Artist invites viewers into his secret garden

November 18, 2018 - 09:00

With an experimental technique of using lacquer on dó (poonah) paper, artist Nguyễn Thế Hùng offers a fresh perspective in the Land of Lost Wanderers.

Hidden figures: Autumn Dew, a painting in the ’Land of Lost Wanderers’ collection, in which Nguyễn Thế Hùng portrays a man with his panpipe.
Viet Nam News

By Minh Thu

With silver and golden leaves carved on (poonah) paper, artist Nguyễn Thế Hùng has breathed new life into his oil on canvas paintings in the collection ‘Land of Lost Wanderers’.

The collection of 24 pieces of art is part of a journey into mixed media, having a special effect on the audience.

Inspired by nature

Art critic and collector Dương Thu Hằng said it’s like Hùng holds the viewers’ hands, leading them into his mysterious garden.

The paintings all reveal this garden with foliage, dew and mist.

“The highlight of the collection is the way Hùng combines different materials and techniques such as lacquer, oil on canvas and oil on poonah paper,” she said.

“Hùng is not the first person in contemporary Vietnamese art trying this method, but he really moves the audience with his work.”

“He proved that he can master different types of art, he learned well and painstakingly created these artworks.”

This year marks a transformation in Hùng’s artistic vision as he jumped out of his comfort zone and tried new materials such as gold, silver, water colours, lacquer and poonah paper, with the last two being unique materials in traditional Vietnamese fine art.

The artist has used the materials skillfully. Shapes are hidden underneath each other, which cannot be done on anything but poonah paper.

In this collection, small details like hands, longing eyes, and vivid lips play hide-and-seek in Hùng’s work, leaving people to wonder if what they see is really there.

Hằng is determined that while contemplating his paintings, a viewer may feel lost in the world of dew and plants.

“The more I look at his paintings, the more I discover,” Hằng said. “There is an endless world in his paintings.”

Hùng confessed that sometimes, he feels lost, too. That’s the reason why he uses sala flowers (an important symbol in Buddhism) and constellations in each painting as landmarks.

With a passion for Eastern philosophy, he relies on these symbols to keep him from getting lost.

Every day he works in a real garden with trees he has planted. Naturally, the details of the garden are adopted in his paintings and become inspirations.

“I am observing the moving points in my imagination. For me, art is like a vehicle to help me show my fantasy to the world around me,” Hùng said.

Helping hands: Artist Nguyễn Thế Hùng (centre) teaches children in the northern province of Hà Giang as part of the Mountain Star Charity. — Photo courtesy of the artist
Street life: The installation combines 8,000 lighters with extended bases and idioms glued on them.

Hùng combines layers of poonah paper and canvas together, painting on them, polishing and washing until the images and shapes appear. Sometimes, he puts silver and golden leaves as a finishing touch, sometimes in the middle of the process.

Apart from various exhibitions around the country, Hùng has also displayed his works in the US, South Korea, Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong.

At a recent exhibition on the ‘Land of Lost Wanderers’ collection, Hùng also displayed an installation art piece titled ‘Long Days’.

The work combined 8,000 lighters with extended bases – an invention by Vietnamese street vendors. They put the lighter on a plastic pipe to make it easier to hold and, above all, to prevent customers taking it when they leave.

This renovated lighter is very popular at coffee shops and has become a familiar image of Vietnamese street life.

Hùng collected and glued thousands of proverbs and idioms in Vietnamese and English on the lighters for this installation.

“By doing this, I sought old wisdom and experience, to find words that retain their core values,” he said.

“Will they be reserved, or tossed away like empty lighters?”

The lighters are glued on a 3m-high pole. Two sides of the poles are covered in images of lighters from many vendors around the city, where Hùng visited and took pictures.

“The installation attracted the attention of domestic and foreign visitors. People enjoyed looking at the idioms, reading them and find their favourites.”

Hùng is happy that his work introduces contemporary Vietnamese culture to viewers. Through these pieces, foreigners can get a glimpse of Vietnamese street life and traditional culture.

The exhibition will last until November 23 at Hanoi Studio Gallery, 13 Tràng Tiền Street, Hà Nội. VNS