When did you first get interested in art?
I started doing oil paintings and lacquer paintings when I was 13 years old and since then I haven’t had a second thought about what I wanted to do.
You studied both in the UK and in Vietnam. How have these contrasting settings influenced the person you are today?
I earned my BA at the Vietnam Fine Art University. We focused on figurative drawings [in a way] that made me appreciate the beauty of nature, form and shape. In my MA in Fine Art at Camberwell College, University of the Arts London, I learned how to manifest my concepts and practice with a research-driven methodology. These two very different educations created who I am now.
Artists in Vietnam struggle with finding a balance between their Vietnamese roots and the aesthetic of contemporary art. How have you managed to find this balance?
After coming back from the UK, I found myself struggling with the same issue. Three years ago when I started working on a project researching Northern Vietnam craft villages and artisans, I was amazed with our folk culture found through crafts, traditional architecture and within the villagers themselves. That was the turning point.
What’s made you move away from traditional art and into other mediums?
Each medium has the ability to convey the artist’s concept. I don’t see why I should stop at one specific medium for now.
You have a fascination with history, in particular Vietnamese history. Where does this come from?
I guess it comes from my family. My grandfather is Confucian; I spent a lot of time with him during my childhood. He would write Chinese text everywhere in the house and would give me his writings in Chinese as gifts each time I saw him.
Why do you think the Vietnam of today has so little interest in preserving its past?
I don’t think we have little interest in preserving Vietnam’s past. I think we haven’t done enough and haven’t done it the right way.
Your present installation, Vestige of a Land, focuses on the Vietnamese dinh, the temple and meeting place at the centre of traditional villages in Vietnam. Why have you chosen to focus on this building?
[In the past], a village’s dinh was not only a place for worshipping the village deity, but also a common ground where villagers gathered to litigate, pay taxes and listen to the court’s policy. It was designed and built by the people of the village by and for themselves.
My interest [was piqued] when I got involved in rebuilding the dinh in my father’s hometown village early last year. I was stunned by how beautiful and rich the decorative motifs were, and how the architecture reflected Vietnamese history and people’s beliefs.
How important is it to save the dinh in modern-day Vietnam?
It is crucial to re-recognize the importance of the dinh as well as other traditional architecture and activate a new role in modern-day society as a witness to Vietnamese history.
What kind of response are you hoping for from people who visit your present exhibition?
I hope my art can provoke a sense, a feeling, a thought or a question for the viewers.
You’ve just been inaugurated into the Forbes 30 Under 30 group of young influencers in Vietnam. How do you feel about this? Will this be beneficial to your career?
Being honoured as a Forbes’s 30 Under 30 to me is a recognition of my contribution to the community in art practice and art education. I hope through this, Vietnamese art will attract more and more attention to the community. As for my career, I don’t really know.
Le Giang’s exhibition, Vestige of a Land, is showing at VinGallery until May 26.
PHOTO BY NGUYEN DINH HUNG