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Artist paints reminders of painful period (May 26, 2003)

Pham Do Dong
War ravaged: Rung Dau (Forest Pains), oil, by Pham Do Dong. — VNS Photo Duc Ngoc
For artist Pham Do Dong, the forests of South Viet Nam are both a place of beauty and a reminder of the pain of war.

He first entered the forests during the American War, where he accompanied liberation soldiers into battle as an army artist.

At the time Dong was thankful for the sanctuary they offered from enemy attacks. It wasn’t until later that he came to appreciate the forests for their own tranquility and peace.

The paintings now on show in the artist’s first solo exhibition in HCM City offer audiences both perspectives.

Paintings such as Rung Chieu Muon (Forests in late afternoon), Giai Dieu Rung (Forest Melody) and Xeo Quyt Binh Yen (Peaceful Xeo Quyt Swamp) depict the landscape for its natural beauty.

However, other works, such as Phia Sau La Chung Toi (Our Shelter) and Rung Dau (Forest Pains) show the forests devastated by bombs and toxic chemicals.

"I wanted to honour the forests which provided shelter to the soldiers. I also wanted to remember those who were killed during fighting in the eastern regions of south Viet Nam," the artist and war veteran said.

Dong joined soldiers marching southwards after graduating from the Ha Noi Fine Arts College in 1968.

Armed with a passion for painting, the then 28-year-old travelled with liberation soldiers to many battlefields, making hundreds of sketches and paintings.

Now 60, he has returned to the battlefields of Tay Ninh Province on many occasions, searching for the remains of soldiers killed in action.

"The trips to old battle sites have revived my memories of the days we were in the forests, inspiring these new pieces," Dong said.

The exhibition, featuring 60 of Dong’s paintings, is on at the HCM City Fine Arts Museum, 97A Pho Duc Chinh St, until next Thursday. — VNS

Reprinted with permission from Vietnam News Agency


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