Duy Huynh: At the Crossroads of East and West
Half Life in Full Circle
Suspend your disbelief. Artist Duy Huynh’s paintings require that you consider more with your heart than your head. Their magical realism trumps physical laws and their playful titles engage your sense of wonder…and maybe even your morality. The mood of his textured acrylic paintings tends to be wistful in their softly colored impossibilities, caught and framed in such a way as to suggest they are from the middle of a story or a dream you once had.
Worry is a Rocking Chair
Huynh’s acrylic paintings recall the contemporary Magical Realist strain that takes from the tradition of artists like Magritte, never sensual or creepy but rather confounding and philosophical. This means men in bowler hats are often doing odd things. But then these clearly outlined small subjects are surrounded by misty landscapes palpitating with shimmering color. They remind me of the evocative displaced moods of Peter Doig’s landscapes. Duy Huynh’s playful titles, like Worry is a Rocking Chair, invite the viewer to engage in analysis of the true meaning of his unreal subject.
Duy Huynh came to American from Vietnam in the 80s, and cites a sense of gnawing cultural displacement, and an interest in both Eastern and Western traditions as informing his art practice. As he says in his Artist’s Statement.
My paintings are mostly figurative, primarily narrative, and sensitive in exploring issues of Asian traditions, my family, and relationships. It is a continual exploration of motion and emotion in order to portray not just the beauty of the human form but also the triumph of the human spirit. The desire is to achieve a synthesis of artistic and cultural elements from the East and West to produce dreamlike imagery that imbues a sense of freedom and tranquility–in a sense, Eastern moods, through Western modes, and vice versa.
Tardiness of the Early Bird
Certain themes emerge in the artist’s work. Time, as seen in Tardiness of the Early Bird above and Time Flies with Strings Attached below, is certainly one of them. The artist has written, “Many say that time is money. Money as with any other object can be replaced when lost. Time on the other hand is a permanently lost gift if not used wisely.”
Time Flies with Strings Attached
You have probably also noticed an arresting disinterest in the laws of nature at this point. Like in a dream, many of his figures are floating or flying. Suspended animation is suggested both by the floating figures and the sense of an interrupted storyline. What happened before? What will happen now?
Moment of Noise
Sound becomes transformed into a colorful Baroque riot of flowers and birds in Moment of Noise. It is an attempt to represent visually what can never be seen, and all of Huynh’s paintings tackle similarly difficult combinations of impossibilities designed to challenge you to deeper consideration.
The Dance of Ebb and Flow
Duy Huynh provides the frame of a symbolic visual dream–but no more. How you interpret his works will no doubt be influenced by the coy title as well as the painting itself. Perhaps it is a bit like catching yourself dreaming, turning on the bedside lamp, and being able to take a good look at your dream, glowing with warm impossibilities.
Linnea West writes about contemporary art, culture, and travel–all subjects she feels passionately about. She lives in New York City–except for those times when wanderlust gets the better of her. This happens often. Fortunately her laptop travels well. She is finishing her first novel.