Viet Nam News
by Lê Hương
Wood or metal can be soft, contain different shades and textures, unfold at various angles and inspire imaginations. That’s the feeling that many audiences share when they visit the first solo sculpture exhibition by veteran artist Lê Thị Hiền in downtown Hà Nội.
As many as ten groups of sculptures of various materials including steel, wood and lacquer are on display.
When asked why she waited so long after working as a lecturer of sculpture and a sculpture artist to open such a solo exhibition, Hiền said she felt she had reached maturity in her career.
A highlight in the exhibition is a steel pink-painted lotus, measuring 160 x 100 x 90cm, made of various steel sheets attached to one another and arranged as if a single sheet folded together.
"In order to create such a fold, I thought over and over, drew the work on paper many times, tried to make it in cardboard first before making it on steel," she told Việt Nam News. "I had to seek some help from a professional welder to weld the sheets together."
Another group of sculptures consists of 12 pieces measuring 45 x 65x 55cm painted black and pink, which audiences can turn over and examine.
"Artist Lê Thị Hiền has been known as a sculptor for several decades," said painter Lương Xuân Đoàn, vice chairman of Việt Nam Fine Arts Association. "She has thought and created art works in silence and has made her individual mark in Việt Nam’s fine arts. Her opportunities to join various camps outside the country have facilitated her to get close to international styles and do brave experimental things. She has successfully created different orientations in space by folding and opening cubes and creating interesting cuts for audiences’ eyes."
"She has introduced a special view on visual art to Vietnamese sculpture in the past decade while contemporary sculpture artists are solving a difficult matter of out-door sculpture," he said.
Sculptor Thái Nhật Minh, one of Hiền’s students, could not hide his admiration for her.
"She has never stopped creating in different sculptural styles popular in the world, including experimenting with abstract forms and geometric modules," Minh said. "All those experiments have been good examples to young sculptors like me."
Hiền admitted that as a woman, she has coped with many difficulties working as a sculptor.
“The physical health of a woman doesn’t allow me to work alone with heavy metal or wood works," she said. "I have to ask some aides instead. But I think women have their own advantage in sculpture. Women tend to express their feelings on works easier than men.”
Hiền said she had tried various materials before concentrating on metal and stone ten years ago.
"Metal often meets my requirements in creating sculptures," she said. "I prefer to create works with lines, planes, squares and triangles and metal can do it well. Beside, metal can be painted on easily. I found black and pink colours contrast well on metal works."
"At workshops in other countries, I often use stone because in Việt Nam, I rarely have enough conditions to work with stone due to the lack of suitable stone and proper facilities."
Hiền said foreign colleagues highly appreciated her for creating works with movements of whirling, sliding, opening and closing by using flat metal sheets.
"Sculpture works should conquer space well, my works have colours as well," she said. "I also create virtual cubes on planes [flat sheets]."
Accoring to fine arts critic Vũ Huy Thông, the beauty of this exhibition lies in the harmony between lines/cubes, surface area and the volume of seen and unseen material.
"Audiences will be surprised at creation of folding painted metal sheets, like a play of folding papers, easy and relaxing," he said.
The exhibition runs at the Việt Nam Fine Arts Museum, 66 Nguyễn Thái Học Street until March 14.
Hiền worked as a lecturer at the Việt Nam Fine Arts University between 1991 and 2012. She has joined many group exhibitions in and outside the country including three exhibitions in Ouddorp, the Netherlands between 2015-17. She has joined various international creation camps in Belgium, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and the US. — VNS