The huge plume fastidiously drawn in Rainbow Herbicides 2018 (illustrated) by Thu Van Tran presently on show within the exhibition ‘Air’ on the Gallery of Trendy Artwork (GOMA) in Brisbane, compiles particulars of volcanic eruptions, man-made explosions and pictures of clouds taken by the artist herself. The air right here is thick and harmful and marked with six strains of brightly colored spray paint, harking back to a rainbow.
Air | Timed tickets on sale
GOMA, till 23 April 2023
Thu Van Tran ‘Rainbow herbicides’
The six colors consult with the euphemistically dubbed ‘rainbow herbicides’ utilized by the American army throughout the Vietnam Struggle (1955–75): the infamous Agent Orange, in addition to Brokers Blue, Purple, Inexperienced, Pink and White. Launched in blankets of fog from low-flying plane, these chemical substances had been used each to defoliate giant areas of forest that may conceal native fighters and destroy crops. Along with the brokers’ damaging environmental results, their dioxins brought about persistent sickness and beginning defects within the youngsters of these uncovered.
The six colors of the ‘rainbow herbicides’
The time period ‘rainbow herbicide’ and its related phrase ‘path mud’ describe the colored chemical substances and the dust-like clouds they type when sprayed from the sky. Together with her works, Tran reveals how unusual it’s that a lot gray may come from chemical brokers nicknamed after colors. For Vietnamese folks to recollect this historical past, she argues, is to recollect the greyness that enveloped their homeland.
Making use of the colored aerosol paint is the final step within the course of and Tran makes a degree to not intervene because the mists of color condense, pool and drip down the paper. What does it imply to make one thing so stunning out of chemical warfare? In an interview in 2019, she defined:
I actually suppose that the aesthetic expertise supplies a approach of reconsidering historical past and posing important questions. I feel that magnificence is a powerful moral place which permits for a rendezvous between the oneiric and the historic.1
Vietnam is Tran’s nation of beginning, and her apocalyptic plume reminds us of the violence and horror of the Vietnam Struggle, as represented by these airborne chemical brokers, whose vibrant identify belies their horrible perform.
1 Thu Van Tran, quoted in Ian Tee, ‘Dialog with Vietnamese artist Thu Van Tran’, Artwork and MarketDecember 2019,
Edited extract from the accompanying exhibition publication Air out there on the QAGOMA Store and online.
Watch: Take a peek on the exhibition ‘Air’
‘Air’ / Gallery of Trendy Artwork, Gallery 1.1 (The Fairfax Gallery), Gallery 1.2 & Gallery 1.3 (Eric and Marion Taylor Gallery) / 26 November 2022 to 23 April 2023