Critics’ Picks

  • Hà Mạnh Thắng, Cold Midnight Autumn, 2022, acrylic, acrylic medium, charcoal, lacquer, gold leaf and oil on canvas and silk, frosted mica frame, steel base, wooden table, 103 3/8 x 48 x 15." Installation view.

    Hà Mạnh Thắng, Cold Midnight Autumn, 2022, acrylic, acrylic medium, charcoal, lacquer, gold leaf and oil on canvas and silk, frosted mica frame, steel base, wooden table, 103 3/8 x 48 x 15." Installation view.

    Ho Chi Minh City

    Hà Mạnh Thắng

    Galerie Quynh
    118 Nguyen Van Thu Dakao Ward, District 1
    December 21, 2022–February 4, 2023

    Hà Mạnh Thắng is drawn to the succinct expressiveness of Chinese Tang poetry: With just a handful of carefully chosen verses, one can conjure mountaintops perforating a sea of clouds or whispers of a river trickling beneath apricot blooms. In the exhibition “Kìa non non, nước nước, mây mây” (“Behold the land, the water, the clouds,” a verse taken from the Nguyễn Dynasty poet Chu Mạnh Trinh), the artist attempts to distill onto silk and canvas the essence of ancient landscapes, using the pictorial language of abstraction. Applying an eclectic combination of materials—ranging from acrylic and charcoal to lacquer and gold leaf—Hà has created a façade of interweaving textures, where epiphanies inspired by poetry commingle with explosive brushstrokes and a vibrant palette. In Cold Midnight Autumn (all works 2022), an airy outpour of gold cascades from the top of the painting, then ambles down through a canvas of dark moss green. In Fading Spring, bursts of pigments that typically evoke the rites of spring are diffused into a milky glaze of mist, suggesting the melancholy that stems from the change of the seasons.

    Hà stretches his hybrid canvases over stele-shaped chassis and stacks them into rows on carved-wood pedestals, endowing his paintings with a sculptural presence that recalls the decorative table screens of the Nguyễn Dynasty. As a grand final touch, the artist situates these objects not in the gallery, but rather in a Saigonese colonial building, where nostalgia courses through the time-etched halls. This flow of temporalities emulsifies alongside Hà’s metaphysical imaginaries, steeping the canvases in serendipitous ambiguity.