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The surprise endings of Minh’s paintings

Update: July, 17/2016 - 09:00
Surprising outcome: Phạm Hồng Minh uses water to create a portrait of Beethoven.
Viet Nam News

Part painter and part magician, Phạm Hồng Minh’s works are clever and sometimes shocking, taking peformance art to a new level. Minh Thu reports.

The painter scrawls some strokes on the easel. The painting seems difficult to understand and the audience is not interested. Suddenly, he kindles a fire on the painting. A portrait appears as it’s burning. The performance is impressive enough to wow the crowd.

Painter Phạm Hồng Minh always starts his performance with clumsy moves. He urges the audience to wait and wonder what will happen. Finally he stuns them — by burning, watering or simply rotating his work of art.

Minh was born in 1992 to a poor family in the southern central province of Bình Định. He lost his father at the age of six. His mother worked hard to bring up six children. Witnessing his mother’s strenuous life, Minh was determined his would be better.

Minh has nurtured a passion for painting since childhood. He taught himself and enrolled in the HCM City Univesity of Architecture, where he studied fine arts and practised street magic tricks as a hobby. One day, he had an idea: combine the two art types to create a new and amazing type of creation.

Tricks of art

“Painting seems to be a process in which the artist works independently and isolatedly,” Minh said.

“I want to share my passion with people. That’s why I pursue the art of performance painting. I want people to go with me from the beginning to the end of the creating process. It’s not just about enjoying a completed artwork as usual.”

He began looking at performance painting in other countries and created a style for himself.

He draws with paint, glue, glitter powder, fire and water. He sketches two paintings and then stacks them together to make a finished artwork.

In 2013, he participated in Việt Nam’s Got Talent contest, creating portraits of musician Huy Tuấn and actor Thành Lộc, two contest jurors, with fire and glitter powder.

His work drew praise from the judges and enthusiastic encouragement from the audience.

The performances often last five minutes and the audience have no clue about the outcome until the last second.

“I don’t see many artists like Minh in Việt Nam, he seems to be the only one who does painting performance,” said actor Lộc.

“In each performance, he combines different skills to wow the audience. And he never stops creating new pieces.”

Musician Tuấn said the performance makes him feel he’s watching an action movie. “I can’t wait to see what the painting’s about. It makes me more curious than watching a magic show,” Tuấn told Minh.

“You have beautiful music accompaniment, a good idea and a convincing performing style,” Tuấn told Minh.

To make a successful five-minute stage performance, Minh has to practise at length and iron out wrinkles.

The first step is to find materials and decide how to make the painting emerge. Then he practises until the process is perfect.

For example, he buys many kinds of glitter powder until he finds the most suitable to go with the glue and make the painting radiant.

When using fire, he also works hard to find the suitable materials so that only one layer of the painting is burned and the one below is untouched.

“Beside, I have to practise to harmonise my movements with the light and music on the stage. When the music ends, the painting is finished,” he said.

After the fire painting performance, people asked him if he could paint with water. He complied.

“First I paint some sketches on canvas, but people still can’t imagine what will happen. Then I flush water on the painting and a portrait of Beethoven appears,” he explained.

“Actually, the liquid I use contains 30 per cent of transparent chemical substance and 70 per cent  water,” he said, revealing some tricks of his trade.

Beside performing, Minh is busy with a newly opened painting class for children, conveying to them his passion for fine arts and teaching them the basic strokes.

“I never thought I would be a teacher, but because the parents enjoyed my performances, they urged me to open a class for their children,” he said. “Both the children and I find happiness in fine arts, that’s our common thing, we inspire each other in this class.”

The young artist hopes to one day open his own gallery, where he can share with visitors the secrets of his art and introduce new creations.

“The performance is really thrilling on the stage but it only lasts several minutes,” said Minh.

“I want the painting process and my works to live longer in the heart of the audience. Who knows? My performances might inspire some other artists and we will join hands to develop this art form in Việt Nam.”

Along with the Việt Nam Book of Records (Vietkings), he has proposed creating a 7m-long painting using a special material that he declines to name. He will soon perform this piece in public. —VNS



Tricks of the trade: Phạm Hồng Minh uses fire to finish a portrait of juror Huy Tuấn in Vietnam’s Got Talent contest in 2013. Photos courtesy of the artist

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