Phan Thảo Nguyên

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Looking Down series No. 42

2013 - ongoing

Oil on X-ray film backing

20 x 25 cm

Looking Down is a series of small paintings on x-ray film backings depicting human figures looking down. Looking down is simply looking down, looking for something, or bowing. I am intrigued by the material of x-ray film backing because as a found object it carries a part of the patient who used it.

The inspiration for these paintings comes from my research about the Japanese occupation of French Indochina. During my research, I hardly found any archival images directly related to the period in Indochina, but plenty in neighbor countries, such as Singapore and the Philippines. During a visit to Former Ford Factory in Singapore, the place where British forces surrendered to the Imperial Japanese Army in 1942, I encountered a photograph in their exhibition of a local woman bowing to Japanese soldiers when they passed her on the street. It made a significant impact on my thinking about the meaning of the gesture and what it signified. From the initial photograph I developed a collection of painted gestures on found X-ray film backings with images taken from various resources: books, historical archives, the Internet, etc. The figure is stripped of his or her background and represented in a timeless, non-specific space.

(Text courtesy of the artist)