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Artist still pushes the boundaries at eighty-one
VNS- Born in 1921 in the central province of Quang Tri's Trieu Phong District, Le Ba Dang enrolled at an art school in Toulouse, France, at the age of 19.
Since 1966, his name has been familiar to art connoisseurs in Europe and Viet Nam, and he has won prestigious international art competitions.
Dang's paintings have been hung in galleries in the US, France, Germany, Japan and Viet Nam.
Although he is a long-term resident of France, exhibitions have brought Dang back to Viet Nam every year since 1976.
The European art world has long experienced the fine art of Viet Nam through Le Ba Dang's work.
One of the artist's defining works is the Le Ba Dang Space, which has come to define the artistic style named after him.
At the age of 81, the man who has never rested on his laurels talks about his life-long career, homesickness and wishes.
What is the Le Ba Dang Space? How did it become your signature style?
I am always haunted by new ideas for art, to stop myself repeating my work over and over again.
The Le Ba Dang Space was conceived in a heart-wrenching situation when our only child passed away due to illness in 1980.
As a way of expressing my love for him and easing my pain, I made the "space" to describe his short presence in the world.
I made him a tin tomb that shines like a mirror. It reflects everything above it, even passing planes.
Dozens of artworks' were placed around the mirror grave, particularly a flute which resounds beautifully whenever a wind blows.
The work is a really lively space but it is also something abstract, and it ignited within me a brand new style.
I started looking for new materials that were neither paint nor plaster, to create something that was neither a painting nor a sculpture.
My artworks bear the beauty grasped by my own senses, and they have no edges, no clear top or bottom. However, they are smoothly harmonised.
Is there a feeling of nostalgia lingering in your creations?
My work illustrates my feelings for my motherland. War Aftermath, for instance, represents the 24 levels of sadness suffered by 24 Vietnamese victims of the war.
There is an old mother longing for her son's return in a deserted twilight. There is a war martyr wife giving into a loveless and humble life. There also is the desperate eyes of an orphan.
Then there is Giao Chi Feet, which relentlessly press hard on the soil to struggle against natural disasters and epidemics for the 4,000-year-long existence.
Also, Truong Son Rice bears the heat, the rain and thunder the of nature as well as the fire of war.
They are all moulded by my love for the motherland.
Do you aim to set up a meeting place for your art?
Since 1976, I have held dozens of exhibitions along length of the country.
I have written numerous books and articles to introduce my art to the Vietnamese people.
For the time being, I am obsessed by the desire to realise two of the big ambitions of my life.
One is to turn my tranquil Bich La village, which covered with white sand, into a flower-growing village and a venue for artistic and cultural festivities to help the locals improve their income.
If the local authorities approve, I will turn 20ha of land on Hue's Vong Canh hill into a remarkable artistic reservation housing creation venues, exhibition gardens and an artistic school.
My ultimate goal is to support my people's spiritual life so they can earn a living from making their art.
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