Under the Light of an Oil Lamp [Part 3]

Bui Xuan Phai

110. Have a passion for painting, keep the flame burning, it’s lethal if it dies out. Painting is living, is breathing. Tomorrow will differ from today. Art without changes is Art without a new vitality.

111. Don’t be satisfied too early while painting. The more your paint, the more likely you will be to discover fascinating new things, with so much more appeal than that which you previously encountered, but many times you will fail.

112. I love blank canvasses. Ah, they are so full of hope. They hold the promise of something.

113. We need to have many talented people. The talented people must be in the majority. Only then will the mediocre “force” lack the power to push aside the good things. It is a regrettable thing when these good things find it hard to prosper.

114. Oh, schools?They are necessary, to a certain extent, in the beginning. Nevertheless, it is advisable to forget the things you have learnt at school in order to fly higher.

115. How far can you go with skilful hands? Towards making a good living? Or towards a higher level of art? Be careful! My friend with the skilful hands, how much longer will you go on practising, how much more skilful do you want to get? Haven’t you got enough money?

116. An artist’s lifetime is often not very long, it seems to me that the majority of artists do not live long (Toulouse Lautrec, Modigliani …) In Vietnam, the life of a painter is not long and the productive period is spent rather insignificantly. It is not related to producing creative works. The majority of Vietnamese artists did not leave a large number of works behind (To Ngoc Van for example) — that is a rather sad fact!

117. I think time flies by fastest when I am painting fervently. In those instances, I want it to slow down, really slow down so that I don’t have to stop painting.

118. Some ridiculous occurrences: Those without talent swagger about, more proud than those with! Those who are idle assume the same of everyone else! The talkative people paint little because most of their time is occupied with talk. Sometimes they don’t even have enough time for… talking!

If you are talking of interesting things but talk so much that your audience is sick with it, that’s already a bad thing. So is it not a form of punishment to pile tedium on your listeners?

119. The discussion about Beauty is never-ending. But time, time will be just to the kind of Beauty that’s yet to be recognised.

130. Expressing your inspired desire by paiting is no easy thing.

131. Don’t confuse profound comfort with a shallow lackadaisical attitude.

132. Art will not have the power to move if it is mediocre and without sincerity.

133. In order to appreciate paintings of course one needs to have an aesthetic flair and of course one must possesses diverse knowledge of pictorial art and life.

134. The great artists work so immeasurably much. It is impossible that there ever was an artist who worked lamely while having a great talent.

135. You won’t easily become a poet or an artist with just a haphazard entry into the field of Poetry or Art. Those with a savvy, sophisticated and cultured eye will suss you out and place you in the class that you belong.

136. Fine, carry on working, painting, researching… eventually you come to produce something new, eventually you will come to understand others, to understand yourself. Without understanding yourself, it is easy to confuse between Beauty and Ugliness.

137. If it really is true that you cannot produce anything appealing, well, my friend, there is enough time for you to change to a more suitable path, a path for which you are more suitably gifted to follow. Don’t waste the talent that you have in attempting to chase after some other “gifts” that you don’t possess, where do you think that chase will lead to?

138. To be fastidious is a good thing but in what way should you be fastidious? Is your fastidiousness productive? Don’t be fastidious in the manner of an senile old man.

139. Be satisfied with yourself and embrace all the inadequacies that that implies, at least that satisfaction will give you the daring to work on. Amongst those inadequacies, let’s us pick and choose, and surprisingly, we may come to achieve something of Beauty, something that’s even more beautiful than what we had dared to hope for!

150. Everything starts with your vision. Yes, with a worn vision, how could you comprehend the appeal of something new? I remembered Fernand Leger once advised people not to visit the old museums too frequently, in the fear that one’s vision became too well familiarised with the old, making it difficult for one to accept the new. So many new things were criticised or cursed at the beginning, only to be praised and welcomed by people a short while later.

151. Picasso never wanted to stop at any point along his path, he liked starting anew, on a new path. And because of that, he was forever young.

152. Working as an artist, you should not be hallow, sloppy but then neither should you be dried up, pedantic and insipid. Changing a habit is no easy thing. Consequently, so many of our artists are just standing still or at best, matching on the spot. It’s not what they want but it’s what habit has reduced them to.

153. You need to have wide knowledge and much learnt in order to follow the artistic path. It is a road of hardship and misery.

154. Is painting a lot a good thing or not? That is an issue. If your painting is of a certain standard then painting a lot is a good thing, but if your painting is non-consequential then the more you paint, the more time and material you waste and materials cost money.

155. Today I saw the silk paintings of a friend. I thought he painted too meticulously and so his painting lacks fluidity, feelings. I have advised him to research thoroughly, really thoroughly, extremely thoroughly, similarly, he should document things scrupulously, the more so the better, but when painting, he should be so artless as to be playful. But my advice is actually useless because he works to sell and working in his style it would be easier to sell. Perhaps if he listens to me, it would be difficult to sell? Well, it’s impossible to advise someone who’s not born to devote to Art.

156. How lazy you are if you only know the well-worn paths, those which have been trodden upon for centuries. Only senile old men would want to .. .restore these things in this day and age!

157. Pictorial Art must bring together what are appealing and good. Here we are also talking about materials, tools etc… not just talent alone. I deeply regret the fact that there are beautiful paintings that are gradually damaged by time. If on1y the artist was careful, such thing would not have happened.

158. Don’t satisfy your desire by using even the inferior canvases, those canvases that should not have existed, the paints that were grounded by yourself in a hurry with low quality pigments and linseed oil. Even though the paintings you produced are beautiful, you would gradually become annoyed by its damaging deterioration.

159. In cases where there is extreme paucity couples with a fervent love for Art. I think, let’s us do things that are not limited by the paucity. How can I paint well in oils ~f I am lacking oil paints? I think it is time we stop putting up with paucity in Art.

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