Luong Trung is an unconventional and subversive Vietnamese artist whose paintings are closely connected with a social context. He intentionally illustrates controversy into his paintings in order to create a dynamic dialogue and a communicative potential with his recipients. His works of art are sometimes provocative as he supports that the aim of art is not only to beautify and decorate walls but also to rebel, to express anger, dissatisfaction and opposition to the system and the norms of the society or to convey political and social messages.
In his paintings Lives I, II, III, he portrays babies who smoke and drink while they are dining. Looking the paintings carefully, we notice that the kids are illustrated like adults; the way they are dressed, their postures, their habits. Kids are adults’ mirrors who reflect behaviors and morals of the latter. A possible purpose of these paintings is to highlight that human’s upbringing is inextricably bound up with the values and ethics of the society which the artist questions. New Lives come to a world with disappearing virtues, corrupted society, poor education and low morals and consequently similar social behaviors are built, creating a vicious circle.
Another interpretation of Lives could be the actual representation of society’s high ideals’ and morals’ loss. Babies could symbolize the notions of purity, innocence, integrity which are being replaced by those of demoralization, corruption, selfishness and dishonesty, symbolized by alcohol and smoke.
A different perspective of the paintings could be the consumerism and the greediness of western civilization. We can notice in the paintings that the kids who are drinking and smoking look European or American, while there is a Vietnamese kid in Lives I and Lives II who is staring at them without participating in their party. He keeps a distance from the other kids and he neither smoking nor drinking.
Luong Trung uses irony, satire and paradox which make his paintings powerful and create intense feelings to their observers. The reactions and feelings vary from admiration and wonder to surprise and repulsion. But this is the artists’ aim; to arise a discourse, to awaken people’s consciousness, to make them question, react, interact and think differently. Ultimately, irony in art is a critical and imaginative form, which can foster a greater awareness of the possibilities and limits for thinking global ethics.