Tuesday, March 2 2021


Veteran artist lives life with a chisel

Update: December, 23/2020 - 08:00


Trần Nguyên Đán

Veteran artist Trần Nguyên Đán will show his latest wood carving about Hội An ancient town in central Việt Nam at an exhibition in Hà Nội entitled Khắc Họa (Carving Art), which opened yesterday at Lunet Art Gallery. 

Việt Nam News reporter Nguyễn Bình spoke with artist Đán about his career

How long has it taken you to display your artworks at this exhibition? 

The most recent solo exhibition I had was at the Việt Nam Museum of Fine Arts in 2016. I'm glad to be at this exhibition. The exhibition introduces three artists with different characteristics and expressions in art. I believe the exhibition will be successful in making a milestone for each of us.  

You are known as one of the veteran artists in wood carving. How did you begin your career of wood carving?

I studied monumental art at the Việt Nam Industrial Fine Arts College. In the last year of my studies, I did three wood carvings

Surprisingly, they were displayed at an exhibition held by the Việt Nam Fine Arts Association. One of them was collected by the Việt Nam Museum of Fine Arts and the other was bought by an Italian delegation. 

It was fate. I think this was a good beginning for my career. I decided to pursue this art, and have been attached to it during my career. 

The exhibition introduces three artists including the youngest, graphic artist Phạm Khắc Quang. What do you think about his work?

For me, the most important thing is the artist's own personality, creativity, ideas and worldview.

The medium and expression of the artist cannot be confused with anyone. The style must be unique and is presented for their culture. That is what the artist has to try to gain in hid career.

When the artist has feelings he will have creativity, which is different from recording images with a camera and quite different from painting with a model.

Art is the same and not the same.

Could you explain more about this?

When I go to Hội An town, I have a look at the architecture. Architecture is culture. 

My view about Hội An must be different from local residents and tourists. I research its architecture and I draw Hội An in my way. 

Nature, landscape and people are diversified. An artist does not draw to record the beauty of these things but he needs to have his own way to feel. 

Art is real and unreal. My artwork has mixed elements of real and unreal which are harmonious. I don't depend on principles.

I don't make trendy artworks but I lead painting viewers with my creativity. It is normal to receive negative and positive feedback. Freedom and subjective thought will encourage creativity. 

My carvings are rich in subjects. Like doing mathematics, each calculation has a method to solve. It is same in doing art. If the artist has different themes to work on he will naturally have different mediums to express. 


INTRICATE: Wood carving Hội An in My Eye by Trần Nguyên Đán. Photo courtesy of Lunet Art

Why have you focused on wood carving?

An artist needs to be skilled with his hands. But I'm not. In my opinion wood carving is not like other genes. Its beauty is plain and truthful. 

I know my strengths and my weaknesses. 

How long does it take you to complete a wood carving?

Normally, it takes one month and a half. I'm making a new one about Hội An. I work at night because I can't sleep. But I enjoy it. 

The idea is always the first thing to think of. Then I arrange the composition of the work and then engrave. I use lines and shades of colour, making the carving rhythmic. 

I always make great effort and sometimes discipline myself to finish my work. I don't think that making art is improvisational. 

I have my own techniques in making a wood carvting. Some people criticise me because I do graphic art manually. But I ignore them. 

My practice and hard work have made my name in the circle. I am not limited to theory in the college. - VNS

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