Lacquer the star of modern artistic creations
Few may be able to recognise that the works of artist Trinh Tuan are son mai (lacquer), because they appear very modern and don’t look how most people believe lacquer paintings should look.
Tuan, a native of Hanoi, will have his second solo exhibition on December 4 at the Vietnam University of Fine Arts’ Art Space in the city, with 25 paintings he created within ten years.
In a small room upstairs on Ly Quoc Su Street, he busies himself with the final polishing process for a large piece measuring 180cm by 180cm.
“I want to recall old Hanoi and the natural beauty of Sword Lake and West Lake,” he said. “I also depict old street corners and the spaces that give Hanoi its charm.”
Recently created works reveal his experience working with lacquer and his aesthetic concepts after nearly 30 years of working with the traditional material.
Hanoi Dem Day Sao (Starry Night in Hanoi), 160cm by 240cm, is one such piece, which Tuan created last year.
It holds a mysterious beauty, with dark tones featuring a young girl standing in front of Hanoi Cathedral.
The image of the girl standing alone under a starry night may remind viewers of their dating days in the city of the past.
Noi Nho Mua Dong (Winter Nostalgia), measuring 180cm by 180cm, depicts a girl standing next to a spindly tree at Sword Lake. He uses jade to paint the girl, in the style of master artist Gustav Klimt.
“I feel an empathy with Klimt,” Tuan said. “The space and colours in his works are a little bit like lacquer paintings.”
His design studies give his paintings a unique graphic and a Klimt style expressing feelings of loneliness and sadness or happiness and love.
Born in 1961 in Hanoi, he completed his bachelor of arts at the Hanoi Industrial College of Fine Arts in 1985 and his masters at the Vietnam University of Fine Arts in 2000.
He has worked at the Hanoi college as a teacher since 1985. As with many other artists, he trialled different types of fine arts until 1995.
He then met lacquer craftsman Dang Ngoc Bach and learned the necessary techniques. Bach was from the traditional Dinh Bang lacquer village in the northern province of Bac Ninh and was an assistant to renowned Vietnamese artists such as Nguyen Gia Tri and Nguyen Sang.
Historically, lacquer was once considered only an incidental craft. But with important modern masters producing works, the medium is now regarded as important for future generations of artists.
Lacquer provided artists whose careers began in the 1990s, like Tuan, with a new set of aesthetic and pictorial challenges.
About 20 years ago, only five basic colours were used, with black, red, gold, and yellow being limited by the use of white.
While oil paintings remain the most popular form of contemporary Vietnamese fine arts for the vast majority of collectors, lacquer works have established themselves as among the most innovative and representative of national heritage.
In the initial stages of creating a lacquer artwork, Tuan makes a distinction in colour schemes and doesn’t rely on the rules of traditional techniques yet still follows the basic principles.
He is considered an artist that makes a quiet contribution to preserving the art of lacquer, according to artist Luong Xuan Doan, chairman of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association.
“He has made breakthroughs in colours and graphics in lacquer paintings, making them appear modern,” Doan said.
“They have a strong visual impact, which is very much different from traditional colours.
“The modernity in his creativity has helped develop lacquer art works.”
Unlike many other artists who have stuck to the more conservative approaches found within tradition, Tuan uses colours and themes he himself has explored.
He has had the chance to share experience with artists from Japan, South Korea and China, and found that their lacquer colours have been modernised.
“They have many materials in different colours,” he said. “We buy and mix them with traditional materials to create. I think the world is flat and my way is integration.”
His first solo exhibition was in 1999, held by the Nam Son Gallery, one of Vietnam’s most prestigious at the time.
Though having held many solo and group exhibitions in countries such as Thailand, Japan, the US, Germany, Italy, Denmark and France, it has been 20 years since his first and only solo exhibition in Vietnam.
This upcoming exhibition will reveal his experimentation and be a nice surprise, according to association chairman Doan.
SEA Games torch carried through streets of Hà Nội
HÀ NỘI – Excitement filled the air as the 32nd SEA Games and 12th ParaGames torch made its way through the streets of Hà Nội on the morning of March 24 at the start of its ASEAN tour ahead of the highly anticipated regional sports event in May.
