Graffiti through the eyes of a Vietnamese French artist

December 22, 2022 - 09:05
While many consider graffiti a street painting movement in Việt Nam that sometimes causes annoyance for residents and authorities, a world-famous artist is trying to prove it is truly an artform.


ART ATTACK: Cyril Kongo known as Cyril Phan, a Vietnamese French painter has taken graffiti beyond the streets. Photo courtesy of the artist

HÀ NỘI — While many consider graffiti just a street painting movement in Việt Nam that sometimes causes annoyance for residents and authorities, a world-famous artist is trying to prove it is truly an artform.

Cyril Kongo, known as Cyril Phan, a Vietnamese French painter with dozens of years of experience in the area, has played a major role in taking this form of art beyond the streets.

His experience and vision are reflected on his canvas. After painting on the streets for more than 30 years and working hard to ensure graffiti is perceived differently, this artist is now considered a pioneer who can understand how to break the codes and build something new through his contemporary and “avant-gardiste” point of view.

FRENCH CONNECTION: Kongo by his piece Paris - Hanoi. Photo Courtesy of the Cyril Kongo Vietnam Gallery 

At his personnel exhibition space – the Cyril Kongo Vietnam Gallery on Hà Nội's Tràng Tiền Street – the artist impresses audiences with a distinctive style, skillful techniques and vivid colour scheme, which showcases his own “joie de vivre”.

The gallery, the first in Hà Nội which opened in 2020 with the ambition of showcasing a range of graffiti pieces to local art lovers is proof of his love towards the homeland, said Thùy Linh, Kongo's representative and marketing assistant in Việt Nam.

His works are also displayed at the S&S gallery in HCM City's Đồng Khởi District.

Linh said although he travels on business throughout the world, Hà Nội and HCM City, and Việt Nam in general, were always very special.


FLY WITH ME: An Airbus airplane model is part of the display.  VNS Photo Mai Khuyên

One of his works, themed Paris - Hanoi, a mixed media on French linen, was created after his visit to Việt Nam in 2017 and completed in 2020 to celebrate the opening of his first personal gallery in the capital city.

Paris is the place where he nourishes his artistic dream and also the school and the first "exhibition" from the time when he started practicing graffiti on the street, while Hà Nội is the provenance of culture.

That is also why he chose Hà Nội as the location for his first gallery with the determination to bring the world's contemporary culture to his homeland.

URBAN ART: One of Kongo's pieces displayed at his gallery in Hà Nội's Tràng Tiền Street. VNS Photo Mai Khuyên

Kongo leaves his mark on any medium – walls, canvas, shop windows, scarfs, bottles, cars or even airplanes – through multiple collaborations with brands like Hermès, Chanel, Richard Mille, Daum, La Cornue and Airbus. 

The left corner of his gallery in Hà Nội displays an Airbus model with furniture decorated with some of his works. 

The artist leaves many imprints on the graffiti art community in Việt Nam whenever he returns to his fatherland.

The "Celebrating Life" event held on the last days of October in Hà Nội was Kongo's first greeting to Vietnamese audiences after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was also an opportunity for art lovers to gather, share and immerse themselves in the art space, also going through the journey and the latest works of “Mr. Colorful" Cyril Kongo.

Mask 2022 collection 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, face masks are not only an aspect of daily life but also a fashion statement. In January, Kongo said he was proud to present a new collection “Kongo Mask 2022” with abstract prints that brightened the looks of those who wear them.

Kongo once said: “Love is the ultimate inspiration in art. Love is not only about romance but also about family, friends, life and most importantly, yourself.”

With that philosophy in mind, the “Kongo Mask 2022” collection delivered optimism and a cheerful attitude with each mask featuring one of his paintings to convey the message of belief, love, and family along with the desire for travel and new discoveries.

By adding vibrant colours to these exclusive masks, the artist helped allay the fear of the pandemic and guide each person to a brighter vision of the future.

PROTECTION: During the COVID-19 pandemic, face masks were not only an aspect of daily life but also a fashion statement. Kongo presented a collection “Kongo Mask 2022” with abstract prints. Photo courtesy of the Cyril Kongo Vietnam Gallery

Born in 1969 in Toulouse, France, with a Vietnamese father and a French mother, at the age of 18, Cyril Kongo began his career as a graffiti artist.

He spent his childhood in HCM City before departing the country to spend time in the Democratic Republic of Congo and France. VNS


BEAR ESSENTIALS: A collection of Be@rbrick models forms part of the display. VNS Photo Mai Khuyên