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Children’s book inspires art installation

Update: January, 31/2018 - 09:00
Friendly creatures: A young visitor, 13-year-old Chu Hồng Lĩnh, looks at the leather artwork by Tạ Huy Long depicting Capricorn Beetle – a main chracter of the book Dế Mèn Phiêu Lưu Ký. — VNS Photo Thúy Hằng
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI – An ongoing art exhibition, dedicated to the most well-known Vietnamese children’s book Dế Mèn Phiêu Lưu Ký (Adventures of a Cricket) by late writer Tô Hoài, has amazed not only children but also adult visitors.

Taking place at the Vincom Center for Contemporary Art (VCCA), the exhibition  Dế Mèn Phiêu Lưu Ký – Chạm Tới Những Thế Giới (Diary of a Cricket – Touch the Worlds) presents several installations inspired by the book.

One of the highlights is the giant model of main character – the Cricket – some 15 metres long and 4.5 metres high, made from bamboo and rattan. The cricket, in the hopping position with wide-open wings, dominates the whole glass-domed venue of the centre.     

“When I first visited the venue, I know it [the object] should be huge to impress audiences. But it also needed to be transparent to create the feeling that the creature is not real and is coming from another world. And I decided to choose bamboo and rattan – two light and bendable materials, to create this hollow model. The natural brown colour of these materials also fits the natural colour of the cricket,” said creator Tạ Huy Long, who also created vivid 3D drawings for a comic version of the Adventures of a Cricket that has been reprinted more than 10 times by the Kim Đồng Publishing House.

Before becoming an illustrator, Long spent many years working as an interior designer. “So, naturally, whenever I look at any object or creature, I always look at the angle of its structure.”     

“Haunted” by the book and its insect characters, Long also created a collection of several insects from leather and metal “to satisfy my addiction”. The artwork collection has also been shown to the public for the first time at the exhibition.

Transfixed by a depiction of a capricorn beetle, seventh-grader Chu Hồng Lĩnh recalled a detail of the book, when Uncle Capricorn Beetle has given Cricket a lesson.

“He [Uncle Capricorn Beetle] is the one that makes Cricket acknowledge and repent of his faults when Cricket hit another smaller cricket,” the boy said.      

Lĩnh said that he has wallowed in the world of loveable insects since he read the comic version by Tạ Huy Long since two years ago.

“The story is very interesting, while the drawings are very beautiful and offer me exciting fantasy. I even imagined that I was in the swamp together with the insect friends, and joined them in their activities,” the 13-year-old boy said.

The boy added that at the exhibition, he once again had the chance to relive those great fantasies.

A corner of the swamp scenery, comprising the background of the story, has been presented through another installation. A big frog pops up from water and a mirror set up on the floor reflects a group of dragonflies flying above.

The exhibition also presents many drawings expressing the cricket’s marvelous adventures by illustrators of different generations. The illustrators include filmmaker Ngô Mạnh Lân (1934), painter Thành Chương (1949), Tạ Huy Long (1974), Vũ Xuân Hoàn (1978), and Đậu Thị Ngọc Vinh (1992).       

The exhibition also dedicates a corner to displaying archival materials of writer Tô Hoài (1920-2014), including his notebook, glasses, cap and some pages of his hand-written draft of the Dế Mèn Phiêu Lưu Ký.

Tô Hoài, winner of the Hồ Chí Minh Prize for Literature in 1996, wrote the first version of Dế Mèn Phiêu Lưu Ký in 1941 when he was 18. One year later, it was released after the author created more fictional characters.

The 195-page children’s book is about the adventures of a cricket that leaves his nest to travel and discover the world. He learns new things with the help of many other insects and animals.

Dế Mèn Phiêu Lưu Ký has been translated into 37 languages, including English, French, Thai and Russian.

The exhibition Dế Mèn Phiêu Lưu Ký – Chạm Tới Những Thế Giới runs until March 25. VCCA is at B1, Block R3, Vincom Royal City, 72 Nguyễn Trãi Road, Thanh Xuân District, Hà Nội. — VNS


Otherworldy: The giant cricket by Tạ Huy Long. — VNS Photo Viết Tuân

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