Michelle Nguyen’s ‘Siege’ is imbued with a sense of timeless mythology, composed in a theatrical arrangement of figures— a mis-en-scene— iconic forms invite the viewer into a world rife with subtext and interpretive potential. Nguyen utilizes the imagery of the woman in white as cultural shorthand, engaging with its multiplicity of connotations as bride, virgin, priestess, or mourner to create an ever-mutable picture.
‘Siege’ relies heavily on Western history and imagery while simultaneously undermining it. Despite Nguyen’s usage of classical aesthetic and material, the painting is laden with the suggestion of tragedy and empirical fall. This juxtapositions plays interestingly in the artist’s personal background, as the child of Vietnamese refugees, the trauma of war and colonialism is evident in the profusion of phantom limbs and disembodied parts—visual synecdoches— parts which are greater than the whole.
Nguyen's illustrative paintings employ a variety of techniques using oil paint and pastel on a canvas surface. Rife with narrative symbols, her dramatic tableaus sing with chaotic tension and humorous undertones. Painted in jewel tones and highlighted by soft-hued pastels, starkly contrasted by bold gestural markings, Nguyen's works are ready to hang framed or unframed.