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Women, nature harmonise on artist’s canvas
By Nhu Hoa

Serene: The female figure has always dominated Minh’s work.
HA NOI — Women are always the main topic of Tran Quang Minh’s paintings, but in his 20 latest works he depicts them with a little more soul and mystique.

"The idea for the paintings stems from a concept in the film Three Seasons: the sunny, rainy and hopeful seasons," Minh said.

"I am not influenced directly by the film but I liked the way it raised the issues it did," he added.

Minh’s latest paintings are currently on display in his exhibition Season of Hope, which opened last week at the Hilton Hanoi Opera.

Minh says he paints every woman. They don’t have a specific face. They can be reflected in the sunlight slanting through a window or in the gleam of an oil lamp flickering in the dark. In other paintings, they are seen at twilight, with patches of light still lingering on their body. Slender, fragile, they silently await something that has not yet come.

"I don’t name each painting. All of them are painted from an unbroken thread of thinking. I hope the collection tells a story," Minh said.

Art critic Duong Tuong, who hosted Minh’s last solo exhibition Dialogue in 2001, said there is a greater depth of emotion in Minh’s latest paintings.

"Many of the works hint at something which is not directly depicted in the paintings," Tuong said.

Minh said the difference between the paintings in this exhibition and Dialogue is that he concentrated more on the emotion of the paintings, rather than the technique.

"I painted very freely this time around, trying to depict the innermost feelings, and not just the details," Minh said.

Born in Ha Noi in 1971, Minh graduated from the fine art faculty of the Ha Noi Cinema and Theatre College. After graduation, he stayed at the college as a lecturer. Now, he teaches cinematography at the Cinema and Theatre College.

Though beginning his career as an abstract artist, Minh changed to a completely different style – photo-realism – in early 2000.

"I painted abstract when I was at university, but by graduation my painting style had changed to photo-realism," Minh said.

His graduation painting, his first painted in the photo-realism style, is now hanging in the Viet Nam Fine Art Museum.

Minh said he changed his style because he wanted to be able to portray a broad variety of scenes and have his work appreciated by the wider public.

"For the abstract paintings, the viewers need to have a certain standard of art appreciation to understand them. But with realism, everyone can understand the paintings although individual reactions will vary according to the person," Minh said.

"It is meaningless if the painted works can’t be interpreted by the audience," he added.

Photo-realism, or hyper-realism, paintings are not new in the art world, but the style was only brought to Viet Nam in the late 20th century. Well-known artist Do Quang Em was one of the first local painters to adopt the style during the 1980s.

According to Minh, there are two kinds of photo-realism. The first is to paint exactly what is taken in the photo, and the second is to create a new picture based on a photo.

Minh’s last exhibition is an illustration of the first kind of photo-realism and Season of Hope exemplifies the second.

Tuong described Minh’s recent paintings as having backgrounds which are "blurred silhouettes, as remote as a recollection, foggy like an illusion," which differ from the clearer lines in Dialogue’s paintings.

Minh, who sees himself as a professional artist, paints between six and eight hours every day.

"Art agents do not define what a professional artist is, but for me a professional has to consider painting as daily work and live off the sale of his creations," Minh said.

Commenting on recent high prices for Vietnamese artwork, Minh said the reason may be a lack of information.

"Many painters price their works without considering the prices charged in the region and rest of the world. And the fact is, if a painting’s price is high it can’t be sold," Minh said.

He said he often referred to prices charged in other countries by exchanging information with friends abroad. This exhibition’s paintings sell for between US$1,400 and $3,200.

Season of Hope will run until October 31. — VNS

Reprinted with permission from VietNam News Agency.


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