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Vu Thang - a Rebel with a cause (August 30, 2003)

Vu Thang
Glimpses of Klimt: Playing Chess (above) and Golden Afternoon, lacquer, by Vu Thang
Vu Thang
Artist Vu Thang would rather not take the rough with the smooth.

Although he works in a medium where smoothness reigns, this lacquer painter has decided to challenge convention and bring a remarkable touch of coarseness to the surface of his creations.

In his latest exhibition, Eyes of Life, Thang proclaims that jaggedness is beautiful in all 20 of his large lacquer paintings.

"Traditionally, the surfaces of lacquer paintings are supposed to be faultlessly flat," the 30-something painter said. "However, lacquer can have more depth if it strays from the beaten path."

Eggshell, silver leaf, gold leaf and stone are commonly used in lacquer, but Thang has experimented with found objects such as iron, bronze and coins.

They are either elaborated polished or crudely rusted. He also uses fabric, and his ideas and character can be seen emerging from the centre of each artwork.

"The works I am displaying this time have been inspired by the characters in folk stories," Thang said of his fourth public showing.

"I had tried to improvise with these traditions to give them a brand-new look."

Art critic Nguyen Hai Phong said Thang’s art would help open the doors for a new abstract movement. "His paintings remind me of the words, ‘I think therefore I am.’

"In his works, the eyes have a penetrating stare that challenges the audience to think."

Veteran critic Phan Cam Thuong has a different view of Thang’s work. "The painter’s art has broken the boundaries, including the limits of standard graphical structure."

"He has played the game of creativity with all of his heart."

To many of his contemporaries, Thang is a rebel with a cause.

Even though he was never privileged with formal training, Thang is proving himself a phenomenon in Viet Nam’s contemporary art scene.

Eyes of Life continues at the Sofitel Plaza Ha Noi. — VNS

Reprinted with permission from Vietnam News Agency


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