Trương Công Tùng’s artistic practice explores the blurry line between perceived realities and the psyche. In his drawing light box series Maya Within the Circle of Time (2015–now), Trương Công Tùng creates a world of chaotic absurdity, where discrete figures and symbols entwine in a way that evinces the lack of separation between the sacred and the profane. The series is named after Queen Maya, mother of the Buddha, who, according to legend, conceived him in a dream. A mythical figure in South Asian theology, she’s invested with tremendous symbolic power in many Asian cultures, including Vietnam, where Buddhist influence is prevalent. Queen Maya takes on various forms, appearing widely in rural tales in the mysterious ghostly shape of a woman, wandering the wild forests and the empty lakes.
Trương Công Tùng’s venture into the psyche first started with abstract oil painting. Later he experimented with glaze on ceramic tile in his series Land of Dreams (2012–now). Ceramic painting, as a creative medium, requires the artist to imagine what might happen to the glaze’s chroma, strokes, and surface after the firing process. It evokes the prophetic transformation of the mental images in the artist’s daydreaming mind into the unpredicted shape and form of the final artwork. The artist’s obsession with illusion in the current series is apparent in scenes that merge abstract and figurative images. The hazy, indistinct forms reflect the fragmented memories of subconscious dreams, as well as alluring mysteries inspired by myths, folk tales, rumors, and even stories from newspapers.
To comprehend the artist’s journey into the fantastic, it may be useful to refer back to his work Blind Map (2013). It is a map drawn not by a cartographer with eyes focused on the details of the land, but by a colony of termites absorbed in living and destroying. (Arlette Quỳnh-Anh Trần)