Ruminating on his physical and mental relationship with present reality and its wealth of material culture, observing the human processes that embrace and confuse need from want; desire from greed, Bui Cong Khanh’s art is a gestural melding of traditional symbol, cultural ritual and consumer habit. After graduating from the Oil Painting Department of the University of Fine Arts in Ho Chi Minh City, Bui quickly became aware of the power and influence of money on artistic production, highly critical of the ways in which it determined and conditioned an artist’s voice. Khanh soon turned to performance as an artistic vehicle in protest of the ‘profit and loss’ relationship that he witnessed around him concerning the motivations for art making, his body becoming the canvas in which provocative ideas were written, endured or abstractly relayed through movement. Today, his art practice continues to embrace the present conundrums of Vietnamese society and its social insecurities, consistently critical of the role money plays in determining happiness and ideas of wealth. His oil paintings, lacquer experiments, works on paper, performances, installations and ceramic sculptures carry a bombast sense of color and subject, these varied works often humorously appropriating popular consumer symbol with textual and figurative pun.
Khánh Công Bùi has performed in various festivals and exhibition contexts in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, South Korea, Japan, France, Australia, Hong Kong and the USA.
‘What I care most about is the present life I live. I don’t want to be a sponge for the past; I don’t want to use the past in order to preserve the ‘national cultural character’. The past and its tradition have their rightful position in society and its nature stands with the time in which it was given birth. For me, I am looking for the character of the present – the life that I am driving. No matter how messy, complicated, and hard it is, that life will still one day be remembered twenty or so years later. What I want is to visualize the present as simply as possible; like when we close our eyes and we can hear the noise on the streets. I paint life calmly like writing a diary. Bui Cong Khanh, 2010
‘Is this an authentic object?’ is the title for this series of artworks, produced with ceramic, by Bui Cong Khanh. The surface of these porcelain vases follows the traditional decorations often found on historical Vietnamese ceramic. Indeed many of these patterns were influenced by the migration of this craft from China to Vietnam. In this untitled series works, Khanh has placed a typical stamp of a customs agent that says ‘CHECKED’. It mimics an official stamp of approval that clears an object as safe to enter. Today, it is increasingly difficult to move antique objects in and out of most countries. Cultural ‘authentic’ objects are considered rare items and thus their export is often prohibited. However, in places like Vietnam and China – the copy trade is high. Numerous fake ceramics are passed off as antiques and often buyers are mislead. In these works, Khanh questions the obsession for ‘authentic’ items, he is also poking fun at our desire for the fake. The remaining two ceramic pieces on view have Khanh’s own painted subjects of urban life in Vietnam. They relate directly to ideas of consumption and greed in contemporary life.