Đại Đoàn Kết (Great Unity) newspaper reporter Việt Quỳnh interviews Sáng about his painting and writing career.
You are known as a painter and writer. Which do you prefer?
I never dared to think about being a poet even though I really love poetry. I wrote poems but was never published. I was born in Pác Thay Village, Trùng Khánh District in the northern mountainous province of Cao Bằng. It is a remote and poor place.
Nobody in my family makes art and art was an unfamiliar concept for us.
For generations, the Tày people have lived in the fields, mountains and forests so art like poetry, music and other things are not totally in our mind.
As a child, I was luckier than my friends because my father was a teacher. He was regarded as an educated person in the village.
I started reading poems, articles and seeing the first illustrations my father brought home. These things fascinated me immensely. I also started to practice drawing in books and writing my own sentences. Every day whilst I went to herd cows I painted on the ground, sculpted or carved pictures on trees with a knife.
I began to dream of doing something related to art and I've achieved that.
Why do your paintings feature elements of meditation?
I am sure that the paintings show the artist. Previously, I painted intense pictures and have experimented with different styles and materials. But I still didn't have my own style. It blended with countless other artists. I couldn't see my own characteristics in my paintings.
Later, I studied meditation to heal myself. Meditation helps me feel deeply myself and change my view of painting.
I began to find a state of stillness, calmness, lightness and simplicity. Fortunately, I gradually formed my style to draw paintings that are unique.
It is the luckiest thing that happened to me in 20 years. It is different from what I had thought about and pursued. I'm grateful for the valuable experiences of my youth which helped me learn exactly who I am.
It was only meditation that helped me find it.
Almost of the people who collect your paintings are writers. Does this make you happy?
It gives me great happiness. I'm proud of and grateful for my life. I work hard and I am recognised by the public including my colleagues. I'm moved.
It also makes me feel more confident than ever because they really love my paintings enough to buy them. Maybe they find similarities in my paintings and they collect them.
What is the biggest struggle for an ethnic minority person like you to be recognised professionally in Hà Nội?
I still think that I'm lucky because I'm not talented. I was educated well without interruption and didn't have to leave school like my friends in the village.
My father understood the importance of education and he inspired me to study. No matter how poor he was he gave everything to me and never let me leave school.
MOODY: Oil on canvas entitled Mây Đêm (Cloud at Night) by Hoàng A Sáng. Photo courtesy of the artist
I was able to study in Hà Nội. This was a very important change for an upland child like me. Life in the city gave me a lot of things. Like many young people, I was fascinated by modern civilisation which encouraged me to turn my dreams into reality.
I chose to study fine arts at the National University of Arts Education with my dream of becoming an artist. After graduation, I stayed in Hà Nội for two years looking for opportunities. I did different jobs to survive and nurture my dreams.
After that, my father was seriously ill so I had to return to my homeland and worked at local newspapers as a designer. I used to think that my life had settled down. However, my artistic dreams urged me to do something with art.
Every night, lying on the small and damp bed of the dormitory on the hill I started writing my first literary sentences.
My work impressed some local writers and they encouraged me to keep going.
For the first time, my short story was published in the Việt Nam Writers Association's Văn Nghệ Trẻ (Young Literature and Art) magazine. It made me more confident to write.
I came back to Hà Nội after my father's death and was employed at the magazine. I met popular artists and writers such as Nguyễn Quang Thiều and Thành Chương who helped me develop my career. VNS