Veteran artist Vĩnh Phối died of old age on Monday in his home city at the age of 81. The artist is known as the pioneer of abstract paintings in Việt Nam, however, that is not the only genre of art he is famous for.

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Việt Nam bids farewell to this artist of the people

July 23, 2017 - 09:00

Veteran artist Vĩnh Phối died of old age on Monday in his home city at the age of 81. The artist is known as the pioneer of abstract paintings in Việt Nam, however, that is not the only genre of art he is famous for.

Phối’s abstract painting: Green Huế. — Photo Courtesy of Lê Huỳnh Lâm
Viet Nam News

by Lê Huỳnh Lâm* - Huê Phong 

Painter Vĩnh Phối has died of old age in his home city of Huế at the age of 81. He was well known as a pioneer of abstract paintings in Việt Nam, however, that was not the only genre of art he was famous for.

Born into a family with royal roots in the former imperial city of Huế in 1937, Phối enjoyed favourable conditions to nurture his talent. At the age of 21, Phối graduated from the National Fine Arts College of Sài Gòn and moved to Rome to complete his higher education in general painting and sculpture from 1958 to 1966.

Vĩnh Phối . — VNS Photo Trần Bá Đại Dương

Upon returning to the homeland, Phối became an abstract painter, working as a lecturer at the Huế University of Arts at the same time.

Phối’s large portfolio of abstract paintings used spirals to illustrate the endless nature of changes to people’s lives and their personalities and changes in society as a whole. His paintings were said to draw the viewer into the chaos created by these spirals to generate and foster the growth of new ideas and works.

Phối’s artistic variations aimed to lead the viewer into the depths of a forest where one’s senses were heightened to perceive sound and light in their purest forms.

The artist held individual exhibitions in Rome in 1961, 1962 1963 and 1965. He also participated in exhibitions with other artists in Japan, France, Switzerland, Brazil, and Thailand.

Phối did not only paint abstracts. His others works include still life, seminude and scenery paintings and sculptures.

His favourite subjects for still life painting were items from Vietnamese civilization and Oriental culture, including the three-door gate (popular in Vietnamese pagoda and communal house architecture), bronze drum, oriental extreme symbol, and yin yang symbol.

Phối’s abstract painting: Incarnation. — Photo Courtesy of Lê Huỳnh Lâm

Phối’s paintings also depict his home town’s beauty, such as the landscape of Huế and the iconic Hương (Perfume) River. The artist also had a range of paintings depicting the theory of Buddhism. People say Phối, through his paintings, presented day-to-day life in the context of the Buddha’s teachings.

Phối also designed three works of sculpture -- one dedicated to his late wife, the other depicting a man people believe is himself and a third work of art.

During his 60 years as an artist, Phối was presented several awards. In the 1960s, he got the Targa d’Agent, merits of Genova’s spring exhibition, silver medal in international fine arts students exhibition Rome de Journale de Italia, and other distinctions.

He was also bestowed upon various tittles for domestic exhibitions, and today, several of his paintings are showcased at art museums in HCM City, Đà Nẵng and Hà Nội.

Phối was also a master teacher who taught many generations at the Huế College of Arts, whose name was later changed to Huế University of Arts. Prior to his retirement in 1999, Phối was awarded the titles of associate professor and elite lecturer, and assigned to be the university’s deputy rector.

However, for his students he was simply an extremely dedicated and humorous lecturer, and someone who always behaved in a noble manner befitting his royal lineage.

On the day he passed away on Monday, artist Phan Hải Bằng said former students of the university bid farewell to their beloved master. “He was a great master and a chivalrous artist. He was the only one in whom I could find the artist, the intellectual and the civilian in one body.”

Phối’s abstract painting: Outer space. — Photo Courtesy of Lê Huỳnh Lâm

Artist Đặng Mậu Tựu, another student of Phối, said: “He was dedicated to art. He spent almost his entire life seeking new elements to paint, thus his paintings mastered both the old and new facets of life.”

The art circle in the country has mourned the death of Phối, a person many people had great affection for. His friends have mourned the loss of a buddy who always made them laugh. — VNS

*Lê Huỳnh Lâm is a former student of the late artist Vĩnh Phối. 


A sculpture work by Vĩnh Phối that people believe he depicted himself. — VNS Photo Trần Bá Đại Dương