Thu Van Tran


The artist Thu Van Tran's work is informed by writing, architecture and History. That of Vietnam, her native country and former French colony, inclines her to live and think duality, inequality or imbalance as states structuring conceptual and artistic proposals with which she is involved. These proposals take the form of semantic or sculptural compositions investing as much contemplative as discursive fields.

Matrix:  A hollow mold, in metal or another material, serves to provide a given form to an object by compression, cutting, deformation or embossing. This first definition, purely technical, describes the molding process Thu Van Tran regularly practices. For the artist, an unsuccessfully made mold can always be render as a successful mold, insofar as the relation of it to the perfect matrix. While it supports the gravity of the materials, it assumes its own critical and emotional significance.

The matrix is not merely hollow and it contains other metaphysical realities: the center of the filiation and heredity; especially, as cultural model or moral molding which distorts and formats.  And in the same manner that the concrete matrix is dedicated to disappear as soon as having pressed in its cavity a resembling imprint, the ideal matrix does not manifest in persistent form. In essence, the matrix leads to different hypotheses yet it's nature, always assumed as a never changing constant like in it's earlier state, untouched and pure: a speculation, in sum, with which it is necessary to be in conformity

Puritanism, racism, ostracism, etc.  – such are the fictional matrixes which justify the theories of absolute without mixture and that Thu Van Tran discerns the disorders. Her works evoke the fiction of purity and the reality of the mix – cross-breeding, transplant and parasite, isolationism and colonization –  across different moments –  Vietnam War, family history or Minimal Art in America. Face with the physical stain or a moral stain, one can draw many alternatives: to collaborate or resist, to repress or assume, to claim or deny.  The artist is careful not to specify which of the two options – to darken or to lighten – is consider the more pure. By definition, one can always reverse from one state to another.


By Hélène Meisel, French art critic and curator.

English translation by Joseph Tang.