Vietnamese-born artist Hom Nguyen (b. 1972) immigrated to France in the 1960s where he has since led a fulfilling and colorful artistic career. The hallmark of his style is the human form – Hom is concerned with capturing the human emotions in all its diversity, every emotion on the spectrum from happiness to despair, he encapsulates the essence of every look, every pair of eyes, and every stare within the frames of the canvas. Using brash sketch lines and paint strokes, his works seem to embody a certain impatience and ruggedness. Perhaps that is the background of the artist speaking, as Hom used to be an autodidact craftsman, making patina on leather before it sparked his deep and life-long interest in painting and drawing.
Hom is not so much concerned with refinement than he is for truth – he wants to express what is real, instead of the polished, high-art forms of the classical style. Nguyen has been compared to Warhol, or to figurative art of Lucian Freud, but his works seem to be an antithesis to the straightforward, direct images of him. Hom’s expressiveness presents the opposite – he does not seem to want to present pop art, nor to impress with any pompous and provocative images and colors. His is an organic, down-to-earth capturing of the ordinary: human faces, young and old, joyful and devastated. Hom wants his viewers to think twice about the ordinary, and to raise the awareness of the socio-political context of immigration: What is in a face? Why do we take to some and not others? How are these faces speaking to us? These are questions that immigrants would have identified with.
His recent works focus on Asian children without mouths that present an important issue of child welfare and rights: has the modern world stripped every child of their voice? From a more philosophical standpoint, Hom wants to express in the face the expression of their inner landscapes even if the mouth, the mechanism for expression, has been taken away from them. What the viewer then focuses on is everything else: the ears, eyes, nose and gaze that seem to be staring piercingly back at us – are we really looking at what he wants us to see? Are we really ‘seeing’ the children for what they are? Hom claims that his role as an artist is to “probe the mirror of the soul” through the eyes of his subjects, where he believes are the windows to their true inner feelings.
Perhaps Hom’s obsession with the face is reflective of his experiences as an immigrant in France. Hom’s comments on the attitudes towards Asians as being people who “do not speak, do not listen, do not see” shows the difficulty of being an outsider. What is in a face? This question is at the heart of his works and Hom comments on the life of hardship he lived when he first moved to France.
Hom’s next appearance is going to be with A2Z Art Gallery at Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Here he will present works based on the look of Isabelle Adjani, French actress, artist, and second generation immigrant in France. He hopes to merge the immigrant identity with the human condition through this explosive collaboration.
*For more information, please visit www.a2z-art.com.
Text by Megan Chua
This article was originally published in Art Republik.