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Minh Lan Tran
Heat Generation
1 June - 15 July 2023
Wednesday - Saturday 12-5pm
Except from the 9 - 22 June 2023

Book here to visit

London Gallery Weekend Performances:

2 June 2023 3pm
St James Church, Picadilly
197 Piccadilly, St. James's, London W1J 9LL

3 June 2023 12:30
Peckham Library Square
89 Peckham High St, London SE15 5RS

4 June 2023 12:50
Hoxton Square, N1 6NU

Private View: 5 June 2023 6-9pm

Heat Generation
Heat Generation is a solo exhibition by French artist Minh Lan Tran (1997, Hong Kong). Devised as an installation consisting of paintings, drawings and writing, the exhibition is accompanied by a performance, Heat Generation (prayer) presented for the Performance Programme of London Gallery Weekend and UP Projects (4 - 6 June), and to take place again at the Museum of Home (24 June).

The project stems from the artist’s research about acts of protest, including self-immolations within Buddhist traditions, particularly in Vietnam. Sometimes understood as desperate and destructive avowals of renunciation, they however manifest an intent of change. ‘To manifest’ is not simply ‘to express’; and similarly, if an intent is a plea hereby addressed to oppressive authorities, it further indicates a movement of change. Indeed, Tran is interested in sacrificial death not as a withdrawal, but as an encounter with violence; not as an endpoint, but as a process of transformation (from the Latin trans, ‘beyond’ + formare ‘to form’). Building on the concept of resistance as a force that opposes the movement of violence, the performance Heat Generation (prayer) harnesses physicality and movement to expose it as a double operation of collision and absorption. Something persists, drawing from both life and violence, and survives the individual form. Death is continuation is birth: and the exhibition title invites us to consider death by burning as the creation (Generation) of a force that is itself a generator (as Heat is an energy transfer from one system to another) of new spiritual, political and artistic forms.

The emphasis on manifesting and intent as positive acts is key to situate both Tran’s research interests and her artistic practice, which is one of invocation rather than evocation, of forthbringing rather than reference, of action rather than commentary. Directly applied on the walls of the exhibition space, the writing of the names of Vietnamese Buddhist monks who have carried out an act of self-immolation is less of an account of lost figures than a summons of their presence, an actualisation of their continued virtuality. Names are covered with paint, as to warn viewers not to interpret the installation as a memorial celebrating the departed in their fixed individualities. Yet it is not only a matter of signaling or informing, but an operation whereby the paint covering reactivates the act of self-immolation - more specifically, the gesture of fuelling (from the Latin focus, ‘hearth, fireplace’), of generating heat - that lies within.

In a series of ink drawings on Nepali paper, Tran has traced words which, throughout repetition, detach from writing’s derivative role of representing language (which, according to conventional logocentric arguments, is its only purpose), turn their graphemes into graphs, and create visual mantras. Repetition transforms. Perhaps, change is happening at the point where the writing encounters our perception - which is also the point where the artist’s hand and materials have met, repeatedly, in a gesture that is as much hers as theirs. Transformation repeats.

This does not imply that there is nothing else to calligraphy than itself. Meaning proceeds from repetition, churning, rhythm, movement; meaning proceeds from undoing the linearity of articulated language. In this regard, it is noteworthy that Tran’s practice is closely intertwined with the notion of process, understood not as a succession but as a series of responses. Each step re-enacts the one it follows while engendering the one it precedes, in a sequence of merged temporalities. This process takes place in the elaboration of the artist’s physical works as well as in the performance, which was built both during and throughout rehearsals. It also operates within the overall conception of the exhibition as an installation proceeding by layering, through the superimposition of walls, writings, white paint, drawings and paintings. In that sense, the setup exemplifies the way Tran conceives of each singular artwork. And, in relation to Tran’s main practice - painting -, the top placement of the three canvases proposes a new way for the viewer to relate, through the dynamic circulation across them and the space that surrounds them. Releasing the compression of the blank margins of white walls, the paintings deploy their inner tensions outside of themselves. What comes first comes last, and vice versa. Working as a series of transformations, through which each underlayer is, at once, concealed by, offering support to, and half-revealed by a new layer, Tran’s spatial arrangement is an invitation to be experienced in reverse.

Heat Generation (prayer)
The result of a collaboration between Minh Lan Tran and Lena Hetzel, Heat Generation (prayer) is a 15-minute performance featuring Chandenie Gobardhan, Pablo Saavedra, Papito Kenneth Cruz and Kay Boyce, with music composed by Vincent Ruiz Nguyen. Initially presented in three outdoor locations as part of the Performance Programme of London Gallery Weekend and UP Projects (4 - 6 June), it will take place again at the Museum of Home (24 June) in response to the exhibition No Place Like Home.

Under the direction of Tran and Hetzel, the choreography was elaborated as a collective endeavour. It has developed through the continuous integration of the participants’ takes on the notion of violence, and their responses to each other’s propositions. The performance thus builds on the tensions and circulations between inside (the inner spaces of the rehearsal room, of the performer’s bodies, but also of the church’s walls within which Ruiz Nguyen’s sound piece was recorded, and whose harsh resonance renders present) and outside. Specifically, violence is explored as a process going from infliction and interiorisation to transformation; yet a process which temporalities merge and reverse, as the performance starts with death, and as the viewer unsure if its unfolding is going backwards or towards the life that is after life.

In collaboration with Lena Herzel

Featured performers 
Chandenie Gobardhan
Pablo Saavedra
Papito Kenneth Cruz
Kay Boyce

Vincent Yuen Ruiz

Minh Lan Tran (b. 1997, Hong Kong, HK)
Minh Lan Tran's practice builds on her own writing and identity-based research in calligraphy. Drawing on textual elements, Tran creates works on canvas that blend writing and paint in an iterative process of reflection and integration. Skin-like and multi-layered, Tran’s compositions evolve, respond, and change through her own bodily actions. Coming from choreography and performance, she treats the canvas as a field of tensions where corporeality forms and dissolves in deep incisions. She studied Byzantine studies and visual theology at the Courtauld Institute of art and She will graduate from the RCA in June 2023. Her recent shows include duo show at Nicoletti Contemporary in 2022 and currently, ‘No Place like Home, a Vietnamese exhibition’ at the Museum of the Home in Aprill 2023, with a performance on the 24th of June 2023. 

Text by Estelle Marois

List of Works

Installation shot

1. The (O)pening of a Heart, 2023
Distemper, charcoal and oil on linen 
150 x 100 cm

« mantra cracked »
Individual hand drawn works on buddhist Nepali paper
75 x 50cm each

2. You Burn Me, 2023
Distemper, charcoal and oil on linen
150 x 100 cm

3. Immolation, 2023
Distemper, charcoal and oil on linen
150 x 100 cm

Selected Press

Sam Talbot London Gallery Weekend Report

The Arts NewsPaper - London Gallery Weekend Critics picks by Ben Luke

Frieze - Best shows during Gallery Weekend

The Arts Newspaper Announcement of the three chosen artists (5 May 2023)

The young gallerists reinvigorating London’s art scene - Apollo Magazine
by Jane Morris

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