Francis Nguyen is a Canadian artist mostly working in bronze casting. Though he is an accomplished painter, his bas-relief sculptures in his new series Piercing the Veil present some of his most captivating work to date. These images collapse the long timespan of humanity into classically-informed frames of world-ending terror.
Nguyen embraces traditional materials and forms, anchoring his work in the long arc of art history. Just as he commits his images in bas-relief sculptures, he solidifies them with the weight of millenia. This gives his work added presence, creating a sense of awe so often lost in many contemporary experiments with medium and genre.
Whereas much of the art world is splashing around looking for something to moor itself to, Nguyen has found the frieze a way to end this dithering. But there is more at work than mere anachronism. The artist fills his bas-relief sculptures with elements of the human body. In this way, he ties his work to the foundation of visual art. He then surrounds these forms with the swirling chaos of apocalyptic visions — events both timeless and timely.
One cannot help but read the anthropocene and its coming calamities into the work. The human form is so central to the compositions, yet so too are scenes of Armageddon. These two are brought together in one form and rendered in material we suspect could survive the havoc of floods and fires, a testament to who we are today written in cast metal and saved for future generations to see life before the fall.
The scenes of destruction are sometimes fully modern ones — consider Nguyen’s The Last Stop where New York City is ripped apart by a flood that bricolages its elements into a cubist nightmare ripped from the pages of Revelations. Still others are much more historical, like Calamity and Pandemonium.
Even with the works that recall the past, we immediately sense echoes with what we collectively imagine is our future. In this way, what was once myth and ancient legend has returned to us as our destiny. There is something of the Kantian sublime in this work: we find it both all the more beautiful for its horror, all the more horrible for its beauty.
Nguyen’s Piercing the Veil series reminds us of the dizzying way that archetypal images and events recur, returning us to fundamental themes of the human condition. Like his art, they appear permanent and sure — as if they were cast in bronze.
Nguyen received his MFA from the New York Academy of Art. His work has appeared at Sotheby’s, the Salmagundi Club, Forbes Galleries, and the United Nations. He is both a studio artist and private instructor. You can find his artwork on his website and Instagram.
Francis’s artwork “The Last Stop”, a bas-relief depicting a major flood in New York City, was selected to be exhibited and put up for sale on October 25, 2022, at the Chelsea Industrial headquarters at 535 West 28th Street for Take Home A Nude. For more info please visit: https://nyaa.edu/nude/