By Hoai Nam
|Seventy-four-year-old Vu Trong Thuan is saying about how he relives his childhood dreams. -- VNS Photos Cong Thanh
DA NANG -- Now is the final days of the Lunar New Year.
People are hurrying with Tet preparations for their families. The streets are filled with people, vehicles, goods and flowers but that does not make French-Vietnamese artist Vu Trong Thuan to quicken his pace for making something for Tet.
It's the second Tet that Thuan has spent in his gallery on the banks of the Han River in the central Da Nang City.
Thuan,74, who lived for 32 years in France, returned to his home country for a peaceful life and to relive childhood dreams.
"It was a long journey. I eventually returned to my home country to relive my childhood and meet cheerful friends. I was tired of travelling around the world. My homeland will be my last destination," Thuan said.
"For me, Tet is like any other day, but it stirs my heart a bit. I'm living alone in Da Nang and my Tet party is about moving around to meet my friends. They invite me to share Tet with them," he said.
"I got acquainted with the European lifestyle for three decades, but now only nostalgia remains in my mind and heart," he added.
He said he did nothing for Tet, adding that seeing the people rush with their Tet preparations gives him happiness and endless inspiration to create art.
"I have become old. I need very little food. Travelling and visiting friends as well sharing love with their families is always my Tet," he said.
A long journey
Thuan said he was born and raised in the northern port city of Hai Phong, but Sai Gon, today's HCM City, was the place where he spent much of his childhood.
|Visitors enjoy Thuan's paintings at a gallery in Da Nang.
He left Hai Phong at the age of 14, but the memories of the old port city faded when he moved to Sai Gon.
He began studying painting and drew propaganda posters in the southern city in the 1980s.
He married a French-Vietnamese woman and later, moved with her and their six children to France.
Thuan then continued to paint at a private painting shop in Paris before opening his own shop in Marseille.
After his divorce in 1991, he started making long trips to galleries and museums worldwide.
However, the images and remembrances of the alleys, rain, bird songs and childhood play in Sai Gon urged him return home.
"For most people, their motherland is the final destination. So, I decided to return home in 1999. Sai Gon was my first stop for the first five years, but Ha Noi kept me the next seven years," he recalled.
"Painting was my work when I returned. I wish to give all my art treasures to the young generation in Viet Nam along with my creations," he said.
Thuan is known for using foam creatively instead of wood in his lacquer work.
|A painting by Thuan.
In 2012, he exhibited for the first time a selection of his lacquer and oil work based on still life and female beauty.
"The hot weather and high humidity in Viet Nam often deforms lacquer, but my method will keep lacquer in good condition for a long time. It means that works by famous artists can be stored for generations," he said.
Foam is set as the base for lacquer. The soft and light material is covered with eight layers of cloth, paint and a mixture of sawdust, stone powder, gypsum, glue and a layer of water-proof paint.
"The hard surface allows artists to make lacquer creations and it will maintain the lacquer for 100 years," Thuan said, adding that he has the experience of working with the technique for over 12 years.
"I will give my creative work to young Vietnamese artists as a precious gift for my motherland," he said.
Thuan said he has had to battle cancer of the large intestine.
"I had to stay in Da Nang as I had invested in my gallery, La Tour Eiffel Studio, on the banks of the Han River. The peaceful city inspires me to create art for the next generation," he said.
"I hope more young artists will visit my gallery. I will give them all art creations, skills and experience," he said.
He added it's also his wish and dream for the New Year. "It's my li xi (lucky money) for the young generation. One day, young artists will create lacquer works with new materials, which can be preserved for longer periods," he hoped. – VNS