Painter Nguyen Minh Phuong is at work. — Photo thanhnien.vn
by Van Dat
HCM CITY (VNS) — Nguyen Minh Phuong, 50, has been creating designs of animals assigned to different years in the zodiac for Nguyen Hue Flower Street, HCM City's main attraction during Tet since 2007.
The giant design put up at the entrance to Nguyen Hue Boulevard has become the heart and soul of the flower street.
For the painter, creating the design is never the problem – he says he is flooded with ideas – as much as identifying the materials since they should be familiar to the Vietnamese people and also not been used in the previous years.
For the Year of the Horse, Phuong took three months to create a design of five horses running before a clock for the entrance to the road and two horses at its exit.
After completing the design, he took only one more month to get things ready.
The designs are made of Styrofoam wrapped in silk.
The artist, many of whose giant artworks are exhibited in Viet Nam and abroad, said creating zodiac symbols for the flower street was the same as creating any other artwork.
"It is an honour for me to be assigned the work of creating the symbols. The design and material should be new and conform to the Vietnamese culture.
"A challenge for me while making the symbol is that there are too many ideas.
"For example, this year I could have made a very large horse, instead of seven.
"And creating an artwork that can be to the liking of many people is another challenge for me. That is why I need to get the points of view of everyone, from the Vietnamese to expats and international tourists.
|Five flying horses represent the integration process of the country. — VNS Photo Van Dat
"For this year's symbol, I designed five flying horses representing the integration process of the country.
"It is okay if someone thinks the five horses represent the five elements of yin and yang."
How it started
Since 2004, when the Nguyen Hue Flower Street was conceived, Phuong has been invited every year to take part in an art consultation group.
But for the first three years of the Monkey (2004), Rooster (2005) and Dog (2007), the animal symbols were designed by other artists, including a Frenchwoman.
Phuong cannot forget the first year he was asked to do the job in the Year of the Pig in 2007.
With only 20 days to go for the opening of the road, he had to make 75 large and small pigs and 300 kites.
If that was the largest number of images he made, the largest in size was the giant dragon he made in 2012. The mythical animal, made of dried water hyacinth, was five metres tall.
"I think it was the biggest dragon made of dried water hyacinth in Viet Nam ever.
"It took me five months to complete the work. The dragon was 15 metres long, but its real length was 30 metres."
Phuong, a graduate of the HCM City University of Fine Arts in 1984, is eager to do the next four zodiac symbols of the Goat, the Monkey, the Rooster and the Dog.
The only challenge for him was in designing the Snake, which suffers from a negative image among the Vietnamese people. But, with his creativeness, he managed to design a lovely pair of slithering serpents for last year's Tet.
"Fortunately, last year's Tet was on Valentine's Day. So I thought of making a pair of snakes with a heart.
"I somehow managed to help change the negative image of the creature. The snake appeared friendly."
Once Tet finishes, Phuong cannot rest on his laurels for too long. He has to think about the animal symbol for the next year and come up with ideas for it.
It is not an easy job. It takes a person with true interest in his work to do it well. — VNS