NZ artist collaborates with
Vietnamese counterparts for new exhibition

An exhibition by artist Mat Logan and two Vietnamese artists he met while on a Foundation residency in Vietnam is opening at Wellington's Toi Pōneke Gallery.

Mat Logan's exhibition Howdy Cowboy opens at Toi Pōneke

Logan worked alongside Vietnamese artists Dao Tung and Tran Minh Duc on Howdy Cowboy, an exhibition that explores Vietnam’s relationship with its history and the rest of the world through video, sculpture, photography and the artists' evolving friendship.

Logan's work is the result of a 3-month Asia New Zealand Foundation residency at San-Art residency in Ho Chi Minh City, and at Manzi residency in Hanoi.

Logan says he was lucky to have Tran Minh Duc by his side throughout as his coordinator and liaison.

“We worked closely together, searching the streets of Ho Chi Minh City for materials. Duc is an artist in his own right and when we talked we realised we had a lot in common.”

Duc introduced Mat to Dao Tung, an artist and sound engineer he had worked with in the past who he felt could also contribute to their shared interests.

Born in Vietnam just before the economic reforms of the mid 1980s, Dao Tung and Tran Minh Duc make work that is focussed on their experiences living in a transitional and rapidly changing society.

Their work often looks to their parent’s generation, defined by war, then through their own childhoods and the present – Vietnam looking relentlessly forward, at times with no view to the past. Ho Chi Minh City in particular, the pair says, is a city firmly focussed on progress.

Logan says: “The exhibition was a way to create an opportunity for local artists to exhibit, and a way for the art community there to see more contemporary art in the city. The contemporary art scene is very limited – a huge city like Ho Chi Minh with a population of over 8 million people has fewer galleries than Wellington City.”

To exhibit work publicly in Vietnam, artists have to apply to the Ministry of Culture, Sport, and Tourism for a license which, despite not being overtly political, Howdy Cowboy was not granted.

However, in November last year, the exhibition was installed at privately run art space Dia Projects in Ho Chi Minh City. Dia Projects is operated by the largest collector of contemporary art in Vietnam. 

Toi Pōneke Gallery says exhibiting Howdy Cowboy in a New Zealand context creates an avenue to view contemporary art made in Vietnam, but also an opportunity for a wider discussion regarding freedom of speech and expression.

Logan says the title Howdy Cowboy refers to a combination of things. “In a sense it’s a bit tongue in cheek. Cowboys conjure up images of rebellion – it’s the generic pioneering Western foreigner, representing the clash of cultures.”

Duc, Tung and Mat were often greeted by the costumed cowboys on the door of a local café “Howdy Cowboy” where they’d met regularly to discuss their exhibition.

Howdy Cowboy opens at 5.30pm on Thursday 11 February, Toi Pōneke Gallery, 61 Abel Smith Street, Wellington.