A unique exhibition featuring painting, photography and poetry by French-Vietnamese Eric Huynh, Cecille Marques from France and Vietnamese Ton That Thanh Van has been a focal point of cultural activities this month at L'Espace, 24 Trang Tien Street, Ha Noi.
The Life: Up and Down as it was named reflect noisy streets in contrast with the quiet, tranquil homes and souls of Vietnamese people.
Culture Vulture chats with painter Marie Cecile Marques on her work and passion.
Could you tell me about the idea for the joint exhibition with Eric Huynh and Ton That Thanh Van?
I met Eric [Huynh], in Paris before I came to Viet Nam. We talked about the country and our passion. He is a photographer, and I'm a drawer. On my first day in Viet Nam, I wanted to sketch everything, so I did. Everything was new to my western eyes, and in my sketchbook, I started to mix pictures with drawings. It was energetic and interesting so I wanted to develop the idea. I called Eric and the idea took form. We wanted to mix the idea with text, so Eric explained the project to [Ton That Thanh] Van, and she came on board.
How did you work with the two artists? What's the concept of the exhibition?
The idea is to compare the insides of houses – where it's very quiet – and outside in the street, where it's crazy, full of people and noisy. We used a lot of pictures to portray the feeling, and Van's text added a further dimension.
I used Chinese ink and do (poonah) paper to boost the contrast (black and white).
We are displaying 25 paintings mixed with photos and poems, but we deleted most of the pictures we took.
Why Chinese ink and poonah paper? Have you used these materials in your paintings before?
No, I only started to use ink and poonah paper when I arrived Viet Nam six months ago. I wanted to try local materials to experience a new effect. It's rather challenging as the paper absorbs the ink, but at the same time, it's interesting to use traditional Vietnamese materials.
In my studio in Viet Nam, I can spend days painting, listening to relaxing music without thinking or worrying about anything else.
What impressed you most during your six months in Viet Nam?
All the agitation; the traffic, the wheeling and dealing in the street, that really struck me. I travelled to mountainous regions to work where life is so simple. Sometimes I made comparisons with my life in Paris, I have too much while they have just enough to live.
I was surprised to see how people took care of each other, and I discovered the real meaning of "community".
I think, as they don't have a lot, they are really happy to exchange with you and help you, without an idea of making a profit. I also discovered a big contrast between urban and rural areas in Viet Nam. Here in Ha Noi, I can see expensive cars on the street driven by rich people. In rural areas, they don't even have enough to eat properly.
I have seen a lot of women from the countryside working hard in Ha Noi to support their families out in the villages. They work every day in the street, even in bad weather.
Tell me more about the sketch association.
I've joined an online group of urban sketchers. It's a group where we try to help each other with our sketching,
There are some urban sketcher groups in Viet Nam with a lot of Vietnamese members, but the community in Thailand is much more popular.
In France, I created www.commandocroqueurs.fr. We go out on the streets and ask people if we can draw them. It's like a social interaction combined with art. We can draw people everywhere, on the street, in subways, at a restaurant... it's a lot of fun. — VNS