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Pham Do Dong, a soldier-painter (August 21, 2005)

“The hammock in Truong Son”.
“Portrait of a Khmer woman”.
"Artists marching to the front".
Graduating from Hanoi Fine Arts Collegein 1968, painter Pham Do Dong volunteered to go to the battle field to find a path of creation. He created paintings of the war and the liberation soldiers throughout the Truong Son Range and the Southern battle fields and he forged a niche on this path.

In his paintings, the hammocks often appear as a main character. Apart from a Truong Son walking stick and a broad-brimmed hat, the hammock is the closest and dearest friend of a soldier and is a part of the soldier’s image. The hammock serves as a bed, a chair, a first-aid stretcher and sometimes a shroud for wrapping the body of a dead soldier. The hammock also constitutes a beautiful and poetic image, sometimes it looks like a kite or a crescent moon and sometimes it is a gentle and supple image amidst the burnt grass. The hammock eases the soldier’s tiredness after a day of operation. It also provides him a space of blue sky swinging through a canopy of leaves, luring him into a dream of a day without the sounds of gun-fire.

Pham Do Dong was a war painter but in his paintings there are not always guns and shells, tanks and aircrafts; they reflect a normal life, such as a part of a cleared area at sunrise, a track in a thick forest, a medical station, even a hut of a duck raiser and a peaceful wharf. There is no soldier who fails to dream of a peaceful day and a normal life. The painter understood the soldiers’ wish with his touched feeling and he depicted everything, making his paintings a message of an aspiration for peace.

Pham Do Dong is now over 60 years old. Visiting his house, we seemed to be lost among the thickness of the Truong Son Range , the red-leafed trees in Tay Ninh Province in the dry season, and the tents and camps of a renowned commando at Sac Forest war zone in Can Gio. The painter actually has chosen and followed his path with a great love.

Reprinted from VNP


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