Brimming with symbolism, the torch was ceremoniously lit from a small lamp that had landed on Việt Nam’s soil two days prior, and had been carefully guarded at the Cambodian Embassy.
Witnessed by Cambodian and Vietnamese leaders, sports officials, as well as hundreds of athletes and local people, the lighting of the torch was a powerful reminder of the unity and spirit of the ASEAN community.
In a stirring speech, Cambodian ambassador Chea Kimtha expressed his gratitude to the Vietnamese Government, the Việt Nam Olympic Committee, and all other agencies involved for their support and tireless efforts in organising the torch relay.
She said the torch relay ceremony showed the good relationship between the two countries and the traditional friendship that had been built up and maintained for a long time.
“SEA Games is considered a major festival for Southeast Asian countries,” said Đặng Hà Việt, director of the Việt Nam Sports Administration. “Cambodia and other countries organised many activities to respond to and celebrate the SEA Games and ParaGames.”
“Việt Nam is the first leg of the 32nd SEA Games torch relay after the host country. I want to reaffirm that Việt Nam will always support with utmost effort for successfully organising the 32nd SEA Games in Cambodia.”
Runner Nguyễn Thị Huyền carried the torch under the escort of 200 athletes, guests, and thousands of residents.
The relay started from the embassy office to the streets of Quang Trung, Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Đông Kinh Nghĩa Thục Square, to Hàng Trống, Bà Triệu, Lý Thường Kiệt and returns to the embassy.
The torch will leave Việt Nam tomorrow to visit Manila, the Philippines, before touring Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei), Jakarta (Indonesia), Dili (Timor Leste), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Singapore, Bangkok (Thailand), Yangon and Naypyidaw (Myanmar) and Vientiane (Laos) on April 25.
It will arrive in Cambodia on April 27 and travel around the country until May 5.
The SEA Games will be held on May 5-17 in Phnom Penh and four other localities. The ParaGames will run from June 3-9, mainly in Phnom Penh. VNS
SEA Games torch to tour Hà Nội
HÀ NỘI — The 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games torch will be carried around Hà Nội, the first stop in its tour of 10 ASEAN countries, on March 24.
The torch, escorted by nine members of the Cambodian delegation, arrived in the capital city on March 22, and was warmly welcomed by leaders of the Việt Nam Sports Administration.
The torch is 75cm tall and weighs 1kg. It is designed following the shape of the Romdoul, Cambodia’s national flower.
The torch relay stands for solidarity, friendship, and good cooperation among nations in the region.
Earlier, King Norodom Sihamoni presided over a torch lighting ceremony on March 21 at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, marking the start of the torch relay.
This year, the SEA Games flame was ignited by the rays of the sun on the roof of the sacred temple. The ceremony was timed to coincide with the equinox, when the sun crossed the plane of the earth’s equator and day and night are of equal length. At that time the sun rose exactly on the top of the main temple of Angkor Wat. And the flame was lit up and was considered a sacred fire.
King Sihamoni then passed the torch to nine well-known Cambodian athletes, including two SEA Games gold medalists, to run around the temple area before it travelled to Việt Nam the next day.
Speaking about the event, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Tourism and Special Envoy of the Cambodian SEA Games and ASEAN Para Games Organising Committees Hor Sarun said it was the first time that the kingdom hosted the regional sports meet. Apart from the competition, the torch relay was an indispensable part of the Games.
He said Cambodia especially cared about the torch relay organisation sending the torch to all 10 countries with a view to widely popularise the 32nd SEA Games to all people.
In Hà Nội, the relay will be kicked off at 9am. National runner Nguyễn Thị Huyền will take the honour to hold the torch, escorted by 10 other outstanding athletes and hundreds of other people and guests. The delegation will start from the Cambodian Embassy and go through different streets in Hà Nội before returning to the embassy.
The next stop of the torch will be the Philippines, followed by Brunei, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar and Laos, before returning to Cambodia on April 27.
The SEA Games will be held on May 5-17 in four localities with opening and closing ceremonies at the Morodok Techo Stadium in Phnom Penh. It will be followed by the 12th ASEAN Para Games on June 3-9. VNS
Fantasy literature struggles to find readers
The world of fantasy literature has seen amazing works such as Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and Twilight, but experts say very few Vietnamese writers are interested in the genre, which is relatively new to them.
