Vanghoua Anthony Vue’s geometric mural and ornate headdress sculptures included in ‘Embodied Knowledge: Queensland Contemporary Art’ greet viewers with a cacophony of colour and texture. The artist’s new tape installation nkag siab poob siab 2022, from his ‘Tape-affiti’ series — the title a play on the word graffiti — is an abstract composition spanning more than 17 metres long and 10 metres high, rendered in green, ‘high-vis’ orange, work-wear blue, reflective silver and black plastic tape sourced from hardware stores.
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In the ‘Tape-affiti’ series, the tape’s practical uses in ducting and electrical jobs, or to signal safety issues, are up-ended for purely aesthetic means. The series is inspired by the artist’s heritage, especially Hmong textiles, stitched by women, whose intricate patterns serve ritual purposes and as political identification and are said to originate in a lost written language. Hmong fabric wares are sought-after items for tourists visiting the mountainous border regions of Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and southern China. As they have become more widely distributed, however, the textiles’ original designs and meanings have become perverted. Vue further simplifies this iconographic practice to draw attention to how the designs have become abstracted from their original purpose.
The ‘Hard-hat Devi(l)-(n)ation’ series similarly nods towards the opulent tradition of Hmong headdresses. Vue draws his materials from hardware stores to reference how Hmong migrants often find employment as manual labourers in the Australian construction industry. As the Hmong people are split across national borders in South-East Asia and the wider diaspora, the question of cultural continuity remains pressing. Through his artworks, Vue posits a way that these aesthetic traditions can transform and grow in response to the Australian context.
Edited extract from Embodied Knowledge: Queensland Contemporary Art, QAGOMA, 2022 available from the QAGOMA Store and online
Vanghoua Anthony Vue discusses his mural & headdress sculptures
‘Embodied Knowledge: Queensland Contemporary Art’ is in Queensland Art Gallery’s Gallery 4, Gallery 5 (Henry and Amanda Bartlett Gallery) and the Watermall from 13 August 2022 to 22 January 2023.
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.