You can tell from her drawings that Vietnamese illustrator Cao Le Dieu Phuc is a curious, perceptive, and insightful artist. Her works are understated but incisive, with a caustic edge. One example is her recent project, Vocabulary, which features a collection of index cards that match definitions from the dictionary with drawings redefining each word. On one card, the definition of “monopoly” is coupled with a world map, a commentary on how reality isn’t far off from the Hasbro board game with rich elites wanting to accumulate as much land and wealth as possible. On another, the definition of “loudspeaker” is paired with an assault rifle, serving as a critique on how only those with power are heard. This project is her distinctive view of society. “Through art, I want to show everyone my views on this world,” Cao says.
从越南插画家 Cao Le Dieu Phuc 的画作中就可以感受出来，她是一个充满好奇心、观察力、和洞察力的创作者。如同她在最近的作品系列《Vocabulary》（《单词》）中，带着一丝揶揄的调侃意味，她把字典里不同字词配上自己原创的图解，创造出全新的释义——把大富翁游戏解释为整个世界，是富者插旗置产的游戏主场；或是扩音器解释为枪，拥有武器的人的声音更能被听见……这一系列作品提供了她对现实社会独到又残酷的见解。Cao Le Dieu Phuc 说，“我想通过艺术向大家展示我对这个世界的想法。”
Even as a child, Cao was insatiably curious. This inquisitive nature would follow her into adulthood and nurture her creativity. “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always had lots of questions about normal things in life, such as, ‘What is death like? Why am I me and why are they them? How would it feel to be someone else?” she recalls. Even though she’s now older, she still hasn’t found definitive answers to these questions. Yet she isn’t alone. We’re all clueless, like pawns set down in this game, groping our way forward.
“It still feels like I’m playing my childhood games as an adult,” she says. “But the games feel much harder because many rules have changed.” Cao’s series Are You Ready? explores these changes, depicting the realities of adulthood through illustrations of popular board games and video games from the 90s. In the series, the tiny humans are seemingly estranged from their peers, isolated in their own games as they chase after dollars, look for a partner, try to fit in, seek out attention, and face death: this is everyone’s life in miniature.
从小 Cao Le Dieu Phuc 就对生命抱持着许多疑问，她满怀好奇心以及追根问底的个性也跟随她进入成年，并滋养了她艺术上的创意表现。“死亡是怎么样的？为什么我是我，而他是他？如果可以成为别人那会是什么样的感觉？”虽然这些问题在她长大之后不见得能得到解答，但她并不是孤单的。我们每个人都一样懵懂无知，如同棋子一般被安插在人生这场游戏里，摸索着向未来前行。
“我好像还是在玩这些小时候的游戏，只不过更困难，因为游戏规则变了。”Cao Le Dieu Phuc 这样形容她对人生的看法。《Are You Ready?》（《准备好了吗？》）这一系列作品是她针对现实的描摹，以 90 年代经典的桌游和电玩游戏为原型，画面中的小人与身旁的伙伴形同陌路，游离在各种的游戏里——挣钱、寻找另一半、融入群体、寻求关注、死亡——这是一部部人生的缩影。
But games and real life are very different. Unlike video games, in life, there’s no pause, and you can’t hit the restart button. The drab palette of Cao’s illustrations almost seems to allude to this glum realization, but she’s actually an optimist at heart. “My art isn’t stating that we can only play by the rules of the game,” she explains. “It’s just that when you get better, you’ll have to face even harder challenges, just as you would when you advance to the later levels of a video game. We need to figure out how to beat the level, to master the game of life, and have fun doing it. This series has allowed me to say goodbye to childhood and face the real world.”