Matt Huynh‘s work is full of elegant contrasts.
At the outset, his artwork appears to reflect a fixation on dark, emotionally crazed states. Distressed faces, fingers clutching wildly at hair, grotesque forms skulking in corners, drone-like sharp-featured figures drawn over and over and over again. Then just as suddenly, Huynh will show a softer side: the tenderness of a family embrace, and a reflective mother watching her children tumble in the sand.
To launch “MA”, his latest comic book, Huynh elected to display his artworks in a crazed collage across a single wall at the Tate Gallery in Sydney. From a few steps back it looks like an explosion, a celebration of his notable success so early in his career, but upon closer inspection his work reflects the carefulness and precision of the styles he has adopted and fused with his own: sumi-e painting and shodo calligraphy.
“MA” tells the story of a young Vietnamese couple who must flee their home in the midst of the Vietnam War. From the Malaysian refugee camps in Phlau Bidong, the story follows the snatches of beauty and romanticism they experience whilst raising their two sons and speculating whether they will ever be able to return.
At the exhibition, Matt Huynh also showed his cheekier side. Amidst the black and white sketches, there was a single hint of vibrant colour. Most of the curious sorts (including us from The 5 to 9 Life) peered closer to find a number of comic book hero sketches.
Huynh admits he had submitted these at the age of 12 to a publication that told him to ‘stay in school’ and that he’d never have a career in the industry. Now boasting a client list with the likes of the ‘New York Times’, ‘Esquire’ and ‘Adobe’, it’s clear he’s not too upset about this anymore.
Matt Huynh’s ‘MA’ comic book launch and exhibition:
Wednesday 5th February 2014, Tate Gallery, Glebe Point Road, Sydney.
*Words by Claire Benito
*Photography by Paula Mijares