Seeing the vast potential for sales that promise many opportunities for fantasy writing talent to develop, some young writers have moved into the field and had initial success, but more efforts are needed to attract more readers.
“This market has been built before thanks to many world-famous fantasy books imported, translated and published in Việt Nam. It is from this background that readers started to pay attention to Vietnamese fantasy works,” the Thanh Niên (Young People) newspaper quoted Khúc Thị Hoa Phượng, director of Women’s Publishing House, as saying.
“However, the number of writers interested in this genre of literature in the country is unable to meet demand. The number of authors of the nineties generation, including those for fantasy, is still too small, and their works sporadic,” she said.
“It is our desire that fantasy writing will not only be expanded, but also attract writers with in-depth works. It means that the writers not only invest in a methodical one or two books, or a series of stories, but stick their whole life to writing them. By doing that, this new types of books will develop in a professional direction.”
Fantasy is a literary genre that opens up endless fiction with stories about the supernatural, magic or things only in the imagination. For the past 10 years, a limited number of young Vietnamese authors have boldly experimented with the style.
Among such writers are Nguyễn Nhật Ánh with the series Chuyện xứ Lang Biang (The Story of Lang Biang) and Phan Hồn Nhiên with Những Đôi Mắt Lạnh (Cold Eyes) and Chuỗi hạt Azoth (Azoth Beads).
Some fantasy books have won prizes for young writers, such as UREM – Người đang mơ (UREM -The Dreamer) and Yagon – Những Kẻ Vô Cảm (Yagon – the Emotionless) by Phạm Bá Diệp, and Người Ngủ Thuê (The Sleeper) by Nhật Phi.
Recently, Nguyễn Đình Tú, a writer specialising in detective novels, has also tried his hand at the fantasy genre with the novel Bãi Săn (Hunting Ground).
Publishers claim young readers have a taste for fantasy, so they have launched several writing contests to stir up interest and encourage authors to try the genre. But lift-off has been limited.
According to Phạm Bá Diệp, part of the reason is that there are not many veteran writers interested in fantasy, while the younger ones do not have much experience, and their writing skills are not strong enough.
Moreover, some publishers do not dare to risk investing in fantasy works, preferring love stories, which are seen as a safe bet, Diệp said.
Some publishers claim that not even professional writers in the country can meet the standards of a fantasy series that needs to be written in a long-form imaginative way with a logical, tight and clearly built universe.
Vietnamese fantasy literature
Vietnamese literature in the early 20th century saw many outstanding achievements in which fantasy writing flourished with authors and works such as Thế Lữ with Vàng và Máu (Gold and Blood); TchyA with Thần Hổ (God of Tiger) and Lan Khai with Truyện Đường Rừng (The Tale of Forest), which are among the best and earliest written fantasy books in modern Vietnamese literature.
The period was a significant era for the country’s modern literature, and fantasy at that time attracted great attention from readers and critics. In newspapers, fantasy stories were in instalments and much-welcomed by the public.
Speaking on a talk show held recently by the Kim Đồng Publishing House to highlight the beauty of Vietnamese fantasy literature, Nguyễn Thị Năm Hoàng, a literary expert, said fantasy was a reflection of reality.
“Literature always has its own explanation, making people more mature. Each fantasy writer of each period of time offers a unique experience. Lan Khai offers a story within a story. TchyA is a source of highly philosophical material, while Thế Lữ brings out the poetic beauty of the mountains and taking journeys. Each brings their own atmosphere, customs and traditions,” Hoàng said.
“Through the works we see magic and mysterious scenes, but they are also very real. Each work is a vivid and rich picture of nature.”
Meanwhile, writer Di Li said these works could most accurately be described as horror fantasy literature. According to Li, contemporary literature has lost its atmosphere because we no longer have “forests” to store the legends.
“People have destroyed the very places where legends are kept. In fantasy works by Thế Lữ, Lan Khai and TchyA, the writing style is a bit old but still attractive and lures readers. Fantasy literature has always been popular because it opens the imagination for readers to travel through the pages of a book,” he said.
“Readers are still looking forward to welcoming Vietnamese fantasy series that are more elaborately invested and attractive. However, the journey for fantasy books to find a stand and to conquer readers is still arduous and challenging.” VNS
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