Viet Nam News
By Minh Thu
Việt Nam’s beauty has inspired millions, and French painter Léopold Franckowiak is no exception.
The Frenchman of Polish origin has come a long way since first arriving in Huế eight years ago, with his latest exhibition perhaps his crowning achievement.
Franckowiak’s Rendez-Vous wrapped up on Tuesday after a month-long exhibition in Phú Vang District, the central province of Thừa Thiên-Huế.
The exhibition displayed about 30 oil paintings curated by the Le Brothers, Lê Ngọc Thanh and Lê Đức Hải, founders of New Space Art Foundation, where local and foreign artists are supported.
For many years, Franckowiak’s work consisted largely of installations and performances, but when he moved to Việt Nam, he focused on painting portraits.
“Canvases help him remember his childhood and the relationship with his friends and family back in Europe,” artist Thanh remarked.
Franckowiak was born in 1951 and studied mathematics and German before pursuing art professionally.
In 2011, he travelled to Việt Nam to visit a friend who had married a Vietnamese woman and then settled down in the former imperial capital for six months, after which he lived briefly in Japan and China.
His time in Huế persuaded him to stay longer and he soon became a French teacher at the French Institute of Huế.
He even met his wife six years ago in Huế. She is a German who has worked in Việt Nam for 12 years restoring traditional paintings and mosaics in imperial palaces and constructions.
“I arrived in Huế in October, in the raining season but the charm of the city was still strong enough, I decided very quickly to stay longer in this city,” he said.
“Before coming to Việt Nam, I had heard a reputation that the country is quiet and beautiful. It’s true when I came here.
“My life is easy here, I have many friends, both Vietnamese and foreigners,” he said.
Franckowiak had wondered how Vietnamese people would treat a Frenchman due to the horrors of colonialism, but it’s never been a problem. In fact, he cites “the people” as the best thing about Việt Nam.
“Vietnamese people are very different from Western people, in mind, in the relationship with friends and family, and in the way they discuss. It takes much time to understand your culture.”
“The next thing I love is the local cuisine, very delicious,” he said.
With a similar passion for art, Franckowiak easily forged a connection with local artists like Le Brothers. Franckowiak often comes to their studio Le Brothers at 15 Lê Lợi Street and New Space Art Foundation in Phú Vang District.
“It is a fabulous meeting point for artists in Huế. They open opportunities for international artists to develop their work and understand the local culture.”
Franckowiak follows contemporary art and finds inspiration from the life around him and himself, his past and present.
One among paintings inspired by the life in Việt Nam is the oil painting on canvas Houla Houp.
In his first year living in the country, once he saw a young woman in the Đông Ba Market (Huế city) playing hula hoop between all the tracks. And he painted this woman in front of his family back in France watching her.
“It’s the way I connect the past and the present, the people in front of my eyes and the ones I love, the ones I miss,” he said.— VNS