Nguyễn Văn Đủ (Vietnam) was shortlisted for his work Today’s landscape (The Land of Holes) No.01, depicting a quarry at Dinh Mountain in Vietnam, dating to the French colonial period and still exploited today.
Can you tell us a bit more about your artistic process?
My love for drawing began when I was three years old with sticks to draw on the ground, small pieces of burnt bricks, chalk to draw on the cement floors or walls. I continued to draw with pencils and ballpoint pens on drawing paper until I matured. I studied in Ho Chi Minh City University of Fine Arts (2007-2012) with a major in oil painting, where I was educated to become a professional oil painter following the Socialist Realism Movement.
Soviet Socialist Realism is still taught at Vietnam’s Fine Arts Universities as a legacy of the Soviet Union during the cold war. Particularly, the contemporary art theory is not taught in Vietnam’s Art Universities. After graduating from the University of Fine Arts, I was invited to a six-month art residency program in the project “San Art Lab” in Ho Chi Minh City (2013-2014). San Art – an independent art space established in 2007 in Ho Chi Minh City, is one of the rare independent art spaces established and operated by artists in Vietnam with the orientation to build and develop the contemporary art in the local area for the long run. I had six months to devote myself completely to art without any financial pressure or daily living expenses.
What is the significance of using your own blood in your work?
The knowledge of political history that I was taught in school in Vietnam reminded me of the nationalism and national pride of everyone, which is influenced by education and propaganda art. Ironically, national pride is taught in different ways in each country – based on the historical battles and great victories in the history of war in that country. Brutal violence, full of sacrifices, in the history of war is less acknowledged, but the glory is always appreciated.
The blood on the landscape painting symbolizes violence, recognizing brutally violent sacrifice. This is the result of nationalism and national pride being preserved in the landscape of war history for thousands of years. The laminated 24k gold on the landscape painting glitters brightly in the sky symbolizing the glory that is always highly appreciated by the society after all.
Painting with blood is also reminiscent of the earliest human paintings on cave from the Paleolithic period and still exists today. This archeological evidence shows that the materials used by humans to paint were natural colors crushed from soil, rocks, bones, marrow, urine, animal blood and human blood… The blood on artwork also preserves DNA certainly and most accurately confirms one’s identity, which also reveals human’s fragile nature.
Further, I deduced that the laws of each country have considered mutual violence is illegal from ancient time until recently, but violence between nations in state of war is perceived as legitimate violence by the participants or countries. In general, violent conflicts in the world have been scattered from time to time and never stopped completely. Recently, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has shown that humans seem to not learning anything from the history of war. The meaning of using my own blood in the artwork is to express my love for my motherland.