GIVING: Artist Trương Đình Dung with paintings he has collected to decorate the paediatrics ward of Quảng Trị Province General Hospital. Photo courtesy of Trương Đình Dung
By Lương Thu Hương
Many people in the central province of Quảng Trị may know Trương Đình Dung as a charitable man, but they may not know he's also an accomplished artist.
In the past two years, he has worked to decorate the blank white walls of the paediatrics ward in Quảng Trị Province General Hospital with paintings to help lift the spirits of sick children.
The project was recently finished and now all the walls of the ward are decorated with 110 lively eye-catching paintings that have won many provincial children’s art contests.
The 45-year-old artist came up with the idea when he was participating in another charity activity at the hospital – distributing free porridge to poor patients.
“Many times I visited the hospital, I realised that there was no decoration in the paediatrics ward.
"Seeing the children patients’ pain after each treatment, I wanted to help them get some relief.
"The vivid paintings, drawn from children’s perspectives with different themes and bright colours, are expected to transform the ward into a relaxing and cosy space for both the patients and the doctors.
"They will partially alleviate the pain and help the patients recover soon,” he says.
As a jury member of the yearly children’s painting contest of Quảng Trị Province, which is organised by the Provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Dung realised there were a number of winning works that were kept in stock and going to waste.
He asked for permission from the department to collect the paintings from districts’ cultural centres to take them home and get them a new lease of life.
It took him nearly a year to prepare for the project. In each district, he chose 10 to 15 paintings with appropriate content – portraying the beauty of the countryside, natural landscape and traditional games – which he covered with glue to prevent dust and then framed carefully.
Instead of using glass and wood, Dung used silk film for the frames to ensure not only the small patients’ safety but also the paintings’ sustainability without affecting their aesthetics.
“All the works on display at the hospital are award-winning so they have sufficient quality in terms of both art techniques and content,” the artist says.
As Dung’s main job is an art lecturer at Quảng Trị Teacher Training College, he took advantage of his free time to prepare the paintings.
“Instead of going out or meeting up with friends at the café, my wife and I spent our free time working on the paintings. It is a charity project so we do not allow ourselves to be careless,” he continues.
Dung paid for the project by auctioning his own paintings off on Facebook.
“I’m so happy that my idea has received great support from everyone, from the local authorities to doctors and especially the child patients.
"The children who created the paintings also feel proud of seeing their works displayed in the hospital and helping the patients while many parents have even called me to thank me.
“Besides its aesthetic education, the project aims to spread the meaning of art and connect children together, which has motivated me since the early days pursuing it,” Dung says.
Free painting class
ART ESCAPE: Dung teaches a child patient of the paediatrics ward of the Quảng Trị Province General Hospital how to paint. Photo courtesy of Trương Đình Dung
Besides viewing the lively paintings by children of their age, the small patients of Quảng Trị Province General Hospital can also create their own works by joining Dung’s painting class.
At 8pm every night, after finishing his daily work, Dung brings materials to the hospital where his students are waiting.
After hearing they can learn drawing with teacher Dung, many of the child patients forget to cry or their pain after being treated by doctors.
The children have said the painting classes help relieve their boredom and even give make them feel healthier.
The patients who wish to learn drawing after being discharged from hospital can still go to his house to attend a class free of charge.
“I have many memories of the project. For example, people might not know that I’m an artist but recognise that I’m a bearded man hanging paintings in the hospital. Some even refuse my payment when I buy something,” Dung recalls.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people are encouraged against gathering so Dung’s class is postponed. However, he still continues to collect paintings with an aim to expand his project to more hospitals and medical centres in the province.
Besides paintings, he is also calling for donations of old books from his acquaintances.
“I also want to open libraries in the paediatrics wards so that children patients can read books instead of playing games on smart phones for hours.” VNS