work took inspiration from the artist’s surrounding environments and the little joys found in everyday life, his new paintings – stylistically sparser and utilising a more muted palette yet larger in thematic scope – are sombre ponderings on life’s passages and trajectories.

There is an airiness about these new paintings, yet a marked tension as well conveying an equilibrium. Straight lines are the key element of theseries, forming linear shapes of markers or arrows – perhaps needles of compasses. In contrast with the languid circles found in Tran’s other recent works, the lines suggest an almost urgent sense of direction and movement.

In a similar manner, the canvas surfaces, textured with a plethora of material physicality and recurring motifs (lined, wrinkled, treated, imprinted with sprawling congregations of paint, oil, acrylic, graphite, and even swaths of textile appearing windswept over raining skies seem to represent the vast expanse that is a lifetime–overwhelming, serendipitous, changing from one moment to the next, unforeseeable.

Born in 1961 in Saigon, Tran Van Thao belongs to an influential group of painters that rose to prominence in the ’90s following the introduction of the 1986 Doi Moi economic reforms. Part of the seminal group of 10 artists that served as a catalyst for the Vietnamese government’s recognition of abstraction as a legitimate genre of art, Tran was one of the group’s most prominent members. Tran continues to inspire new generations of artists in Vietnam to challenge the accepted norms of art in the country. 

Tran has participated in numerous exhibitions around the world. His works have been shown in institutions such as the Singapore National Art Museum, Singapore; Fujita Vente Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan; Pusan Metropolitan Museum, Korea; National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, the Museo Biblioteca Archivi and Bassanodel Grappa in Italy, and Centre Wallonie-Bruxelles. 

Tran has received a number of awards and prizes including the Starr Foundation Fellowship from Asian Cultural Council where he spent four months as an artist-in-residence in New York City. Tran lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City.

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