Gang of Five Chancing Modern is an art project surveying the over 30 year long practices of five Hanoian artists: Hồng Việt Dũng, Hà Trí Hiếu, Đặng Xuân Hoà, Trần Lương và Phạm Quang Vinh.
Established in 1983 upon their graduation under the name Gang of Five, they grew and developed their practices amidst significant socio-historical changes during the post-Đổi Mới/ Reform period*. “Being in the right time, at the right place” helped lead Gang of Five to their success, as they were able to cast away those no-longer-compatible constraints, which subjected Vietnamese art to limited ideological and geographical boundaries. Their works are known for boldly depicting personal emotions and conceptions, as well as for exploring different forms of artistic expression (in terms of themes, colour palette and materials), that departed from the Social Realist tradition dominated by illustrative works in Vietnamese art prevalent until the mid 1980s. Despite of the works’ individual characteristics that set them distinctively apart from one another, they share the affinity of mixing traditional Vietnamese elements with modernity. Having said that, underneath their constantly changing “Modern era”, there still existed undeniable old values, behaviours and mindsets. Behind Gang of Five’s myriad of opportunities was uncertainty and conflict in methodologies and perspectives. Integral to the five’s formation and development, these two forces have contributed to the advancement of their practices following different paths.
Gang of Five Chancing Modern’s first rendition took place in Hanoi in October 2017 at the 1950s-built Vietnam Film Studio, presenting the artists’ latest bodies of works. After more than 20 years walking on different roads, their respect, understanding towards one another once again created a push to bring the five friends together. It is their friendship that has made the Gang of Five who they are – a fragile yet unbreakable structure, an indoctrinated group of incredibly close and sympathetic colleagues who cannot be more different from one another.
In July 2018, the Factory Contemporary Art Centre hosts Gang of Five Chancing Modern in Saigon with a bit of a twist. The exhibition presents a selection of previous paintings (from the 1990s to the 2000s) that are considered signifying of their artistic characteristics. At the same time, a section of the display is dedicated to the archival materials (small drawings/ sketches, notes, photographs etc.), seeking to provide contextual background of the group, through which it enables the public to explore the art scene of the time, as well as the Gang of Five’s position in Vietnamese art post-Đổi Mới.
Gang of Five Chancing Modern is the second project to take part in the ongoing program platform ‘Spirit of Friendship’ initiated by The Factory, endeavoring to give insight into the role and contribution of artist friendships in furthering the development of experimental independent artistic thinking and contemporary art in Vietnam, since 1975.
The exhibition is curated by Lê Thuận Uyên in partnership with Art Vietnam Salon, organized by The Factory Contemporary Art Centre.
[*] Referring to the structural Economic Reform introduced in 1986, which transformed Vietnam both economically and socially.