|A painting entitled "Hạnh Phúc" (Happiness) by Đỗ Xuân Tuyển|
By Lương Thu Hương
Growing up in the rural areas of Bắc Giang Province, artist Đỗ Xuân Tuyển holds a special affection for the rustic landscapes and scenery of his hometown. Such affection has inspired him to create mesmerising paintings that evoke nostalgic feelings among the Vietnamese.
In his paintings, farmers peacefully chat after a hard-working day on the field, while children joyfully play under the shade of a red-flowered kapok tree at the entrance to the village. One series of paintings depicts a cosy space in a rustic kitchen, in which a puppy or a kitten is sleeping idyllically by a wood-burning stove.
“As a Vietnamese saying goes, ‘quê hương là chùm khế ngọt’ (homeland is a cluster of sweet star fruit). My homeland has nurtured my love for art," Tuyển said.
“Via my paintings, I wish to spread the love for my homeland, the sense of community, and the bond of family, especially as these emotional values are gradually fading away as society develops.”
|'Hạ Thương' (Beloved Summer) by Đỗ Xuân Tuyển|
After graduating from a teachers' culture and arts college in Hà Nội, instead of choosing to stay in the capital like most of his contemporaries, Tuyển returned to his hometown, opening a shop selling frames and pictures.
When the pandemic hit Bắc Giang in the middle of 2021, his business came to a standstill. During those lockdown days, the 35-year-old took up painting again to pass the time.
“I have always had a great passion for photography and have captured numerous images of my homeland. While taking those photos, I already planned to paint them someday," he said.
“Being at home due to the pandemic provided the perfect opportunity for me to bring that plan to life. When I painted those artworks depicting my homeland, I felt a strange and captivating attraction. I had gradually reduced my focus on business and, since early this year I have fully dedicated myself to painting."
|Tuyển nurtures a special affection for his hometown. — Photo courtesy of Đỗ Xuân Tuyển|
Tuyển’s paintings reflect popular images in the memories of every Vietnamese childhood, particularly for those growing up in the rural areas in the north. They might be an embankment, flying kites, a small kitchen with black soot on the walls, or a luffa gourd trellis in the garden.
"My paintings are realistic, so I have to portray them in a way that feels authentic, as if the viewers have encountered them in real life. However, I still need to ensure that people can recognise them as paintings and not photographs taken somewhere," he said.
One of Tuyển's biggest challenges in painting rural landscapes is the availability of reference materials. The development of the economy has gradually changed the pristine scenery of traditional countryside in his hometown and other rural areas, making it harder to find suitable references.
"In some paintings, I have used reference materials from over 30 different sources to capture the essence of the scenes that conjure my emotions," he said.
According to him, to create soulful paintings, the artist must have emotions and paint with utmost passion.
"My life experiences have helped me understand the details, activities and sceneries that I want to portray, which brings meaning and vibrancy to the artworks," he said.
One particular object that is regularly featured in Tuyển's paintings is the cast iron pot. However, none of them look alike in each painting.
|'No Ấm' (Full and Cosy) by Đỗ Xuân Tuyển. A regular object in Tuyển's paintings is the cast iron pot.|
"The cast iron pot used to be dubbed the 'national rice cooker'. Before electric rice cookers were available, almost every household in the countryside had one. My family was no exception, and it was even a cherished heirloom passed down from my grandfather to my mother. For that reason, I have a special emotional connection with it," he said.
Tuyển has also introduced his artworks to many online art communities and received much appreciation. Nearly 40 paintings that he painted in the past two years since the pandemic have all found collectors.
Nguyễn Văn Cường, 29, an art enthusiast from the central province of Thừa Thiên Huế, said: "At my first glance at the paintings, I wished to return to my childhood at the age of five or seven, and those summer afternoons when I wouldn't take a nap and instead gathered and played with friends at the entrance of the village."
"I remember vividly the moments of huddling around the fire with my parents when winter came, alongside all the beloved objects in our traditional tile-roofed house. I am grateful to the artist for realistically depicting the countryside like this." VNS
|'Hương Quê' (Scent of the Homeland) by Đỗ Xuân Tuyển|