b. 1944, Hai-phong, Vietnam
Nguyen Cam is a visual artist working primarily in paint and mixed media. His colors, forms, and materials—which include used rice sacks and gingko leaves—all relate to his deep, complex relationship with his native country of Vietnam: in 1954, when Nguyen was still a boy, his entire family was exiled. The remainder of his childhood was spent in Laos, and he eventually settled in Paris.
Nguyen began painting at the age of seven, and sold his first work by the time he was fourteen. He enrolled in Paris’s Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1969, and after graduation moved to Sartrouville, a commune in the suburbs of Paris. In 1987, he was appointed the director of the Ecole Municipale des Arts Plastiques de Sartrouville.
Forty years after being exiled, the Vietnamese government apologized to Nguyen, and in 1994 asked him to return to the country to teach at the Vietnam University of Fine Arts. Nguyen has been working between Paris and Hanoi ever since, and the return to Vietnam has had an intense influence upon his work: Nguyen states that “Hanoi, young and dynamic—the vitality of this capital is a source of immense inspiration for my art.” His distinctive style, materials, and colors emerge directly from the present vibrancy of his life in Vietnam and his layered memories of exile. As he described in his artist statement, “The ochres, reds, and browns recall my land, its outrages, men's sufferings.”
Nguyen has exhibited in France, the US, Spain, Belgium, and Vietnam, and his work is held in private collections internationally.