Henry Le

Henry Le (Le Huu Hieu) is a Vietnamese artist, born in 1982, who lives and works in Hanoi.

After a past as an architect, for over ten years Henry Le has elected artistic research as a priority experience of his life, placing it at the center of every reflection, idea and visual practice. His main solo exhibitions have taken place in Vietnam, at the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum and at the Vietnam National Exhibition .

In 2016 he participated in Art Basel Miami with the Contemporary Art Projects USA gallery .

For the first time in Italy, Henry Le presents the Soul Energy exhibition project in Venice  , in a side event set up from 2 to 12 October 2021 at Tesa 99 of the North Arsenale on the occasion of the biennial exhibition of the finalists of the 14th and 15th edition of the Arte Laguna Prize competition.

We asked the artist a few questions to allow him to tell his readers about himself:

The first contact with art?

I have been lucky enough to interact with art since childhood.

My father was an artist who practiced art, but to feed his family he had to give up art for another profession.

In my country, when I was little, a man who practiced art could not provide for his family.

I remember that at the tender age of 3 or 4, when the Lunar New Year came, my father made traditional designs to sell at the market.

They were beautiful in my eyes.

Even now I can imagine them down to the smallest detail.

When did you realize that art would become a passion into a profession?

All my life I have dedicated myself to drawing and painting, from childhood to adulthood.

However, the goals of my artistic practices have changed from time to time.

Since I have always dreamed of becoming an architect, for more than ten years I drew as an architecture student and then as a practicing architect.

While I was working as an architect my "world" changed.

I realized that designing a building does not fully satisfy my desire.

I discovered art step by step, developing my journey from painting to other forms of expression such as installation and performance, and finally I completely abandoned my career as an architect to become a full-time independent artist.

But it is not correct to define my profession as Art.

Art is not a professional practice but rather it is my Life.

A life that I have discovered and am living, so things outside of "this life" are no longer so meaningful to me.

Your first work of art?

My first real work of art?

This question is too difficult for me.

At the beginning I encountered a long period of work, trial and experiment.

There were thousands of sketches, works and projects and, in a moment of madness, I burned them all.

So if you ask me about my first true work of art, I don't remember.

Maybe if I get a chance to answer this question in the future, I might be able to answer you.

Do you need to have studied art to make art?

My father was my first guardian.

At the age of 14 I started studying the form and value of art to take the entrance test to the Faculty of Architecture.

Then as an architecture student I had to undertake further academic studies and continued to paint and, later, draw as an architect.

I think I was lucky to have trained as a professional architect and practiced as such.

That period gave me a broader view of the world, as well as teaching me how to 3D visualize space and plan the structure of things for any job I engage in.

This is the cultural baggage that I carry with me as I advance in the art world.

How do you choose what to portray?

Often I don't choose a particular theme and topic to represent or stick to.

This is how I live.

I usually let my native needs guide me: I eat when I'm hungry, sleep when I'm sleepy, wake up when I'm ready, and ignore what could or should happen.

So, in the same way, the subject will arrive randomly, almost suddenly, but then it will take a long process to explain and explore that idea.

My creative process can be divided into two ways.

When working on my paintings, I keep my physical body at its highest energy level and remain prolific for a long time. In a year I often spend about 4 months for the realization of my paintings.

As painting progresses, I enter a "semi-unconscious" phase, reaching a "non-thinking" mental stage.

My best works are often the product of my unconscious period.

But painting like this sucks a lot of energy out of your body. Often I have to leave everything behind and go up to the mountains to recover lost energy.

For the installation work, my method is thinking and logic, and to develop this process I use the rest of the year.

This phase of my work requires a great deal of knowledge and information on the subject I choose.

For example, if the subject is an aspect of history, in addition to reading and researching, I must consult historians for direct opinions.

Hence, trips to the relic sites are a must.

I need to talk to the people who live there, to get an idea of ​​their culture, their traditions and to find materials from that area that refer to the historical era.

Collecting information and organizing it within my research is a method I use to connect the topic to my inner mind, so that I can understand exactly what I want to achieve from my work.

I will have to ask myself many questions and find the right answers.

