Duong with Self-portrait, 2018

There is something about Vietnamese artist Duong Thuy Duong that makes you want to explore – to find out more about what is inside this quiet painter and her enigmatic works of uncanny self-portraits, kitchen-tableaux’s, railway stations and hovercrafts, all in the most beautiful colors – often a more enchanting blue than any blue I have seen before.

Duong does offer a key to her door in the form of a famous Nietzsche quote: “Wir haben die Kunst, damit wir nicht auf der Wahrheit zu Grunde gehen.” (We have art so that we do not perish because of the truth).

Duong’s website  leaves it to her paintings to speak for themselves. A brief CV gives you an insight in her educational background in Germany and the most important exhibitions. That’s it.

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Now we know a bit more in Hanoi, because her (and my) friend Ly Truong curated Duong’s present exhibition in Hanoi. After working with Duong, Ly shared her thoughts in her beautiful handwriting and pinned her observations on the entrance door to the exhibition premises in Dang Thai Mai:

There is a “black hole” in Duong Thuy Duong’s universe and you will feel its strong magnetic field when you look at her paintings. The journey might begin in her kitchen – a mother of two daily space’s, and end up on a highway where you might ask yourself “What is this? Is this the end of the world or is this the Eternity, where am I?
In my situation, I was lured by her stunning self- portraits that looked like old photos turning yellow and green. They make me curious about what’s inside this woman’s head. In her paintings, every object is moving and vanishing. They are so lively, they seem so catchable, they are so real, but also so distant. They make me want to cry…


Duong with Self-portrait, 2018

On a chilly Hanoi morning Duong offers me a few more clues to what inspires her: Mozart’s Requiem is among her favorite music along with the Russian composer Rachmaninov and his Concerto no. 2 for Violin.

The Danish movie director Lars Von Trier is on top of her movie list with Dogville and Melancholia.

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Lunar Eclipse, 2018

Duong’s eyes light up, when I ask her about Berlin, where she lives with her two children (of 9 and 8) and her boyfriend:

“I am longing to go back to Berlin tomorrow. I love that place. The Germans are warmer than they may seem to be at first. I do not feel like a foreigner in Berlin. There are so many nationalities living there, so foreigners are just a natural thing.”

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No name, 2007

Born in 1979, Duong does remember the bad old days in Hanoi’s extreme postwar poverty.  She recalls days with very little food and plain sugar as the only luxury. Playing alone in a small courtyard, which served as a playground.

“We were poor, but we had things others did not, because my father’s younger brother had gone to Germany. He sent home pacakages from time to time.”

Duong has no plans to move back to her native country:

“My beloved Hanoi does not really exist anymore.”



The Duong Thy Duong exhibition venue: Dang Thai Mai, House 19B, Lane 12.