b. 1963, Hanoi, Vietnam
Truong Tan was born in 1963 in Hanoi, Vietnam. He graduated from the Fine Art School Hanoi in 1982, and the University of Fine Art Hanoi in 1989. He served as a lecturer at the latter from 1989 to 1997 before becoming a full-time artist. Following the advent of the Doi Moi (renovation) policy in 1986, which liberalized Vietnam’s market policies, there was a resurgent artistic romanticization of Vietnam’s past. Truong, for his part, abandoned the country’s then-current academicism in favor of a practice focused on the complexities of human psychology and social circumstance. Through painting, drawing, performance, installation, sculpture, and ceramics, Truong challenges social convention and investigates themes of identity and freedom of expression.
Truong addresses the long-established prejudices that influence Vietnam’s highly traditional society, examining national identity and its intersection with gender stereotypes. Centered on his own identity, the artist’s work explores perceptions of homosexuality in a conservative milieu. This autobiographical emphasis is clear in Being Human (1996), a series of erotic ink drawings of the male figure. The series’ visually reductive interpretation of the male form accentuates the phallus and presents relationships considered unconventional in Vietnam’s contradictory environment of economic liberalization and social rigidity. Furthering this exploration are works such as Red Dreaming (2008) and How to be an Angel (2008). Painted in the traditional Vietnamese medium of lacquer, these works consider an individual’s understanding of his or her own social status. The latter example in particular acts as a reminder of humanity’s aspiration to an ideal of beauty and virtue, represented through the actions of figures rendered in Truong’s signature style of flattened form and simple contour. The Wedding Dress (2001) turns away from themes of masculinity toward the image of Vietnamese women. In this sculpture, a skirt made from iron chains is combined with a bodice made of feathers. The heft of the chains represents societal oppression of women, while the fragile feathers symbolize the vulnerability and purity of the soul. Through the modification of domestic objects and social symbols, Truong creates new metaphors for the politics of contemporary Vietnam and the struggle between private and public identities.
Truong has had solo exhibitions at Gallery Ecole, Hanoi (1994), Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Germany (1996), Gallery Les Singuliers, Paris (1997, 1999, and 2000), Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris (1998 and 1999), Gallery 4A, Sydney (1998), Asian Fine Art Gallery, Berlin (1999), Nhasan Studio, Hanoi (2002), Ryllega Gallery, Hanoi (2004 and 2005), and Thavibu Gallery, Bangkok (2010). Notable group exhibitions include Singapore Biennial (2008); Fukuoka Asian Art Triennial, Japan (2009); Connect: Kunstszene Vietnam, ifa Gallery Berlin (2010) and ifa Gallery Stuttgart (2011); Negotiating Home, History and Nation: Two Decades of Contemporary Art from Southeast Asia, 1991–2010, Singapore Art Museum (2011); and 8 Vietnamese Contemporary Artists, Bui Gallery, Hanoi (2012). Truong lives and works in Paris and Hanoi.