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Malaysian artist loves both modernity and tradition of Việt Nam

Update: June, 21/2018 - 09:00
Long has come to Vietnam many times, and has developed a strong attachment to the country’s culture and art.
Viet Nam News

One of Malaysian artist Tan Keang Long’s most famous artworks is one of a Vietnamese buffalo, a symbol of national agriculture.

Long has visited Vietnam many times and developed a strong attachment to the country’s culture and art. Inspiration from Việt Nam has become an important part of his artistic expression.

Long studied printmaking and art in China. He has been engaged in the planning of international arts festivals and exhibitions for more than 10 years.

He made first contact with Vietnamese art in 2002 when he met Trịnh Tuân, co-founder of Asia Art Link at the National Gallery of Malaysia, early on in Việt Nam’s economic opening.

After that, they began artistic exchange, leading to the Hanoi March Connecting which has been held annually in Hà Nội since 2016.

The event connects artists in the region so they can create together and share experiences.

“This plan of Hanoi March Connecting is our common artistic concept,” he said.

“From the experience of attending the event in Hà Nội, Vietnamese artists and I learnt much from each other. I also promote this activity in my own country,” he said.

The Hanoi March Connecting moved art from a specific space to the living environment of the general public and brought people closer to art, he said.

From strangeness to understanding and enjoying art, it is the concept of contemporary art.

“I also think about the ‘function’ of art for society,” said Long.

“Art’s public welfare and education for society can change people’s quality of life and their opinions. Therefore, the recognition and support of many artists’ friends is a major factor in the success of the event.”

Long said he had witnessed the growth of the Hanoi March Connecting events.

“It is already the main activity affecting Vietnamese art. Social and media attention is a testament to success. I was very impressed by the sincerity and hard work of the team led by Trịnh Tuân.”

The painting Buffalo inspired by Vietnamese culture. — Photos courtesy of the artist

His art

Long’s artistic expression is mainly the synthesis of colour and structure. The natural ecological environment from the tropical rain forest is the source of his inspiration.

“To explore the art language created by an unprecedented art form, exploration and research is my pursuit of art,” he said.

Every time he goes overseas for artistic creation, he adopts local elements. When he visited Hà Nội for the first time in 2003, he created the painting Buffalo.

On the way from the Nội Bài International Airport to the city centre, his first sight was the landscape with buffaloes and rice fields.

“Now on the way, I see automobiles and architectural buildings, my work Buffalo is a symbol of environmental progress and a kind of memory and history for Vietnamese people.”

“Plowing is the survival tradition of the Vietnamese people. The relationship between buffalo and cultivation is like a symbol of life,” he said.

“The red background shows a strong vision and the spirit of the Vietnamese nation. The structure of buffaloes and colours that I created reflects the modern elemental buffalo shape. The audience directly understands and recalls the true appearance of the buffalo, thus reflecting the gradual change of life.”

Long can’t remember how many times he has visited Hà Nội. Before, he saw the contrast between peaceful life in the rural areas and the tall buildings and vehicles on the streets of urban areas.

“Việt Nam’s ‘reform and opening’ policy did not only impact the economy but also the art and culture. The information age has brought about the influence of foreign elements and changed the performance of Vietnamese artists’ art.”

“Việt Nam’s contemporary art phenomenon has emerged, and this model has become more commercial,” he said.

Long said local artists now combine traditional culture with Western contemporary art.

He has recognised Việt Nam is constantly changing to bring about an affluent quality of life. This is progress in the right direction, he added.

For Long, Việt Nam is as attractive to discover as it was when he first came to the country. — VNS

 

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