Artist seeks to capture soul of the nation
by Thanh An
|Colourful: Painter Tran Hoa shows visitors paintings from his collection. Like other painters of Co Do, he wants to keep his village's traditions alive. — VNS Photos|
As artist Tran Hoa feeds a flock of ducks in the backyard of his house in bucolic Ba Vi Commune it's hard to believe he has produced over 1,000 paintings and exhibited overseas.
Hoa greets guests at the gate of his Co Do village on the outskirts of Ha Noi with an energy that belies his 69 years – at least 57 of them spent at the easel.
"I won a prize for a painting when I was 12," he says.
Hoa considers himself lucky to be born in this land of legends and the birthplace of so many outstanding painters.
He remembers first becoming inspired by things around him when he was only 10 years old, and how his artist's eye developed quickly and his "love of country" followed.
In fact most of his drawings are based on village-related themes, hence his choice of peaceful seclusion, away from the city lights, to meditate and become inspired by things around him
Numerous artworks on the walls of his studio are landscapes, including Red River Wharf, and Garden Fruit, which have been selected by the Viet Nam Fine Art Association for a collection of the nation's landmarks.
Another of Tran Hoa's abiding interests is propaganda posters, which use loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than rational response.
The aim of propaganda is to change the attitude of a target audience to further a political agenda, Hoa says. He seeks to take Vietnamese propaganda posters to a new level.
Having fought in the American Resistance War, he understands the price of peace and independence.
|Sacred:Ho Guom (Sword–returned Lake), a lacquer painting from Hoa's landscape collection|
|Impressions: The lacquer painting Hoa Trai Vuon Nha (Fruit Garden) by Tran Hoa.|
Hoa shows his guests a lacquer painting entitled Worrying for the People in which he portrays Ho Chi Minh on the blue background of Viet Bac, the northernmost military base.
Uncle Ho has been the exemplar of his spiritual mind for most of his life, he says.
To him, Uncle Ho occupies an important position. Many paintings in his studio show Uncle Ho at a military base or guiding people in strategies against the French aggressors. His white beard, kind eyes and indulgent smile are so clearly portrayed that iteasy to believe he is there in real life.
Hoa's creative urge drives him to seek new subjects, which refer to guerilla fighters made up of children and Heroic Mothers. The painting Missing Uncle Ho on a Happy Day depicts a child waving to the great leader.
As a student of lacquer painter Duong Ngoc Canh, Hoa inherited his techniques, to which he added his own style of drawing on black paper, which few painters are able to match.
"A good painter must know how to master drawing to create a good stroke," Hoa says.
Pointing to several paintings on black backgrounds, Hoa adds that he was inspired by black from the Big Bang theory of the development of the universe.
"Black is the colour of the beginning of life. That is the reason I choose to depict things on black paper."
The length of time to complete a work depends on the depth of emotion.
"A straightforward piece might take me just a week to finish. On the other hand, I spend several months on completing a painting I get a deep-rooted feeling for."
Hoa says proudly that there is a gallery in the Netherlands which had a room for his work, and many visitors tried to buy them.
Nguyen Do Bao, of the Viet Nam Fine Art Museum in Ha Noi, says: "Tran Hoa is really a painter of Vietnamese villages. His works reflect the true nature of life in great colour and detail. That is why he wins people's hearts."
Bao says he particularly appreciates the black of earth which Hoa uses so successfully.
Hoa's wife Nguyen Thi Cong says: "He is one of the most devoted painters I have met. He concentrates on drawing so much that he almost forgets time. There are nights that he works until the morning."
Even the children in the neighbourhood are inspired by Hoa.
To this end, Hoa has set up a class to teach drawing to children in the village, without fees, to harness their creativity and get them to appreciate the nature around them.
Nguyen Van Son, 9, who is learning to draw at the class, regularly drops in unexpectedly.
"I often come to Uncle Hoa's house to watch him working," Son says to one of the guests. "I love his paintings so much. I asked him to teach me to draw because I want to be a famous painter like him."
"Many young artists today are chasing after fame and straying away from traditional values. I hope these children will develop a more holistic perspective." — VNS