14 Aug Hom Nguyen, Between the Lines
Hom Nguyen, Between the Lines
14 August 2018
A self-taught artist with an instinctive style, Hom Nguyen sublimates a freedom of gesture which slowly produces the gurative from the abstract, an invitation to read between the lines and to dive into the depths of the human soul.
Like a gushing spring or a lightning flash emerging from what seems to be scribbles made up of energetic, abstract lines, his work reveals a figurative beauty born of apparent chaos.
“It’s a haze of lines which purpose is not always immediately easy to see. A rather spontaneous work, with a clear naivety, it is very direct, there is no calculation, it comes out all at once”, explains the artist.
Strokes which symbolize in a doubtlessly subconscious manner the artist’s unexpected progression from a difficult childhood with an uncertain future to the fortuitous discovery of a natural talent which has since blossomed and brought well-deserved success.
Without Bearings, Lifeline, Trajectory, Emotion through Lines…
Hom Nguyen’s life is reflected in the titles of his exhibitions, in which his subtle depictions question the duality of the visible and the invisible, of the material and the immaterial. In this sense, the artist inspires us to reflect and to search within ourselves, considering what we show of ourselves, what we attempt to hide and who we really are.
Charcoal, gouache felt, oil, and even pen, the instrument and the canvas appear plunged into battle, a conflict between the media which gives rise to a purpose: to reveal the most profound aspects of human existence.
The essence of Hom’s work has until now been the creation of portraits, often of monumental proportions. The choice of colors, the application of the media and the liveliness of the strokes reflect the artist’s vision of the human being beyond appearances. In this way, his works capture and transcend the depth of feelings and complexity of emotions.
Belonging to the Vietnamese boat people generation on his mother’s side, Hom Nguyen grew up in a place of refuge: France. “Since I was a child, I’ve always drawn, a bit like Guy Degrenne!” says the artist, for whom French culture has been as fundamental as his Asian origins. “I grew up with a disabled mother, and I had to support my family from an early age. It was only at 36 years old, when she died, that I discovered my passion.”
“At that time, around 10 years ago, life wasn’t easy. I was selling shoes on Rue des Canettes in Paris. One day a guy showed me that you could dye shoes with different colors, and I instantly became a patina artist. A shoeshine boy!” says Hom mischievously. “It began to go well, I began to make some money and I started to customize shoes. It became a fashion, from Stan Smiths to Berluti. I began my own business – at that time the idea of ‘working more to earn more’ was everywhere – and I became self-employed. My market grew and grew. I used to draw on the shoes, tattoo the leather, literally.”
The prestigious Berluti house, initially rather hostile, agreed to meet the artist and eventually decided to work with him. When Hom showed them his drawings and photos of his creations, they said to him: “You’re a true artist, a patina artist, you’re going to go far, you’ll be in a whole other world…”
Stanislas, a reputed boot and shoemaker, also heard about his work and went to see him. He found him drawing on some shoes with cutters. Fascinated by the precision of his work, Stanislas decided to offer him a vitrine in his shoemaking workshop in the 15th arrondissement and to showcase his work at Roland Garros, where the boutique had a stand and shined the shoes of the celebrities. Monsieur, Dandy, the upmarket press reported on his creations and put him on the front page. His telephone began to ring: Lobb, Chanel, Hermès… all of the big luxury rms wanted to talk to him. Hom became something of a celebrity in the world of patina art.
Without expecting it, he exploded into the luxury world like a meteor, and with help from a sponsor, he moved into a 500sqm loft in Bagnolet, where he switched from leather to canvas. He had a great time. And he made a lot of money. He created portraits of celebrities from Gainsbourg to Joey Starr, socialized with billionaires, and suddenly earned the equivalent of a big boss’s salary.
Hom talks about money in a relaxed, humble manner: “I talk about money because an artist needs it, not because it’s a business, but because an artist needs to buy canvases, to pay for a studio, a complete framework or structure to develop his approach, his interpretation, his ideas… I only have a single gallery for the entire world, A2Z. I take a family approach, this gallery alone had faith in me, they were with me from the very start. Thanks to A2Z, I’ve found myself at international fairs, the Grand Palais, the Palais de Tokyo, at biennials, foundations, museums, exhibitions all over the world…”
Even as far as Bangkok, where we were able to admire his work at the So Sofitel and Hansar hotel, in two exhibitions organized in collaboration with the Sarto agency: “My affinity with Bangkok was established through exhibitions. Thailand is very generous. You can sense a severity on the part of the government, a firmness, but you can feel that the people are really generous, really open-minded and very sincere. A real ray of light. The economy is unarguably dynamic too, and is growing incredibly fast. I feel that the cultural scene in the country is going to start expanding immensely.”
Generosity: a key word to describe the man who leads art therapy workshops with children and teenagers on the psychiatric ward at Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris. An activity which he carries out on a discreet, voluntary basis, helping him to keep his feet on the ground and allowing him to share this instinctive approach to drawing as freedom.
From one hospital to another, Hom reveals himself to be hyper-productive as well as a lover of music: “I listen to music all the time, I can’t work without music. I’m friends with numerous musicians and DJs. You were telling me earlier that you could see me designing a jazz album cover. It’s Manu Katché who got the ball rolling, it’s thanks to him that I got started. In terms of music and French culture, I’m going to create an 8-meter fresco of Edith Piaf, a portrait in the place where she was born, at Tenon Hospital in the 20th arrondissement, near Gambetta. It will be revealed on 20th September, my birthday. Generally speaking, I’m very productive, I draw all the time. I’m currently preparing an exhibition for 2019 at the Grand Palais, in Paris, on the topic of travel, not necessarily what I’ve seen but rather what I do during my voyages. You’re the first to hear about this, but it’ll be something new: I’m going to start creating landscapes…”