Viet Nam News
Artist Hoàng Hà Tùng has just returned from the Netherlands where he’d held a solo exhibition in the old city of Kampen, about 90km from Amsterdam. The exhibition displayed portraits of Dutch and Vietnamese farmers. The paintings of Vietnamese farmers were done from May to August in Việt Nam, and that of the Dutch farmers done during the trip. Two Dutch artist friends took him around the country and he was able to meet and paint Dutch farmers living along rivers.
Tùng, whose work has gained a lot of international recognition, spoke about the exhibition and his experience in the Netherlands.
What was the defining experience in your trip to the Netherlands?
Dutch artist friends of mine help set up a working schedule for me. They took me to meet farmers at their farms in Kampen - a very old city. I was able to paint them and the Kampen landscape. I found it interesting that there was no tourist in Kampen. It looks set in the past. While the residents are friendly, I felt they were not too eager to have strange tourists who would break peace and quiet. The city has about 20 churches. I saw people going to the church on Sundays and enjoying weekend markets selling products like cheese, fresh vegetables and fruits on Saturday.
At my exhibition’s opening ceremony, I presented three paintings of the farmers. After the trip, I have painted 24 oil-on-canvas paintings, including five landscapes. Many people came to the exhibition including the City Mayor.
I presented all my paintings to the farmers who I painted, and the landscapes I gave to the exhibition organisers. I also sold some of the paintings I took from Việt Nam. It was interesting that buyers asked me to write my full name, instead of my signature.
What were some of the memorable moments while painting the Dutch farmers?
There are many. One of the first portraits that I did was of Jean Anbert. He has thousands of cows and all his family members work on the farm. He asked me to paint him working with a milking machine, but I told him that I wanted to paint his portrait. I painted him in about 30 minutes and he liked it very much. He asked why I didn’t paint his cows, because he loves them.
His old sister, who lives far away, came to the exhibition and saw one of my paintings of Anbert’s farm. She was moved to tears because the painting reminded her of her childhood. It made her miss her parents and her time at the farm.
Once, I painted a farmer, but his wife liked the painting so much that she asked me to paint her and their daughter, too.
What was the difference you saw between Dutch and Vietnamese farmers ?
They are both simple and strong people. However, Dutch farmers have a much easier life than Vietnamese farmers. The Dutch farmers’ work is less labour intensive thanks to technology. Each family has cars and some of them have boats to get to Amsterdam. From a painter’s perspective, Dutch farmers are fresh and full of energy while Vietnamese farmers look weather-beaten.
So the exhibition offered an interesting comparison between the East and the West, not just between people and landscapes, but also the material used. I used traditional Vietnamese dó (poonah) paper and Chinese ink. Oil-on canvas and dó paintings are very different.
For me, it was the first time I was using Dutch oil paint, which is the best and most expensive one in the world used by professional artists. I particularly found the red colour sparkling. I bought about 30kg of oil paints to bring home. - VNS