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Thảo Nguyên Phan: Voyages de Rhodes

Published and commissioned by NTU CCA Singapore – Artist’s Book Series, 2018
Edited by Ute Meta Bauer and Anca Rujoiu
Design by
© 2018 by NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore

15.5 x 23.5 cm, 384 pages, 160 watercolour drawings, softcover
With a folded map insert, 18.5 x 23.5 cm
ISBN: 978-981-11-8676-9
Distributed by Select Books (Singapore)
Copies are available for sale at Block 43 Malan Road, or please email

NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore is proud to present the latest publication of its Artist’s Book Series, Voyages de Rhodes by former Artist-in-Residence Thảo Nguyên Phan (Vietnam). Published and commissioned by the Centre, Voyages de Rhodes re-assembles into a book format watercolour drawings painted directly by the artist on the pages of a found publication. The artist used as her canvas a book by French Jesuit missionary Alexandre de Rhodes (1591–1660) that describes his travel experiences and observations, including in the region of present-day Vietnam, during the seventeenth century.

Phan’s interventions in the book interweave different narratives that sit at the border between realism and fantasy. Reflecting upon the problematic agrarian reforms in post-war Vietnam that led to the redistribution of land and collective farming, Phan’s drawings depict children in the foreground as protagonists of an imagined commune where play or state of inertia become tools of defiance and escape. Juxtaposing seventeenth-century travel literature with contemporary images, Phan’s works produce a palimpsest of Vietnam’s history with layers of voices from the present and the past.

The artist started the project Voyages de Rhodes in 2014 and the drawings were first exhibited in a solo exhibition Poetic Amnesia (2017) curated by Zoe Butt at The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

In the process of assembling the drawings back into the codex form, the project Voyages de Rhodes turned into artist’s book, whereby the book format is an artistic medium and subject of investigation. Voyages de Rhodes highlights that a book remains inherently open-ended despite its strive for completeness, and is prone to processes of erasure, ongoing interpretation, and new associations.



Thao-Phan Nguyen (b. 1987, Vietnam) focuses on historical events, traditional narratives through a combination of painting, video, performance, and installation. She has the ability to condense the manifold references to history, literature, philosophy, and theory that always frames her research into poetic works that open up new spaces for reflection. In 2016, she is the protégé of American artist Joan Jonas within the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, a programme which pairs gifted young artists with internationally recognised masters, sponsoring them to spend a year in a one-to-one mentoring relationship. Her recent exhibitions include Poetic Amnesia (2017), the Factory Contemporary Art Centre, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and Nha San Collective, Hanoi, Vietnam; Concept Context Contestation, Art and the Collective in South East Asia, Goethe Institut, Hanoi, Vietnam (2016); Haunted Thresholds: Spirituality in Contemporary Southeast Asia, Kunstverein Göttingen, Germany, (2014). and Tâm Tã, Hanoi Fine Arts Museum, Vietnam (2014). In 2018, she was the Grand Prize winner of the APB Foundation Signature Art Prize, organised by Singapore Art Museum. Nguyen founded the collective Art Labor together with artist Truong Cong Tung and curator Arlette Quynh-Anh Tran Phan in 2012.