|Standing apart: Sculptor Thanh has never named any of his works. After they are revealed to the public, the public name them.
A serious accident while sculpting a statue killed the desire to create in sculptor Le Cong Thanh, but the despondent man's trips to beer parlours changed all that. Ngo Huong Sen has more.
At 85, sculptor Le Cong Thanh cuts a petite figure, trembling slightly while walking but never without his smile, right from his limpid and kind eyes, and snowy hair.
Thanh lives in two adjoining flats at the Vinh Ho residential quarter in Ha Noi. The house where he lives with his painter wife Nguyen Kim Phai and a number of nude women's statues resembles a small museum of fine arts.
Born in 1931 in the central city of Da Nang, Thanh was famous as the creator of a number of outdoor statues erected across the country.
With a desire to install a sculpture in his hometown, in 1985, Thanh built a Nui Thanh Victory Statue in Da Nang City. It looks out toward the East Sea.
While building the statue, Thanh fell from a height of 20m to the ground. He survived but was confined to bed for many months.
Leaving his sick bed, Thanh seemed to become a new man. He did not want to meet anyone, avoided every conversation about normal life. In his head, he always heard gloomy, unfathomable sounds and conversations.
|Ladies' man: Waitresses he met at beer parlours were sculptor Thanh's muse.
Thanh felt terribly lonely in his house for many years, having endless conversations with himself.
The first place he went to when he stepped out after his recovery was a beer bar. He came to know many waitresses here and acquired a new outlook about their lives. He felt they were the Creator's perfect works of art, and they enlightened his creation. Slowly, Thanh started a new, composed life.
A spark of creativity flared inside him. Since then, with his gifted fingers and a sculptor's refined heart, Thanh reproduced every line and curve on a woman's body, giving them metaphoric meanings and figures. He adored the mundane beauty of a woman's body.
"I make statues of women because through their figures, I understand the more enigmatic facts of life. While carving the statues of women, I realise that women are not just beautiful in form but intellectually as well," says Thanh.
Thanh has never named any of his works of art. After they are revealed to the public, the public name them. For instance, tourists love clicking pictures of themselves with the sculpture of a woman at the Hon Dau seaside in Do Son Town, Hai Phong port city, but they don't know its creator Le Cong Thanh.
Thanh works laboriously, with a haversack worn crosswise from his shoulder as his constant companion. He silently works and carves images of women.
|Eternal kiss: One of Thanh's works.
In real life, Thanh is thoughtful and gentle with every woman he meets. It is his way to express his gratefulness for their beauty. A psychological therapy ensures that his mind is in perfect and refined condition.
He does not distinguish between day and night. He eats little, sleeps little, and works a lot. He wakes up at midnight, turns on his light, and creates and saves his ideas on a computer.
"Why do we compete with each other to set up the statues of ancestors and historical figures? How can we know their faces for sure?" Thanh asks.
"I never build statues of late famous people. I do not want them lamenting as I installed their bodies out in the open and left them there in the rain, the sun, and even on cold nights," he remarks.
After a number of upheavals and periods that smoothed his work, in 2008, Thanh opened an exhibition with his wife. It was quite an occasion as the public got to see the couple's unique works together, under the same roof.
"If I achieve a huge feat, please do not install a statue of mine when I die. I want to return to the life on Earth once more but do not want to see my body standing foolishly forever," Thanh smiles. — VNS