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Artist known for aluminium chiseled paintings

Update: January, 24/2016 - 05:29
Metal magic: Phuc chisels his works which needs patient and skilled hands.

Painter Van Phuc started using aluminium waste materials like empty beer or juice cans to produce chisel paintings a decade ago, and the slow but highly prized art form has grown in popularity since. Ha Nguyen reports.

 Painter Nguyen Van Phuc in the Mekong Delta, has developed techniques to make bas-reliefs on aluminium. He's reportedly the first to do it in Viet Nam.

With a precise mind and skilled hands, Phuc can turn waste materials, such as empty beer or juice cans, into sophisticated works of art.

Phuc recalled that more than 10 years ago, he took some aluminium left in his house and used a hammer to create different small shapes.

"I happened upon an idea to make bas-reliefs on aluminium," said Phuc.

He said he has since created many paintings using water colours, oil paints and has made wooden sculptures, but, "these materials are too popular, so I decided to develop a new sculptural style and medium for me: aluminium reliefs".

To pursue this art, the painter has to be very patient and meticulous, because a painting could be spoiled if the painter makes an incorrect strike with the chisel and hammer, said Phuc.

"I have to spend from three to six months to make a single work," he said.

After choosing a subject he paints a draft, places it on top of the aluminium, and begins chiselling it, bit by bit.

Apart from chiselling the negative proof, the painter has to know how to create suitable colours and how to preserve the work from being spoiled or degraded.

Picture perfect: Painter Van Phuc's works are loved by customers – particularly foreigners touring the city. — VNS Photos

These techniques are very difficult, so very few artists are able to create reliefs on aluminum, Phuc said.

Phuc, from the Red Delta province of Hung Yen, moved to the Mekong Delta province of Can Tho, which gives him ideas for his works.

"The peaceful daily life and activities of local people in the delta have inspired me so much to compose my works," said Phuc.

He has chiselled hundreds of works, including the Don Ca Tai Tu (Southern Folk Music), which won second prize at the Can Tho Arts Fair in 2012. Also, Cho Noi Cai Rang (Cai Rang Floating Market) and Dat Mui Ca Mau (The Cape of Ca Mau) both won third prizes at the same fair in 2013.

Painter Tran Dinh Thao, chairman of Can Tho Province's Fine Arts Association, said Phuc is among the very few painters representing the delta and painting it vividly.

"He has skilfully combined national patterns, such as designs of wet rice, bamboo leaves or Mekong Delta images of Nam Roi pomelo, into his works," said Thao, adding that Phuc's hard work and passion in chiselling bas-reliefs, impressed him and other young painters.

"Very few young painters are interested in the job, but I hope Phuc might inspire them," Thao said.

Painter Do Nam, also of the Can Tho Province's Fine Arts Association, said Phuc's work is attractive because of its simplicity and elegance. He noted that the work helps to elevate the hidden charms of Viet Nam's rural villages.

Nam said he particularly likes Phuc's Giai Dieu Que Huong (Melodies of the Homeland), which won second prize at the Mekong Delta Arts Fair in 2011.

After the fair, Phuc presented the work to the Can Tho Arts Museum.

Although Phuc is 70, he remains passionate about his work. Apart from creating reliefs, he has opened a class to teach young painters.

"I have a plan to open a showroom by the end of this year to display hundreds of my works to introduce them to locals and foreigners visiting the country," Phuc said.

Phuc said he has loved painting since he was five years old. After graduating from the Ha Noi Fine Arts College, he was assigned to work at the Institute of Archaeology. In 1980 he moved to Can Tho to work as a lecturer at the Can Tho Fine Arts College. — VNS

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