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‘Innocently' painting pottery works wonders

Update: March, 02/2015 - 21:14

Creations: Painter Nguyen Lan Huong looks at some of her works at an exhibition organised at the Heritage Space, Dolphin Plaza, Ha Noi. The exhibition will run until the end of March.

by Minh Thu

Though painter Nguyen Lan Huong had already achieved fame for her oil and acrylic paintings, she wanted to try her hand at creating painting on pottery.

"When I experimented with painting on pottery and enamelled tiles, I invested my soul, which is as innocent as a child's," Huong said.

Through her endless passion and inspiration, Huong has moulded her career and this art genre after having worked for more than a decade with materials used for pottery.

In 2003, Huong also worked at the Huong Canh pottery village in the northern province of Vinh Phuc to design an array of pottery and ceramic products.

While doing so, she also thought of painting on pottery. After baking the pottery on which Huong had painted, the result was much beyond her expectations, which further boosted her passion for this new experiment. So much so that she is now completely absorbed in painting on pottery, instead of on canvas or paper.

She confined herself to her room for two months, turned off her phone, broke off all connection with other people, and just painted.

Huong then took her new work to her friends, who are also painters.

Disappointingly, no one encouraged her to pursue it further. One of her friends even asked her why she didn't want to continue painting on canvas, as there was no future for painting on pottery.

"At the time, I felt very upset," Huong said, adding that "people's remarks put me off my stroke."

"However, I did not lose enthusiasm. My artwork cannot be a waste of time and effort."

Ceramic art: Daisy, one of her works on pottery.

Huong selected five among her paintings and took them to Tran Khanh Chuong, the president of the Viet Nam Fine Arts Association.

As expected, Chuong was highly appreciative of her works, which he said are unique, beautiful, feminine and express incredible creativity. Becoming aware of Huong's experiment after discovering her paintings on pottery, Chuong encouraged her to exhibit them.

He arranged for Huong to make her debut at the association's exhibition house at 16 Ngo Quyen Street, Ha Noi.

"I wasn't brave enough to invite my friends and colleagues to the first solo exhibition because I didn't know if they would like my artwork," Huong said.

The exhibition was more successful than she had hoped. All of her paintings were sold. Huong confessed that the unexpected success made her even more determined to pursue the genre.

"Clay in Huong Canh Village is more special than any place," said Huong, "when it's burned at a very high temperature (about 1,200 degree Celsius), the painting on the pottery becomes very glossy, and does not necessarily turn to enamel."

Huong paints on pottery during the day or night, as per her convenience. She has also found inspiration in the familiar landscapes of Huong Canh village, in still life and flowers.

"It is always delightful when I check my paintings after baking, every time I feel amazed when the fire helps the colours on square pottery bricks appear exotic," she said.

That said, Huong has also failed many times before arriving at the most suitable method and temperature for baking the pottery.

"It's very difficult to control and manage fire, the element has destroyed many artworks of mine, but it has also helped create an unpredictable effect," she said.

"Thanks to fire, my paintings are very durable. Time, weather, war, conflagration, nothing can destroy them. I can say that they are eternal as long as you don't break them, of course."

Difficult path to glory

To become successful, Huong had to journey on a tough road.

She had always nurtured the dream of becoming a painter from a very young age. But her parents were opposed to it because they were worried that working as an artist would prove to be very difficult and risky. They expected Huong to become a teacher, which is easier and promises a more comfortable life.

Huong was so desirous to become a painter that she stealthily applied to study fine arts. As a reward for her talent and will, she was admitted to the Viet Bac Art and Culture College in the northern province of Thai Nguyen, where she and her family had evacuated to during the war.

Huong disregarded her parents' strong opposition and packed her belongings and left home to study at the art school.

After graduation, the fresh painter worked at the Huong Canh pottery village.

Native scene: The landscape of Huong Canh Village is portrayed in Huong's work.

She also continued to study at the Industrial Fine Arts University, Ha Noi, living the hard life of a poor student.

Huong painted many landscape paintings of small and medium sizes and sold them at some galleries around Ha Noi's Old Quarter.

"I was lucky that so many foreign tourists liked the paintings," she said.

"Once a foreigner couple even requested the gallery's owner to meet me and visited my studio, which is actually a flat in poor condition that I rent, and is choc-a-bloc with books, palettes and paintings."

"They expressed special interest in my paintings and bought dozens of them," she said.

"Thanks to them, I realised that there is one thing more important than money, and that is courage."

Screenwriter Trinh Thanh Nha considers herself a friend and a big fan of painter Huong.

"Huong is a talented and energetic painter," she said. "She has experienced many ups and downs in life, and that is why her artworks reflect her experiment and philosophy and always force the audience to think and imagine."

"Despite her parents and husband's opposition, Huong is still determined to pursue her passion and career," Nha said.

"She has been successful in not only mastering the art of moulding her pottery material, but has also discovered her soul and shared what she has experienced through her art." — VNS

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