Adventurous Dutch painter Eric Toebosch travels the world looking for inspiration. He told Minh Thu about his trip across Viet Nam, where he fell in love with the pottery at Bat Trang Village.
Born in 1949, Toebosch spent 30 long years tirelessly pursuing his art adventures. Leaving the comfort of his hometown, Toebosch travelled from Europe to America, Asia to Africa, searching for "humanity" in his artworks. He opened his first solo exhibition in Ha Noi displaying his works inspired by and created at Bat Trang pottery village.
Inner Sanctum: Why did you choose to visit Bat Trang pottery village to find inspiration for your art?
I first came to Viet Nam some years ago on a vacation. I was totally impressed and charmed by your country, culture and people.
I got a chance to return here in January and started working in Bat Trang. My friend told me about the village and its traditional trade of making pottery. He suggested it should be a good idea to work there for a while.
So, I came here and made friends with Bat Trang villagers who enthusiastically helped me with my work. Their hospitality, friendliness, and knowledge of ceramics deeply impressed me.
I made some pottery artworks during the trip and, somehow, this idea about organising an exhibition came to me.
My friend, curator Tam Nguyen, helped me organise the exhibition; so, now I'm here. This is my third trip to Ha Noi, but it will definitely not be my last.
Inner Sanctum: In this exhibition, you display both oil paintings and pottery artworks. Painting on canvas or pottery, which one do you like more?
I have been an artist for 40 years. I want to experiment with new material. While oil paintings are extremely familiar to me, painting on pottery has been a discovery. I'm fascinated by the skill of Bat Trang villagers and the beauty of their products.
There is no huge difference between my pottery and my paintings. Pottery is just another technique to express my ideas. I'm happy that there are so many ways to create art.
It's an interesting experience to see colours take shades after an artwork is burnt in an oven. It's the only difference from painting on a canvas.
Inner Sanctum: What inspires you most in Viet Nam?
I think it's the Vietnamese people's way of life. On every corner, you can find people eating, drinking and talking with each other. Everyone seems so close to each other.
Traffic here is very different from that in the Netherlands. People here randomly come in from right to left or from left to right. Streets are always crowded and people seem entangled in a chaos, but finally everyone finds an escape.
Inner Sanctum: Your paintings bear the images of the history, religions, and cultures of places you visit. What ideas or messages do you want to convey to your audience?
I have travelled a lot. Every country I visit inspire my creation. I have borrowed patterns, images, and old scripts from Africa, Mexico, China and Viet Nam to include them in my paintings.
Each country gives me different feelings and opinions. For example, the way people practise their religion inspires me well.
Religion all over the world has been the base of many cultural highlights. You can see the identity of a nation on its churches, pagodas, and temples.
In Ha Noi, I often stay at a hotel in Nha Tho Street near St Joseph's Cathedral. I see people praying there every day. Everyone needs God to overlook the mysteries of being and living. Everyone needs moral support.
Through my works, I want to convey a message of "humanity". It's a reunion, a harmony of the identities of each ethnic group, religion and belief. This is the most important principle that I have set for myself and I look for on my journeys.
Inner Sanctum: Can you say something about your artworks and working style?
I collect the typical images, symbols and motifs of each region I visit, then select and produce a particular aesthetic feature.
The elements I choose for my paintings are like the ingredients of a soup. With different tastes and smells, they are mixed to create harmony, a memorable soup for gourmets.
My method is no draft, no photo, no document, and no preparation. I let my instinct and memory lead me, and they lead my brush.
I often use black, white and brown for my paintings and statues. I attach special importance to portray anonymous figures in my paintings. They have no name and they don't have a clear appearance as I want anyone looking at my paintings to find him/herself.
My work is not very expensive; so, for US$1,000, you can buy one of them. — VNS