Hanoi-based artist Phạm Ngọc Thái Linh was born in 1995, the dawn of a new era in Vietnam. The war had been over for twenty years and international relations were becoming normalized. Soon, the country would be connected to the internet, which would become a vital and animating force. All of these factors have shaped Thái Linh’s creative practice, as has his strong artistic inheritance: his late paternal grandfather was well-known fiction writer Dũng Hà, who wrote under the name ‘Thái Linh’, and his maternal grandfather, Phạm Lực, is a famous artist who first rose to prominence painting propaganda posters during the war. The latter “is very supportive and really likes my work,” says Thái Linh. A formidable figure, Phạm Lực was featured in ‘The Vietnam War’, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s 2017 documentary series for PBS.
Though Thái Linh has loved drawing since childhood, he didn’t take it seriously until he went to university. “I wanted to be a pilot, I think because it meant I could travel,” he says. “But my family didn’t support it because it was dangerous and would take me far away from home, so I studied drawing instead.”
Constantly aware of and responsive to Vietnamese cultural influences, Thái Linh riffs off maximalist Buddhist iconography and Ðông Hồ paintings—a form of Vietnamese folk art originating from Đông Hồ village—to explore the impact of technology on everyday life. His own user experience of innovations in the technological realm, and the aesthetics of the technological age, are also constant sources of creative inspiration. “I was born into a time of great change filled with new, international influences such as cyberpunk,” he says, referring to the sub-genre of science fiction telling dystopian stories about futuristic technological and scientific achievements, such as artificial intelligence and cybernetics. The movement has also made waves in design, fashion, and gaming.