From Asian Art News 2005
By Bradford Edwards
The most basic ideas of ten seem to translate well visually. Veronica Radulovic has utilized a simple concept to make her most recent exhibition very effective and direct in its message. She has taken a universal symbol, the tree, and employed it as the vehicle to document contemporary Vietnamese street life. By taking hundreds of “portraits” of trees in the urban center of Hanoi, She has captured the daily life that surrounds the trees. The content, in this case, is in the context.
Radulovic culled 200 photographs-from the hundreds that she shot-to present a thorough collection of individual portraits. Entitled Familiar Surroundings, this exhibition draws its power from simplicity and repetition. Each portrait contains the same format and proportion-a straight-ahead, evenly lit color photograph of a tree. The 200 images were presented on one large wall as a grid of rectangles, AÕ size, made of color inkjet prints on paper and then mounted on rough-hewn wood box seven-centimeter thick. This style of display was ingenious because it made the flat imagery more sculptural by coming of the wall and also referenced the trees directly through the roughness of the wooden sides of the boxes. If there was any weakness, it was in the print-quality of the imagery, but this is a minor criticism, as Radulovic clearly wanted a casual do-it-yourself look to the series.
All manner of life takes place around these trees on the streets of Hanoi-vendors set up shop underneath the trees, bicycles and scooters rest against the trees, signs a hang from the trees, clothes dry from the trees branches. It is all happening around the trees and Radulovic lovingly and knowingly presents the viewer with her personal experience of Hanoi. While it is perhaps a view of her own Hanoi, it is also a version easily shared and appreciated by everyone else. Her understanding of Vietnamese culture and life informs this exhibition directly. What is key here is that this art and its message needed to translation-Vietnamese and foreigners both readily “got it” as she intended. This is no easy feat in an arena of constant cultural misunderstanding.
Radulovic has been teaching at the Fine Arts University of Hanoi for over 11 years while consistently making her own work. She has a wide repertoire of methods, utilizing photography, painting, drawing, and printing usually constructing large-scale installations. Familiar Surroundings was not technically an installation, but rather a multiple series of images that could be exhibited on any large wall.
In this her most recent work she has distilled and fleshed out a brilliant idea-illustrate daily life in Hanoi, vividly and honesty, through portraits of trees. Nothing more and nothing less-beautifully clear and simple.