To prepare for new work and for his exhibition, Nhật-Vũ Dang travelled to Vietnam for the first time in his life. Though Dutch by birth, his connection to the region is inevitable: his parents lived there until they fled the country in 1981. Together with his twin brother he experienced for the first time the towns and landscapes they only knew from stories, and they met with their relatives who had remained there. It was once again a confrontation with their complex background: they are considered to be an outsider in each of their homelands.
Both Vietnam and The Netherlands have a long-standing ceramic tradition, each saturated with local codes and typical imagery. While travelling in Asia, Dang collected all sorts of porcelain dishes, bowls and other objects, and did the same afterwards in his native country. The oriental ceramics are decorated with scripture, flowers and mythological animals, the Dutch pottery is as legible and meaningful to him: figures in traditional dress, boats, historic adornments. In spite of all the similarities, it is also a culture clash… Dang took that literally and smashed everything into shards, east against west, west against east. Fragmentation as a motif: first fate scattered a family around the globe, now it determines how the pottery falls into pieces.
With the decorations on the shards Dang composed a fairytale-like graphic novel: about a boy dreaming about a dragon that might fulfill a wish, a phoenix that holds the power to start life over again, boats on the water, somebody in local costume. The actual shards were carried over to the artist’s own existence by casting them in silver. Each piece was fitted with a fixing ring, and he tried as best he could to engrave the original decoration of each fragment in the metal surface.
These pendants mean to both brothers a key to their roots, an entry to the past. They also provide some grip on the future: so each piece is fitted out with a strikingly contemporary, leather key-strap. The resulting necklaces fit into a long tradition: one of jewellery that is steeped in meaning and symbolism. All art, and certainly jewellery, possesses the remarkable feature that everybody can interpret it time and again in a highly personal fashion, which is also the case with the new pieces made by Nhat-Vu Dang. He made shards that mend.
Text written by Ward Schrijver