A catalogue essay to accompany the exhibition, Trang T. Lê: Quiet Thoughts (October 4 – November 11, 2013) at Artspace Vincennes, Indiana.
By Jill Thayer, Ph.D.
A calm presence is felt upon viewing the paintings of Trang T. Lê. Her ethereal compositions impart the quiet essence of nature in a visual language of contemplation. For Lê, this meditative state reveals a healing source of life. For viewers, it’s a pause for reflection. Her methodology suggests nuances of Post-Impressionist, Expressionist, and Minimalist genres calling to mind the metaphysical auras of Rothko and aesthetic subtleties of Agnes Martin. Yet, Lê’s approach is uniquely her own.
Quiet Thoughts is a sojourn into past and present. It is a statement of hope and resolve, which took almost 10 years to complete. Lê’s paintings meander down the hallway into three intimate galleries. Each space transitions one to the next in a restorative path of intrigue. The atmospheric qualities of Morning series (2011) bring solitude that only comes in the early dawn, as a myriad of spiral brushstrokes blend then evaporate into a cloud of mist. The process involves a smooth, soft painted ground with impasto pigment and an application of repetitive circles that resonate organically throughout the works
Memory of Nature (2011) explores the confluence of earth, water, and sky in a saturation of color and light that draws the viewer in. Contrasting palettes and analogous motifs bring engagement to each study: Interwoven threads in crisp, colorful geranium hues tumble to the ground in a heap of confetti; Waves ebb and flow in a sea of azure blues; Windblown chrysanthemums sway under the flaxen sky.
A single panel from Lê’s eloquent 111,978 represents the epic 4 x 56 ft. installation from an exhibition at the Vincent Price Art Museum in Los Angeles. The work pays homage to the number of soldiers and civilians who died during the Iraq War, which Lê discovered after a three-year research. Between 2006-2010, the artist documented 4,743 faces and names of U.S. and Allied soldiers in three journals. A photo accompanies the piece to give viewers a sense of scale in the enormity of the seven panel series. Oceanic currents and galaxies of stars constellate to honor those lying in repose under the midnight sky.
“Each circle represents one life that was lost.
Each circle represents a soul at rest.”
Lê’s inspiration is a catalyst of transformation as she shares her motivation, “How I love the morning. After a good sleep, things are light and our minds are fresh. Just looking out of the window. Simplicity. A simple moment can help us through the day. This is how the body of work evolved.” It is this interpretive expression that captures the fragility of humanity in the meditative paintings of Trang T. Lê. Quiet Thoughts brings these transforming constructs to life through the healing power of nature and sublime promise of peace.
Trang T. Lê earned a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science from University of Riverside California in art and anthropology; and a Master of Fine Arts at Claremont Graduate University. Lê exhibits her work throughout Southern California and Asia. Her paintings are included in corporate and private collections.