Vietnamese-Belgian comic artist, Khoa Vinh, was in attendance at a comic exhibition earlier this month hosted by the Kim Dong Publishing House and the Wallonie-Bruxelles Delegation in Ha Noi. Vinh, who is also known by his pen name Vink, has also spent time working with young Vietnamese painters. He is participating in the Hue Festival, which will feature his exhibit Colours of the Orient, Colour of the West. Vinh was interviewed by Culture Vulture about his trip to Viet Nam.
After working with Vietnamese artists, what do you think about the comic artists here?
First of all, it was great to meet other Vietnamese artists. We had a good time talking about our work. It was very interesting.
The other artists that I met were really talented. They are not behind other artists in the world, but Vietnamese comics are not interesting. I think that the painters have not lived up to their full potential due to the working environment that they operate within. It takes a lot of time to complete a comic.
It takes a week for me to finish one comic book page. The artists here are not able to spend as much time on their projects like I can. I'm paid a good salary and am given proper equipment. This allows me to be more creative and produce quality work.
How do Vietnamese and Belgian comics compare?
After spending time at the exhibition in Ha Noi, I think that Vietnamese comics are beautiful. However, Vietnamese painters have yet to define their own style. Vietnamese comic books are mainly stories about the world and not Viet Nam.
It is necessary to have comic books that tell Vietnamese stories. Japanese artists can tell their own stories. Why can't Vietnamese?
What makes a good comic book?
Comics should tell a story. Creating a good narrative is the most difficult part of the job. The painters should not pay attention to factors outside of that. Some artists respond to the market's demand, which is foreign to me. I always paint what I like and tell what I want.
When I tell a story, I always want to express what I'm feeling in the story. Most of my work reflects how I feel and I'm free to paint and tell stories.
Additionally, telling stories with images requires relevant and thorough research.
You have an exhibition at the Hue Festival. Could you talk about it?
I didn't know the Hue Festival would be held this June. I was invited to display paintings at an exhibition in the festival.
The exhibition Colours of Orient, Colours of West features 40 paintings by my wife and me that we made during the past 30 years. They were inspired by our travels in Belgium and Viet Nam.
In 1994, my family visited Viet Nam for the first time. We went to Hue Citadel's Hien Nhon Gate, where I was inspired to paint the landscape that was in front of our eyes. It was very emotional for me. When I paint at spot, I feel everything around me including the atmosphere, weather, noise and fragrance.
Since that trip, we paint everywhere we go in order to remember the places that we've travelled to.
You became a comic artist when you were 30 years old. Why did you wait so long?
I was born in 1950 in Viet Nam, then I moved to Belgium in 1969, where I took classes in education. After that I studied fine arts at the Liege School. I loved painting when I was a child. But my parents didn't approve of me becoming an artist.
I made my professional comics debut in Tintin magazine in 1979. In 1985, I was awarded a grand prize in Belgium. The prize made my father happy before he passed away. It proved to me that I was on the right path.
You will work with Kim Dong's painters to create a comic book to help celebrate the 1000th anniversary of Ha Noi. Can you talk about this project?
I don't think I am Vietnamese or Belgian. Emotion inspires me to work. I will paint about Ha Noi's old quarter. Possibly, I will work with the Kim Dong Publishing House in order to make illustrations of Vietnamese folk tales.
I'm also working to complete a comic entitled Sur la route de Banlung, which tells the story of a UN official who worked as a supervisor at the National Assembly in Cambodia in 1993. — VNS