Portrait – Hồ Nguyệt

Installation view of exhibition "White Noise", Nguyen Art Foundation, 2023.

Installation view of exhibition "White Noise", Nguyen Art Foundation, 2023.

Installation view of exhibition "White Noise", Nguyen Art Foundation, 2023.


Installation of mirror, flashlight, text, digital print. Dimensions variable.


First appearing in Nguyễn Huy An’s solo exhibition âm sáng, the work Portrait – Hồ Nguyệt belongs to a period when the artist attempted to “devisualize” his artistic practice, whereby the role of the visual is minimized in exchange for the expansion of the textual.

In an earlier period of his practice (from 2004 to 2015), Huy An largely focused on his own body, its physical presence and behavioral gestures. In the period that followed (from 2015 to the present), he gradually faded into the distance and only appeared in group performances. Similarly, the visual quality of his works gradually faded out, giving more space to their textual form. In these text based works, gestures are no longer intrinsically artistic, but are instead all encompassing: what he observes in daily life he records as text. Such gestures are largely informed by the aesthetics and conceptual syntax of ancient poetry (such as the qualities of being succinct and comprehensive, and the significance of conceptual/gestural meaning). The final artwork emerges like an afterimage; it embodies a moment of contemplation following a discovery. Text is thus not an additional footnote to accompany an artwork. Text and visuals become equal elements that form an artwork.

Both the tuồng play Hồ Nguyệt Cô hoá cáo and the character Hồ Nguyệt Cô have haunted Huy An for a long time. When he finally got to meet the actress Mẫn Thu, Huy An asked to keep the mirror that she had used to do her makeup for the role. In real life, Mẫn Thu looks at the mirror to turn into the character Hồ Nguyệt Cô. In the play, she looks at her reflection in the stream as she morphs into a fox. Throughout her career, for countless times she has turned herself into both Hồ Nguyệt Cô and a fox. Each time she looks into a mirror is a time she transmutes. A lifetime of transmutations. A life lived through many lives

Description from White Noise Exhibition Brochure, 2023, p. 8.


Mẫn Thu* gazed into this mirror to put on her makeup and became Hồ Nguyệt Cô. Hồ Nguyệt Cô** gazed into the spring and saw herself turning into a fox.

* Mrs. Mẫn Thu, a renowned actress in Tuồng since 1959, is famous for her roles in a variety of Tuồng plays, namely Hồ Nguyệt Cô hoá cáo, Đào Tam Xuân, Mộc Quế Anh dâng cây, Mị Châu – Trọng Thuỷ.
** Hồ Nguyệt Cô is the titular character in the play Hồ Nguyệt Cô hoá cáo. She is a fox in human disguise that wields tremendous power and beauty thanks to the power of a mystical jewel. She married the young general Tiết Giao; yet the marriage ended in tragedy when Giao stole the jewel from her. Without the artifact’s power, Hồ loses her magic and returns to her original form.

Original statement by the artist from âm sáng Exhibition Catalog, 2019.