Bui Cong Khanh belongs to a generation of artists who witnessed the beginning of Vietnam in its ‘Post Doi Moi’ era. For Bui, he found himself marveling, but also alarmed, at the recklessness in which Vietnamese contemporary society threw ideas of progress into a heady rate of production with little organizational foresight or consideration of community.
In this exhibition Bui reflects on the social and psychological affects of wealth and power on society by tracing the idiosyncrasies of the human condition, its compulsion to throw its doubts and insecurities into religion, politics, labor and media-fuelled ideas of love and desire.
The familiar throwaway soda can, re-branded with Bui’s hand-drawn caustic humor is found painted on canvas. These new ‘products’ referring to Vietnamese society and it’s complex, at times contradictory embrace of modern life that is entangled with traditional and political ideas of culture. Questioning the power of the individual, ‘Life is consumption’ also includes a series of small sculptural ‘stories’ using the ubiquitous red plastic chair of Vietnamese cafes and public meetings.
Bui Cong Khanh graduated from the Painting Department of the Ho Chi Minh Fine Arts University in 1998. Frustrated by the rigid structure imposed on him at university, Bui initially turned to his body as a kind of canvas and it was these early public performances, where he invited audiences to stamp and paint his skin, that first became his international signature. In recent years, he has returned to his love of painting, further exploring sculpture and installation in his continual investigation of the relationship between mind, body and society.
Following his recent inclusion in the Fifth Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Australia, this new body of work by one of Vietnam’s established stars is the first solo exhibition for the artist in Vietnam since 2005.