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Famed artist finds inspiration in new artistic style

Update: March, 13/2016 - 09:00
Different hues: In addition to the paintings featuring Hà Nội, Đinh Thị Thắm Poong also depicts portraits of ethnic minority women and a self-portrait.

Three years after her seventh solo exhibition in Canada, painter Đinh Thị Thắm Poong recently presented to art lovers her latest solo exhibition showcasing her different style. 

Since her first solo exhibition in 1997, she has become well-known to the public for her paintings depicting daily life of ethnic groups made in traditional hand-made (poonah) paper. However, in this exhibition, her new works comprised many mediums, oil on canvas, ceramic fragments held by embroidery, and natural bamboo baskets.

“I wanted to experiment new things with oil paintings, and ceramics. I began to concentrate more on making oil paintings and ceramics since 2008,” she said.

Her exhibition first caught the attention of the public with its original name: Destination Point of an Oblique Line.

“An oblique line, is when I look at something but do not watch it carefully, and do not really concentrate on it. I am often lost in my thoughts even though I am looking at something,” she said, smiling, as she explained the meaning of the name of the exhibition.

Thắm Poong admits that the new artworks at her exhibition are the result of the evolution of her thinking about new ways of seeing.

“I perceive two ways of seeing. One, the real, actual mode of seeing the real point, and the second being the imaginary point, what one wants to see, or the aim or concentration point. These two different points connect and disconnect but they should not be too far apart or too connected,” the 46-year-old artist said.

The works on canvas are a departure from her traditional paper, the texture alone evoking a different way of seeing and feeling.

In her work “Like the Shadows on Water, 2015”, she depicts two figures sitting beside Hà Nội’s Hoàn Kiếm Lake reading a newspaper, absorbed in their reading, seemingly floating atop the water while actually their shadow is an embroidered target, yet another point of concentration, pointedly focussed.

Lake of the Sword 02, 2015” is a serene cityscape surrounding the lake, lazy clouds reflected in the water that morph and change as they drift by.

Besides the paintings featuring Hà Nội, the artist also depicts portraits of ethnic minority women, and also a portrait of herself.

Departing from her visual landscape mode, Poong has created a series of small golden ceramic pieces, like a small fingerprint, held in place on a canvas background much in the same way the weavers from her native village place an object in the loom to weave around thereby creating patterns.

From the gallery’s entrance, the public can see in the middle of the gallery, a very large bamboo nest in which triangular cushions are placed in a pattern, referencing a mandala of the universe or the sacred dance of Venus and Mars, where the conjunction of the shapes indicate or form the nature of the relationship.

“I want to invite the viewers to imagine entering the mandala basket, contemplating their interaction with the intersecting lines and shapes, exploring their interconnectedness. They are points of intersection, crossing, dividing and morphing into a new existence,” she explained.

Suzanne Lecht, art director of Art Vietnam Gallery, said of her paintings: "In this artist’s view, life is orderly. Thắm Poong’s childhood, born of an ethnic Mường father and White Thái mother in the remote northern region of Lai Châu, began in nature in close alignment with the seasons and the phases of the moon. Life was simple and free to morph and align with the shifts in nature. This natural spirit resides in the artist to this day and has always been reflected in her art.” 

Her new works are a departure in form, medium and presentation but are once again a convergence of the intersection of the many paths or lines she has crossed or encircled in her life,” she said.

Her artworks are on display at the Art Vietnam Gallery, 24 Lý Quốc Sư, until March 26.

Inspiration from her homeland

Poong was born in 1970 in Lai Châu. She studied sculpture at the Hà Nội Fine Arts College and has received several prizes for her work from the Ministry of Culture and Information.

After graduating from the Việt Nam Fine Arts University in Hà Nội in 1993, she quickly established herself as one of Việt Nam’s leading female painters.

Now a famed artist, she still remembers clearly the first days she left her parents’ house to study in Hà Nội.

“I was 18 years old when I went to this city to study art. I cried a lot because I missed my family. I cried during those three years. But after that, I understood that I had grown up, and that I have to become independent in life,” she said.

“Now, I feel very lucky for having many goods friends and devoted teachers. They helped me a lot during my difficult moments. Now, I often think of them as my benefactors,” she added.

Even when she went to Hà Nội where she now lives, to study art, she remembered that her homeland still fills her with strong emotions. All her watercolours on hand-made paper reveal a strong connection with trees and plants. Her works are rich in the imagery of village life and its landscapes.

She said that she is mostly influenced by Belgian surrealist artist Rene Magritte. Like him, she often uses metaphysical inventions to convey her messages and concerns. Viewers are challenged by such ambiguous images, but her paintings enable them to see what she sees with her vivid imagination.

She has exhibited widely internationally and her works are in the permanent collections of the Singapore Art Museum, Fukuoka Asean Art Museum, Japan, and the Rupertinum Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Austria, in addition to the MacLean Collection Mundelein, Illinois, USA, and the Post Vidai Collection, Vietnam/Switzerland among others. – VNS

 

 

 

 

Artist’s journey: The new artworks at Đinh Thị Thắm Poong’s exhibition represent the evolution of her thinking on new ways of seeing.
Circle of life: A very large bamboo nest in which triangular cushions are placed in a pattern, referencing a mandala of the universe or the sacred dance of Venus and Mars.
New pieces: Đinh Thị Thắm Poong recently presented art lovers with her latest solo exhibition.

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