A portrait of the artist as a young man

October 24, 2021 - 08:55

Painter Vàng Hải Hưng often tries to draw on his own life story, using his own concept of painting, despite his tender years.


LIFE'S WORK: Young painter Vàng Hải Hưng has tried his best to draw his own life story with passion. — Photo courtesy of Vàng Hải Hưng

By Thanh Nga

Painter Vàng Hải Hưng often tries to draw on his own life story, using his own concept of painting, despite his tender years.

The ethnic Giáy man, 27, comes from a farming family in Quang Kim Commune, Bát Xát District of Lào Cai Province. His oil paintings are vital and full of passion.

Hưng has participated in many prestigious exhibitions such as: the Fine Arts Exhibition of Northwest Việt Nam in Lào Cai in 2018; “How Much Is It” Exhibition for young artists in Hà Nội in 2018; the Students Fine Arts Exhibition 2020; and most recent exhibition “What Are You Playing With?” at the Vincom Centre for Contemporary Art.

Recently, he has drawn posters to promote healthy eating for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Việt Nam and the Institute of Nutrition, and his painting is hung at the UN head office in  Hà Nội

Hưng's paintings can leave viewers in a state of torment due to the social problems they tackle. The painting “Chi Chi Chành Chành”, which won first prize at the Students Fine Arts Exhibition 2020 is a testament to his metaphorical style. He used deep and neutral colours, expressing the atmosphere and polymorphic changes of life in the border area where he lives.


PRIZE WINNER: The painting “Chi Chi Chành Chành” won first prize at the Students Fine Arts Exhibition 2020. — Photo courtesy of Vàng Hải Hưng

Inspired by his own experience looking at the boxes of goods carried across the border, the paintings are arranged in a layout that clearly shows a large pile of carton boxes covered with canvas, stacked and compressed to create a sense of mystery, suffocation and rigidity.

In contrast is the small image of pupils watching innocently. But those two opposites work with each other, giving viewers a complex, multi-dimensional atmosphere.

For his painting “Sống” (Live), Hưng was also one of 10 painters awarded "Young Artist of 2021".


RULING THE ROOST: With the painting “Sống” (Live), Hưng was awarded "Young Artist of 2021". — Photo courtesy of Vàng Hải Hưng


“I grew up in a farming family in the mountainous northwestern district of Lào Cai Province, and was not involved in art. I came to painting by fate. When I was still a pupil, I didn’t have a dream of becoming a painter but I always nursed a passion for drawing in my heart. Because art is so far away from where I live and no one has thought about it, everyone is still struggling with what to eat and wear every day,” Hưng told Việt Nam News.

“But when I moved to Hà Nội to live and study, it influenced my decision to transfer university and become an artist.”

Hưng dropped out of the university as a second-year student at the Việt Nam National University of Forestry, to start over with his dream of painting.

Even when Hưng was still a student at the forestry university, he regularly watched art exhibitions online. Often he would take a bus from his place in Xuân Mai Town to the inner city to see famous exhibitions.

“I loved to draw. Every time I saw a picture, I would wish to hold a brush and play with colours like in the old days. But I knew that no one would support me. My family used to oppose me studying art. I was very sad," said Hưng.

But after much inner conflict, Hưng decided to change to study at the University of Fine Arts. Despite anticipating the reaction of family and friends, he was still surprised when his parents cut their financial support.

He didn’t blame them, but sympathised with them. So, during summer vacation, he would go back to his hometown to work as a porter to earn money to go to university. While studying in Hà Nội, he worked in a restaurant to pay for his studies.

“I managed everything to have money to study drawing. I faced many difficulties in studying, because my art friends had invested in studying since high school, while I started from zero. Although it was hard, I felt happy. Because I was walking on the path I chose, drawing my life. I believe it's a bright picture," he said.

Hưng thrived at art school. In the second year at the University of Fine Arts, Hưng received the Certificate of Merit from the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism for good achievements in study in 2015 and 2016.

He has used many materials in his work. Each material has its own beauty, a different life expressing the artist, but oil on canvas is his favourite material, responding to his technique. A theme throughout his career is images of ethnic minority groups doing manual work in border areas.

COCK FIGHT: 'Cuộc thi' (A Contest), oil on canvas, by Vàng Hải Hưng. — Photo courtesy of Vàng Hải Hưng

 “I myself grew up in difficulties and experienced hard manual jobs in the border areas, so when I see ethnic people working hard, I love them very much. They are hardworking and honest but their life can't get better. I often wonder why my people live in poverty for so long and it haunts me and is a subject for me to create art,” said Hưng.

A year after graduating with a good degree and being able to live with art, Hưng said: “No matter who you are or where you come from, if you have passion then you must be determined and persistent to pursue that passion. Work hard, and one day that passion will pay off.”

It is an attitude that is likely to see the artist gain ever more success. VNS