Physical stresses

In her photographic work, Nguyen uses both organic and synthetic materials, such as latex, hair and liquids, which are not recognizable as such. The materials are often intentionally recorded in a state of transformation: the moment at which a physical tension arises. In the work Daily affirmations (2021), it almost seems as if a part of the (animal) skin is being pulled by a chain that pierces the skin. Nguyen manipulates exposure by using artificial light, such as LED lights or an iPhone's built-in flashlight. The photos are framed in handmade steel frames, in which a rainbow effect is visible. The special frames give an extra dimension to the manipulated lighting.

Nguyen talks about the 'wounds' and 'breaks' that she wants to capture in her work. The materials in the staged compositions are often very fragile. She precisely captures the moment when the structure breaks, cracks or collapses. By making unusual combinations of organic and synthetic materials, Nguyen wants to strip the materials of their usual function. She sees the medium of photography as a 'liquid language' and breaks with existing hierarchies and meanings.


Fragmentary memories

Nguyen's artistry is not limited to photography; besides taking photos she also makes films. The short film Tyrant star (2019) is set in present-day Vietnam, on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City. With her camera she captures detailed images of parts of bodies, landscapes and interiors. Through this fragmentary way of filming, Nguyen suggests how traumatic events from the past continue to have an impact on the present.

The images from her films, with their saturated colors and close-up details, are very close to her photographic work. With her intriguing images, Nguyen asks the viewer to look at photography in a different way and not to look for recognition or to want to know exactly what has been depicted. "Meaning, like a word, can only be found in contrast to what it is not," Nguyen says. The images evoke a physical reaction, independent of the meaning we assign to them.

Diane Severin Nguyen (1990, Carson) lives and works in Los Angeles and New York. She holds a BA in Political Science from Virginia Commonwealth University (2013) and a Master of Fine Arts from Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts, Bard College, New York (2020). Her work has been shown nationally and internationally among others at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, at the 13th Shanghai Biennale (2020), Shanghai, at the SculptureCenter, New York, at the 57th New York Film Festival, New York (2019 ) and at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (2020).

In addition to the works from the collection, which can be seen in one of the large halls of Huis Marseille, loans from other museum and private collections will be displayed.