Under the Light of an Oil Lamp [Part 2]

Bui Xuan Phai

60. If writing shows a person then so does painting, whatever your are, your painting will be. if you are intentionally trying to mimic someone else, your painting will only be a fake. You must paint with sincerity. Don’t pretend, don’t borrow in order to hide your own.., inadequacies. It is sometimes the case that someone goes on faking something mediocre while leaving good things of his own unexplored. How regrettable!


61. Work scientifically in order to avoid any preventable mistakes. Don’t, for example, let the house burn down before learning a lesson in fire prevention.

Even with the smallest tasks, learn to perfect the task, learn to do it in the best way possible, for example, how to stretch the material to prepare a canvas etc… Is there any specific technique required so that we have a beautiful, proper canvas for painting? Simple things like that help to ignite your enthusiasm whilst painting.


62 Keep on painting. If you succeed, well you succeed, if you fail, then so be it. Paint another one and yet another one. Painting is just a desire to fulfil your feelings for pictorial Beauty. If you paint with the aim of making money then you are distancing yourself from artistic Beauty and heading instead towards a Beauty that is only … mediocre. Unfortunately, this sort of “Beauty” tends to be popular with the mediocre sort of public. Those people tend to have money to spare so that the painters with a skilful hand tend to be the ones who can easily make money. An art work need only be smoothly done, clearly constructed, skilfully executed, fresh in colours and pretty

The theme tends to be somewhere along a well-trodden path and so are the techniques. On the other hand, the viewers’ knowledge and their appreciation of the paintings are both somewhat lax, the viewers are afraid of the new and unfamiliar with any discoveries and so only ask for an “old” kind of Beauty, for something they are accustomed to.

No, the artist of the new era will not follow an old path in such manner! They throw themselves into the things that are modern and new despite the mistakes, the difficulties, the dangers. They represent the new talents we rarely encounter in everyday life.


63 Of course Art is a rich field, pictorial Art in particular — don’t delve too much into the beautiful features found in an exterior. It is advisable to go with an exterior that carries some substance, to follow a painting style that’s most appropriate for your spirit and your ability.


64 Don’t play tricks in Art — you will turn it into a mediocre sleight of hand; if you want it to reveal your true self, just follow your own choosing.


70. Don’t regret the time spent on a single painting. The more time you invested, the longer the audience can spend viewing the painting.


71. The difficult thing is to be able to paint in whatever the circumstances. No oil-paints? Stop doing oil paintings, my friend. Lacking gouache? Well, give up painting in gouache. Surely paper and charcoal or ink pens are rarely unavailable. Don’t go on blaming this or that so that you can stop painting. Everything depends on the artist alone.

The most dangerous thing is that the desire to paint no longer exists.


72. Don’t force an artist to work. And why should he need forcing? If he no longer wishes to work then he already wants to abandon his craft. He no longer deserves to be called an artist.


73. While you paint, Beauty comes but fleetingly. Sometimes it comes as fast as a flash of lightning. You must be sensitive so that your vision remains sharp, so that you can detect, can control your moves and Can be fully aware of when to stop. Be knowledgeable so that you are fair in your judgement. It is usually the case that you imagine yourself to be good!


74. Let’s paint! Paint so that you can see your own weaknesses. Don’thide them. You are painting most effectively if you are learning something new while doing it. Mediocrity is a sad thing. Painting is not for showing your talent and the more you wish to exhibit your talent, the closer you get to mediocrity.


75. Those centuries that have gone have been painted. The current centuries are being painted and the future centuries will be painted. And so the act of painting will go on. The significant thing is that Art will forge ahead relentlessly. Each era has its own Art. The human race will always want to reach towards the newest, the most beautiful.


76. How beautiful is a messy studio (unfortunately I do not have one at the moment)*. Whenever my studio is clean and tidy, it is the time when I’m being lazy.


77. Pay attention to the issue of an artist’s talent. It is quite conceivable that a person is lacking in talent but works hard to improve and is quite professional (to say that (someone) is professional does not equate to offering significant praise). To analyse an artist’s talent is a rather complex task, it is something inborn,it is also something to do with training. It can be compared with the special charm of a beautiful woman.


78. I feel that a critic must have great knowledge and a sensitive soul. He may not know how to paint but he is very skilful in viewing paintings (just as a gourmet appreciaThs food greatly but may not know how to cook) so that he can be a reliable guide (for the public)


79. A true critic does not work for fame or material benefits, does not let money or power control him. Discovering talent before his colleagues, such critics are indeed Masters.


90. I think you must be unbiased about Art, it is not right to reject some paintings just because you don’t like the artist if those paintings are truly beautiful.


91. No matter whether it is a praise or a criticism, it must be passionate, well-meaning and finally, knowledgeable. Without knowledge and expertise, it is all too easy to form a praise or criticism with no basis but one’s inadequate understanding and the critique, in such a case, will have no value whatsoever.


92. An artist tends to ponder over his works when it is praised or criticised. But who did the praising or criticising? That’s the point that requires some thought. Don’t be smug over a transient praise. The future will rid itself of the materialistic opportunists.


93. People like to collect the works of someone famous, that’s the right thing to do because the works must have some appeal for them to justify the fame and demand amongst the collectors. But be aware, there are names that will be famous only for a while and then fade away, becoming dimmer and dimmer until the time arrives when nobody mentions them or collects their works any more.


94. The public tends to feel uneasy when something new is born. Nevertheless, when that new thing becomes more familiar, they really enjoy it. An artist creates for life itself rather than for the tastes of the public; if the public gradually comes to enjoy his work then that would suit his true wishes just fine. Any temporary oblivion or criticism may not have been justified.


95. A person’s character will be reflected in his taste for paintings (the bourgeois will seek out the bourgeois kind of paintings). Thus certain paintings will be popular with some while hated by others. Sometimes there are great artists who manage to demand recognition from life because after all, people still like to show a little fairness! People with a profound understanding of Art are often those who will discover talent and bring to the public’s attention a just evaluation.


96. In a lifetime of artistic endeavours, we may encounter so many knotty problems. Sometimes they are irritating in the extreme.

To witness a bad painting, glorified by an expensive frame, given an important space in an exhibition and fetching a high price! A boastful untalented person! A nouveau-riche pretends to be knowledgeable! A stingy, miserly man who values money above honour! Etc.. .etc There’s little point in getting annoyed, laughter may well be a more suitable antidote!


97. In Art, to distinguish between the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly is such a difficult thing, particularly where new trends are concerned. Perhaps the viewer needs a special flair in order to perceive it? People tend to rely on old habits when viewing and consequently, they are very much confused and blinded when faced with something new.


98. As for those of you who collect, view or attempt to appreciate paintings.., if you are indeed guided by money, by the need to ape other people, you will not be capable of understanding anything truly beautiful, truly fresh. You will only be able to comprehend the things which are old and backward which resonate with your old and backward sentiments.


99. Don’t be seduced by money into selling paintings which you are not satisfied with, it’s damaging, the many bad paintings you have left behind will overwhelm the beautiful works you have produced. Alas! How can you make enough to live on if “unfortunately” you are carrying the burdens of a large family on your shoulders? Sometimes we do need to make money, but in what manner shall we make it so that it is pardonable*?

The need for money? The need for Art? Having to put one above the other? Then put Art first!

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