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Portrait of an artist on a bridge

September 27, 2020 - 09:11

Nguyễn Văn Minh has painted for 37 years and is now displaying his "spiritual children" by Long Biên, the old bridge over the Red River in Hà Nội, for sale.


AN ARTIST'S BURDEN: Having dedicated himself to art for 37 years, Minh has tasted bitterness and experienced suffering. Photo courtesy of the artist

By Kiều Trinh

Passionate about painting since he was 11, Hanoian Nguyễn Văn Minh in Long Biên District has painted more than 6,000 pieces on the theme of love for the motherland, the country and its landscapes over the course of his 37 years as an artist.

But good fortune rarely smiles on talent. Everyone passes through difficult periods in their lives, but it seems that artists suffer even more. Those like 62-year-old Minh have to work doubly hard to overcome obstacles and pursue their passion with continued gusto.

Minh’s passion for art, though, is indeed big enough to surmount the difficulties.

“Life is fair. If you love it, it will reward you,” he said. “But things are simpler when art is only a temporary passion. It being your career is not easy. The brush may be small, but it takes a lot of courage to hold it for your whole life.”


IN THE MIND'S EYE: Long Biên Bridge, as envisioned by the artist. VNS Photo


Having dedicated himself to art for 37 years, Minh has tasted bitterness and experienced suffering. His wife died 16 years ago, leaving him to raise their children by himself. When one of his sons expressed a wish to follow in his footsteps, he had to counsel against it, as he didn’t want him to face what he had faced.

The pandemic has made the artist even more troubled. The difficulties pile up, so he takes his “spiritual children” to Long Biên, the old bridge over the Red River in Hà Nội, to sell for food.

Those crossing the bridge may have seen his “display corner”. His paintings are simple, peaceful, with a delicateness that can catch the eye of passers-by. He asks for just VNĐ150,000 to 450,000, making many feel some sympathy.


STREET SCENE: One of Nguyễn Văn Minh's art works. VNS Photo

On his first day, only two people stopped to look. On the second day, he sold three. And on the third, he had a constant flow of people admiring his works.

“I was pleased to see how well my paintings were received,” Minh said. “I still dream of having my own exhibition, or at least a few regular art sessions, but dreams are dreams. The bridge also allows me to bring my art to an audience.

“I used to worry about finding customers. Now I simply work hard and try to sell my paintings. The prospect of selling all of my works will only ever be a dream.”

The painter went on: “I sell them at an affordable price, which still gives me a little to live off once I’ve paid for painting materials. At my prices, more people can afford to buy them, because paintings in galleries are perhaps dozens of times more expensive. Not everyone can spend thousands of dollars on a painting.”

“I respect the beautiful souls of art lovers,” he went on.

“An artist draws paintings with his or her passion, and they need their paintings to be loved by others. Making money is not easy, but you must find the balance between surviving and bringing art to the audience.

“I also want to be an artist in the next life.”

The person who posted this story on social media is Phan Hữu Lập, a 40-year-old from the capital’s Hai Bà Trưng District, who by chance saw the artist selling his paintings on the bridge.

Wanting to help, he took photos and posted them on Facebook, and the crowd around Minh began to grow. VNS