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Thao-Nguyên Phan

Born 1987 in Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam),
lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam)

Condensing multiple references to history, literature and philosophy, Thao Nguyen Phan’s works blend real events and traditional folklore without distinction. Magical Bow (Lacquered Time) is rooted in a little known episode from the colonial history of France and Vietnam. Beginning in 1917, Vietnamese workers were sent to France to work in sordid conditions, applying lacquer to airplane propellers manufactured for the French air force. Under the aegis of the Société pour l’Expansion Française en Extrême-Orient (Company for French Expansion in the Far East), Tonkilaque lacquer was used for military purposes for about ten years. The artist’s watercolour on silk represents imagined fragments of this true story. A moving plane propeller from the French air force c. 1923 coated in this lacquer animates the nearby Vietnamese crossbows, which were lacquered in collaboration with artist Dinh Van Son using various techniques. These bows were inspired by a Vietnamese tale entitled The Magic Crossbow, a tragic story of romantic love. The catechist Bento Thien reprised the tale in a 1659 letter — one of the first documents demonstrating the use of the Vietnamese romanised script. Magical Bow (Lacquered Time) furthers the artist’s explorations into the exploitation of human labor and natural resources through the ages.

With the help of Brochier Soieries and the kind collaboration of Musée Paulin Ratier

Acknowledgements : Pierre-
Michel Decombeix, Dinh Van Son

Thảo-Nguyên Phan, Magical Bow (Lacquered Time), détail, 2019. Courtesy de l’artiste [of the artist]. © Blaise Adilon