Only then can I start testing the materials and how they should be presented.

An anecdote that you remember with a smile?

I am a happy person, so I smile at everything I encounter in my life.

Of course, when I look back on this interview, I will smile at it.

If you could meet an artist from the past, who and what would you ask him?

The artist who fascinates me the most is Antoni Tapies. I learned a lot from him.

What I admire most about him is the way in which he manages to permeate the spirit of oriental Asian culture in his works, an aspect that has positively influenced my thinking during my previous career.

But if I run into someone from the past, I would love to meet Marco Polo.

Even if he is considered a trader, an explorer, for me he is an artist. I read and study a lot about him.

Getting to know Marco Polo has always given me a sense of freedom, the feeling that you can go anywhere and do whatever you want.

I think that the choice to live a free life is my way to "meet" him on a daily basis.

If you met yourself at 18 what would you recommend?

If I meet myself at 18, I will ask for his advice.

I will ask him how he could have been so happy, so joyful, how he could have lived so full and wild. When I was 18 they told me I was more or less like a wild animal.

Now I don't feel so free and wild anymore and I'm trying to find that version of me again.

How important is communication?

Actually in this period I have focused only on works and projects and I have not paid much attention to the media. I believe I can only answer this question when I have more experience.

But I understand that communication is important for an artist, especially for an artist with a long way to go.

The connection with the press and the media is essential.

For example, this is the first interview I have answered in Europe and I will always remember this milestone because it gave me the opportunity to reflect on my work in words. So in the future, as long as you are the interviewer, I will always have time.

What is art for you?

As I said before, I have received professional training and have worked professionally as an architect for over ten years.

For a man ten years are a long time, and especially for a young man because they shape the personality and the vision of the world, and shape dreams and research, laying the foundations to achieve their goals.

And it was around this time that I gave up the profession of a professional architect to become a full-time visual artist.

Obviously it didn't happen overnight.

While I was working on my projects, the process of creating a subject and the final result no longer gave me satisfaction.

I didn't feel free, but tense and limited.

I felt the lack of fulfillment, the lack of a feeling of wholeness that I only felt when I was creating something for myself.

On the contrary, every time I experiment with art, I feel satisfied and ecstatic.

Henry Le

I create different images, I try different forms of expression, I combine different materials.

Of course, trials also lead to error and failure.

But the failures that derive from artistic experimentation give me satisfaction in turn.

So, in summary, art for me is a continuous research.

It is the search for the place, the goal, the goals of life for which I was born: this is the task that nature has given me and encourages me to carry out. When I took my first steps in the art world, I also did a lot of planning and design.

I thought that I had to come up with many ideas, I had to organize and execute them all, perfecting them in works of a great master.

But then, as I went on the journey of exploration and self-criticism, it seemed to me that I was traveling in tune with the true artistic spirits and I realized that everything I had ambitiously planned and designed was a waste of time, a fruitless production.

Until now I don't have a clear definition of art, because art is not something that one designs or decides to produce a priori.

Art is itself a category of living and evolving nature.

Art is part of the nature of things, it is a generic category in its own right and its existence is separate and independent from man and the human mind.

I don't think I have the power to be the creator of art - in my opinion no one is.

I am just a simple worker, I try to reason and contemplate as intensely as possible so that one day I can get as close as possible to the real world of art.

What do you expect from a curator?

For the development of my career, the curator plays a crucial role and will play it especially in my next phase. First of all, I want the curator to be like a friend, a confidant, someone who understands me and can help the public understand me. The curator will be my confidant, someone I can talk to and consult with when I'm at the springboard and dive into new works.

A curator can represent me in the art system when I am working on long projects and I cannot enter the world. At that moment I will be in desperate need of someone to play a liaison role between me and the audience.

What do you ask a gallery owner?

I will be able to answer this question another time.

What are your plans for the future?

My goal, for the next five years, is to have exhibitions at the Venice Biennale, Documenta Kassel and other major international exhibitions.

In 2022 I need to build a new studio, about 3,000 square meters, to be able to develop new works that I am planning.

I hope that the pandemic progressively improves so that it can carry out all my projects.

Chiara Canali