Without The Shadow Of A Doubt:
Thao Nguyen Phan at Pirelli HangarBicocca

Until January 14th, 2024 Pirelli HangarBicocca in Milan is hosting Reincarnations of Shadows – an art exhibition featuring the work of Vietnamese artist Thao Nguyen Phan. This exhibition marks Phan’s first solo show in Italy and showcases her unique artistic practice exploring amongst others the theme and concept of reincarnation.

Until January 14th, 2024 Pirelli HangarBicocca in Milan is hosting Reincarnations of Shadows – an art exhibition featuring the work of Vietnamese artist Thao Nguyen Phan. This exhibition marks Phan’s first solo show in Italy and showcases her unique artistic practice exploring amongst others the theme and concept of reincarnation.

Thao Nguyen Phan’s art blends various media and supports, including textiles and printed books. She creates dreamlike imagery that incorporates elements of folk traditions, fairy-tale narratives, literature, philosophy, and everyday life. Her work also delves into Vietnam’s historical events, particularly those related to environmental and social changes caused by human impact, such as the exploitation of natural resources and landscape colonisation.

At Pirelli HangarBicocca, the exhibition is a layered and immersive experience that combines audio, visual, and tactile elements, including videos, sculptures, watercolours, silk and lacquer paintings. It explores Phan’s practice and highlights its symbolic and imaginative qualities. Additionally, new works created for this exhibition, reflect upon the transformative and regenerative potential of art.

The central theme of the exhibition revolves around the idea of reincarnation, which is prevalent in Phan’s work. She views art as having the ability to reincarnate, much like in the Buddhist religion. Her projects are living organisms that can adapt, change, and take on new forms. “Reincarnations of Shadows” transforms the exhibition space into a fluid environment where sounds, images, and narratives come together to explore Vietnam’s spiritual heritage and the interplay between personal and collective memories.

Julien Pacaud: of gods and men

Divided into two communicating and permeable areas: the exhibition first traces the artist’s career from a new perspective through the overlay of canvases, screens, and moving images. In Becoming Alluvium (2019-ongoing), an installation composed of a video and a series of lacquer paintings and watercolor-on-silk paintings, the artist investigates the economic and social role of the Mekong River for the Southeast Asian region through a fable-like, surreal narrative.
To access the second part of the exhibition, visitors are invited to walk through the large installation, No Jute Cloth for the Bones (2019- 2023), composed of suspended raw jute stalks. The work is a reference to the Great Famine that occurred during the Japanese occupation of French Indochina between 1940 and 1945, largely caused by the transformation of rice fields into jute plantations. This historical episode is also personally reinterpreted by the artist in the three-channel video, Mute Grain (2019), in which the collective trauma is retraced through the blending of folktales and photographic archives, mixed with fantastical imagery with a decisive poetic force.

Words by Fabzirio Mifsud Soler

<<I think folklores, oral histories, or just narratives in everyday life contain a higher level of truth. Even though they are full of fantasies, these are narratives in the collective consciousness of generations of people, unlike official histories which are often by a select few.>> Thao Nguyen Phan

Images: Agostino Osio – Courtesy of the artist and Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan

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