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Noted painter Le Ba Dang passes away

Update: March, 11/2015 - 09:20

Gone: Noted France-based Vietnamese painter Le Ba Dang has passed away in Paris, leaving behind thousands of paintings collected by private collectors and galleries all over the world. — Photo

HA NOI (VNS) — Noted Vietnamese-French painter Le Ba Dang has passed away in Paris, leaving behind thousands of paintings, lithographic prints and abstracts collected by private collectors and galleries all over the world.

He was 94.

Dang was among the rare Vietnamese painters who achieved success in France.

Born in 1921 in the central province of Quang Tri, Dang moved to Paris in 1939, where he joined the French army to fight against German fascism. He then studied at L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Toulouse for six years, till his first solo show in 1950.

He found his first commercial success by painting hundreds of cats on ceramic plates, which are still in high demand.

An established artist by the 1960s after starring in an exhibition at the Cincinnati Art Museum, USA, Dang always strove to create what was new and exciting. He created large-scale and abstract oil paintings with vivid blues and glowing puddles of orange and red.

He sold his work to tourists and collectors, quickly establishing himself as a serious artist with never-ending creativity.

More recently, he used pure foam board as a medium, using a knife to cut out intricate designs. He placed the finished foam between two pieces of glass, creating a frame that allows light to shine through, producing ornate patterns and effects.

Painting and printmaking were Dang's most frequently used media, but he also worked with terracotta and a variety of other media, such as for Vessel (1994). Whatever he created spoke about the entangled roles of man and nature.

Experts said that Dang was inspired by a legacy of French painters, though his work was more mysterious, cavernous and delicate. But the French were not his only inspiration.

Viet Nam's millennium under Chinese domination influenced his art: the mountain, the fog and especially his red square signature provide parallels to early Chinese painting. Dang's "signature"seal acted as his own logo and closely mirrored the calligrapher's red square seal of a Chinese Song dynasty's hand scroll. Their size, shape, and colour are virtually identical.

After dozens of successful exhibitions, Dang sent money back to Viet Nam to rebuild his devastated village, including schools and hospitals, till the village became the best in the country.

He was honoured by the Vietnamese government with a sponsored Le Ba Dang foundation and museum – the first arts foundation in Viet Nam.

Splitting his time between Viet Nam and Paris, the artist claimed that one day he would retire. Nevertheless, his creativity continued to flourish even in his early 90s.

His works are exhibited in many public and private collections, including the Cincinnati Museum of Art in Ohio, the Phoenix Art Museum in Arizona, the Rockefeller Collection in New York and the Foundation Museum in Kenya, besides the Lund University Museum in Sweden, the Loo Collection in Tokyo and the Museum of Arts and Letters in France. There are more than 60 galleries selling his paintings.

An art centre named after him in the former royal capital city of Hue has been a unique culture house for locals and tourists, where nearly 350 paintings of Dang and 45 materials on him are displayed.

He received various honours, including an award from the International Institute of Saint Louis (1989) and the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by France's culture ministry (1994).

He also designed an award for the International Institute of St Louis, USA. The Le Ba Dang Award is presented biannually to an individual who has demonstrated extraordinary volunteer service. The award programme was established by the institute in 1989 to recognise organisations and individuals who exemplify "peace within you, your country, and the world".

"I have travelled to several places with high-rises, luxurious cars and elegantly dressed people, but no place can make me forget the images of dry grass fields in my heart," he used to say.

"Nothing in our life is more realistic and beautiful than the images of birds flying back to their nests and fish swimming upstream, where they were born." — VNS

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