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Zodiac exhibition pays homage to Tet tradition

Zodiac animals look playful and lively at a joint exhibition by two eclectic artists that opened in Ha Noi recently to celebrate the Year of the Goat.

Zodiac exhibition pays homage to Tet tradition
Zodiac exhibition pays homage to Tet tradition

Artists Nguyen Quang Thang and Lolo Zazar have different styles. However, they share the desire to celebrate the new year, honour the past and welcome the present with its promise of what is to come, said Suzanne Lecht, director of Art Vietnam Gallery, where the exhibition is held.

Thang’s work consists of a hoanh phi (horizontal frieze) of the five tastes of life and two cau doi (columns of parallel sentences) comprised of the 12 animals of the zodiac, an homage to tradition, while French artist Zazar has created a more modern photo montage of sculpted animals.

Thang is a painter, calligrapher and researcher at the Vietnamese Academy of Social Sciences. He uses Nom, a Sino-Vietnamese language that was widely used between the 15th and 19th centuries by Viet Nam’s cultured elite, to depict the 12-year cycle of animals that make up the zodiac.

The Vietnamese language as we use today has been romanised. Today, only a small number of scholars are able to read and write in Nom. While Nom characters are still used for decorative, historic and ceremonial value as well as symbols of good luck, Nom is rarely studied.

Scholars such as Thang are trying to revive this old language. The 35-year-old painter is a member of Zenei, a group of five avant-garde calligraphers and Nom scholars striving to make the language come alive in a modern context.

“While Thang honours tradition by creating his Nom script zodiac, Zazar presents a more modern depiction of the zodiac,” Lecht said.

Zazar, an artist and animation filmmaker based in Ha Noi, views the world of Tet and the zodiac “through childlike eyes, full of wonder and excitement over the simple joys of life and its encounters,” she added.

For the last seven years, Zazar has photographed the walls of Ha Noi. Here, the artist has taken these photos and assembled them into magical 3D creatures that seem to dance with mirth and gaiety. Each sculpted animal’s shape reveals its intrinsic character, accentuated with witty and playful photos. The freedom and abandon exuded by all these magical creatures fills the viewer with hopeful anticipation about the Year of the Goat.

The exhibition will run until March 7 at the Art Vietnam Gallery, 24 Ly Quoc Su Street, Ha Noi.