At least seven villages and streets in Viet Nam have murals, including Phùng Hưng Street in Hà Nội. Murals have become popular in Hà Nội in recent years and making the streets more beautiful is a concern for residents and those in the fine arts circle.
Artist Lương Xuân Đoàn, deputy-head of the Việt Nam Fine Arts Association, shares his opinion about murals in Hà Nội.
Mural paintings have been in Hà Nội for a few years but now they have become more popular. In your opinion, what is a mural painting?
We drew political posters and slogans on walls when we were at war against the French and Americans. This shows that murals appeared in Hà Nội a long time ago, not recently. People accepted them. I think those paintings bring into play the national resistance.
However, this is quite different from current murals. One mural was initiated by South Korean artists in Tam Thanh Village in the central province of Quảng Nam. The project has continued in Phùng Hưng Street in Hà Nội. It is a new movement in the city.
What do you think about the movement?
The fine arts circle has never been that concerned with murals because there are too many streets to be painted. Many people simply think that murals help make public spaces in Hà Nội more beautiful. I know that not only every corner in the city has been painted but this movement has spilled into outskirts districts like Chương Mỹ and Đan Phượng.
The painters are all kinds of amateur and unqualified artists. This leads to murals of different quality across the city. There is a mural in locality featuring a copy of a painting by late artist Bùi Xuân Phái, with his signature. Does this mean to support fake and copied paintings? Plus, there are localities painted with the murals that are not suitable for the area. These unsuitable murals destroy the landscape of the locality.
Hà Nội is narrow thanks to the rapid development of buildings. So please don’t pollute quiet and beautiful streets with visual art.
In some localities, the local community spends their own money to hire artists to paint murals on blank walls and rubbish dumps. What do you think about this?
Visual art does not mean colour. I can’t imagine how Hà Nội would look if it was painted disorderly with various mixed colours and different subjects. At present, the mural movement is developing spontaneously. It not only beautifies Hà Nội but has also impacted the city’s architecture. We need to make the streets clean and green first.
Hà Nội streets with green trees just need a pastel colour for walls to make people relax.
There are some good street paintings. Aren’t you being too critical?
Some good murals are in Phùng Hưng Street and the ceramic road along the Red River dyke in Hà Nội. I think we are in a trial phase and we should be careful about how we develop it. Some experts are still worried the ceramic road and the long colourful painting with different subjects is a visual impairment for traffic police. In the last few years, the ceramic road has become degraded. Some sections of the murals along the road are very ugly.
Phùng Hưng Street is also a trial. Artists didn’t paint directly on the walls in the street. We should not do something to damage the cultural space of Hà Nội. I don’t think I’m being conservative or critical but we need to respect our heritage which our ancestors handed down.
Vietnamese traditional village architecture is fading out amid rapid urbanisation. Change must happen but it should ensure harmony between new and old. In other countries, street art is also developing. But they are also careful with public works. They have a plan and spaces to develop street art.
A street artwork must be beautiful and suit the public space. We should stop to review and make a comprehensive appraisement to have effective management. If we are not careful, murals will be cultural rubbish. — VNS