Australian university presents blank canvas in Saigon

Students from the Saigon campus of an international university have opened a public exhibition of creative work in the city’s District 1.


Creativity was on the menu at café-cum-fashion boutique L’Usine last week. Communication and design students from Australian university RMIT ‘s Saigon campus have opened a month-long exhibition at the popular eatery’s Dong Khoi location called CANVAS.

Literally stretching out across 12 framed canvases, the collaborative display celebrates ‘the many starting points, processes and outcomes of creative work.’

Featuring audiovisual and mixed media installations, photography, fashion design, original publications and print work, the ongoing exhibition is about canvassing ‘new ideas, approaches, attitudes and technologies across fashion, architecture, film, design and communication.’

On show

Gathering last Thursday the 28th of September to open the show and discuss their work, amongst the artists on display was film-maker Tran Van Chinh, a graduate of the school’s Multimedia design course, and now a partner at YOLO Pictures.

Her work, entitled ‘Thesis’, deals with the concept of time, and is ostensibly a series of vignettes taken of people on the streets of Saigon in moments where they are waiting.  

Animated by time-clocks that countdown to an unknown end-point, Chinh told Tuoi Tre News why it was a concept that fascinated her.

“When we look back at our lives,” she said, “we remember moments, but in between those moments it’s all about waiting, whether it’s for a red light, for a friend to arrive, to get money or anything.”

“In this way,” she continued, “I came to realize that most of our lives is about waiting, and wanted to portray the idea that even though it sounds a bit morbid, that to live is to wait to die, meaning ultimately that what we do in between these periods of waiting is really important.”

Publication Design student Pham Dang Khiem had his prototype book on display called ‘Compassion’, or ‘Mahakarunika’, an illustrated introduction to the principles of Buddhism.

“This book is intended as an inspiration for busy people,” Khiem told Tuoi Tre News, explaining that rather than being an ‘encyclopedia‘ of the religion, it was a basic guide with lessons for people ‘who don’t take enough time for themselves.’

Featuring his own artwork based on an intense period of research, and chapters on meditation, love and causation, it has already received a lot of positive feedback and won him an award from the school.

“People keep asking, ‘Where is happiness?’,” Khiem said of one of the books main aims, “but what they don’t realize because they are so busy, is that happiness is inside of them already, so I’ve tried to deal with this concept in a chapter of the book.”


Associate Professor Gretchen Wilkins from RMIT, whose job it was to pull together the work of the students, told Tuoi Tre News that CANVAS was all about allowing students to experiment with ideas.

As she sees it, particularly in the context of Vietnam, part of the university’s job is to instill confidence in students who historically might have been afraid to fail in this area.

“This is a job opportunity for students,” she explained, “after all we’re putting their work out there for everyone to see with their names on it. But more importantly, we think this type of public exhibition is a validation of the confidence we try to give them,  that they can play with ideas, test them out and not necessarily just solve problems.”

CANVAS is on until October 29 at L’Usine, 1st Floor, 151/5 Dong Khoi, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. 

A projection from CANVAS
A projection from CANVAS
An image from khiem dangs 'Compassion'
An image from Khiem Dangs 'Compassion'
Guest at the CANAS opening September 28 2017
Guest at the CANVAS opening September 28th 2017
Guests from the CANVAS opening September 289th 2017
Guests at the CANVAS opening September 28th 2017
khiemdangs 'Compassion'
Artwork from Khiem Dangs 'Compassion'

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