PHÚ THỌ Though he never met President Hồ Chí Minh, sculptor Triệu Hoàng Giang has dedicated his work to telling the late leader's story, using stone bas-reliefs.
The 3D paintings feature delicate details, so delicate it might surprise one to learn the art was made by a man trained as an engineer.
Triệu Hoàng Giang by some of his stone paintings. Photo bqllang.gov.vn
In 1978, at the age of 17, Giang was sent to Bulgaria to study engineering, yet his passion for fine arts always overwhelmed his soul.
“I loved painting since my childhood,” he recalled. “In Bulgaria, I saw stone bas-reliefs of President Hồ Chí Minh. I kept wondering why foreign people were inspired by the President and me, a Vietnamese person couldn't do something like that."
After his studies, he returned home and then 10 years later he returned to Bulgaria to work as an interpreter.
He accidentally met a Bulgarian artisan nicknamed Ivalov, whose family has three generations specialising in the art.
“When I asked Ivalov to teach me, he said it was impossible to make a living with art as it’s very challenging work,” Giang said.
Giang quickly learned skills under Ivalov's tutelage, but when he returned in 1982 to Việt Nam, he had to find work as an engineer to make a living and it took him until 1996 to be able to pursue his dream.
At first, he spent lots of time carving on stone and travelled to various locations to search for suitable materials like Ninh Bình, Thái Nguyên, Nghệ An, and Quảng Nam provinces.
In 1997, Giang found a kind of stone that is hard with a surface smooth enough to carve paintings on at Nhồi Mountain in the central province of Thanh Hóa.
Giang said he just used water and sandpaper to polish the surface to turn it from grey to black, which allows the carver to create highlights in the bas-reliefs with small details.
Giang’s first workg featured President Hồ watching the battle in 1950 in the northern province of Cao Bằng.
He carved the painting at night while working odd jobs to earn money during the day.
After half a year, the bas-relief was complete.
“I was extremely happy and was encouraged to work on other 3D stone paintings,” he said.
He only uses the natural colours of the stone for highlights on the bas-reliefs.
“It’s not easy to carve on stone to feature a popular leader, vivid like in real life,” he said.
After more than 20 years of carving, he has made some 30 bas-reliefs of President Hồ in different periods since his departure from Nhà Rồng Wharf to seek for a way to liberate the country in 1911.
Giang has also earned his crust by farming, carving tombstones and repairing watches. He wants to turn his living room into an exhibition hall to receive more guests to view his stone art works.
One of the most detailed paintings he has worked is the one featuring President Hồ’s handwritten testament, which took great care to make.
Giang and one of his most detailed paintings: the hand-written testament of President Hồ. Photo htv.com.vn
All the letters from the original testament were carved on and across 19 months, each day, Giang carved only one or two letters.
A bas-relief featuring President Hồ watching the battle from a mountain in Cao Bằng Province in 1950. Photo vietnamnet.vn
Since 2007, his art collection has been exhibited in many localities across the country.
Giang’s wife, Bùi Thị Kim Tình said he loses himself in the art and ignores his meals and the need to sleep.
“Yet he never wants to sell his works for money,” she said. “He said he would never sell his treasures.”
Triệu Tiến Công, a local ceramic artisan, said he and his colleagues always come to learn from his skills.
“He is among the people spending most time and energy on their passions I have ever known,” Công said. “He has lots of dreams that he still cannot realise.” VNS