”For me Simplicity is importance”

Beauty in Kimono

Leids Dagblad 4-3-1998

Vietnamese artist Dang Duong Bang at Gallery Amber Leiden, The Netherland

”For me Simplicity is importance”

 Leiden. Cees Van Hoore.

(Translation from Dutch to English by Dr. E.M.J. Jaspars, Leiden Chemistry Institute, LeidenUniversity, Leiden, the Netherlands)

The Vietnamese painter Dang Doung Bang makes an ageless impression. ”For ever young”, but without that touch of sickness that sticks to this expression. Yet Bang has quite some experiences behind him. For instance the American-war, when diving American bombers tore apart the silence in the classroom. But Bang knew how to overcome the violence of the war and become a distinguished scientist and a gifted painter. In April, he has an exposition in gallery Amber in Leiden. Bang said:” Every painting is new again. I hate repetition. In repetition there is something of death”.

Dang Duong Bang. His name sounds as a series of karate hits. Strong. Just as strong and vital impression of his works. A tall status of the Holly Heart with at its feet numerous burning wax-lights dominates bang’s dinning-room. The little flames flicker. Foe a moment it looks as if the shadow of Christ performs a break-dance. In the room are several boxes with books and furniture. The Vietnamese painter and scientist, who recently got his Mathematic and Natural Science doctor degree on a complicated aspect of DNA repair and cancer research, is ready to leave for Denmark where a position is offered to him.

On the table sits a thick portfolio in which he keeps the pictures and photos of his paintings. Looking superficially at Bang’s works one is immediately reminded of great names such as Matisse, Modigliani and Hokusai. But at further inspection Bang’s own touch presents itself.

”That influence of Matisse is not all that strange,” says Bang. ”Vietnam was under strong influence of France. And in order to learn the profession, I have indeed copies in museum great painters. But my own paintings come from dreams, which I had. When I see a scene in my mind, that I want to paint, I jump out of my bed. I often paint during the night. Very tiring, but the painting should be finished, it cannot be altered. I have the feeling that I fell in love with somebody and that I can not leave that person”.

After having looked at his work at home, we agreed to meet at gallery Amber, where a few things had to be organised for the exposition in April. Numerous paintings of Bang are standing against the wall. Women on those painting are painted with perceptible pleasure.

” I like painting women” says Bang.

” Once a friend asks me:

’Says, have you ever been to bed with a women?’

”I then answered denying. In our culture one first marries a women and only thereafter one goes to bed with her. But strange enough, I still much better in painting the women than in painting men. I have feeling that I know women, that I sense their atmosphere. Those women are inside me”.

Against on of the walls hangs a big painting of a broken lotus flower. On the place where the flower is bent sits a red fly-dragon with its splendid transparent little wings shivering in the wind. The red background seems massive, but when you look better, there is space, air. The silence in the work is almost palpable. That silence is the trademark of Bang. On the Chinese-ink paintings of some mountain peaks it seems as if not the peaks are importance but the space in between. ”That space”, says Bang. I try to catch it on my canvas. A space, an emptiness that is eternal”.

Bang started painting when his was ten years old. His uncle, the well-known Vietnamese artist Nguyen Tien Chung was his first teacher during the three months of summer holidays. The teaching methods of his uncle are reminiscent of those in the film Karate Kid. Just like the little boy in that film learned how to fight, Bang was introduced step by step in the beauty of art.

He bought many paintings from colleagues in Vietnam and he himself reaches in the course of time an unheard high production. One would expect that the war would emerge again and again as a theme in his works. But that is not the case. ”Possibly, it sounds strange, but I found that war not only horrible”, say the artist. ”Of course, I went through hardships and misery. We were sometimes fifteen days without food. We eating everything we could catch. Snakes, rats and what not…. But just as a butterfly may look under the microscopy terribly lugubrious, but in principle is nice, the war was sometimes like that. Nobody felt jealous to others. When you met each other living after a bombardment, it was very comforting. I have still in my mind how we fled from the classroom when the bombing started. Together with the teacher with whom I was a little bit in love. How we stood they’re sheltering with her as little children all together”.

Bang is taken by emotion, but recovers quickly. With visible pleasure he is watching his paintings. ” Simplicity is importance to me, the simple things and the colours. When I remember the markets in Vietnam, the colours of those exposed varieties of meat and fruits, the tangle of all those cyclists, the air and atmosphere of Hanoi…I want to keep that in some way in my life. These colours get shelter in my paintings. Therefore, I always have big problems in selling them. Of course you have to live, but if people enjoy my work, I rather give them away. I prefer my heart to be in good hands”.

One of the paintings we see a high window overlooking the hazy contours of the Sacre Coeur in Paris. The wrought iron ornament of the fence in the balcony makes us thinking that we have to do with a view from a royal apartment. A smile is on Bang’s face. ” My father lived in Paris. He rented a small room in a dilapidated house. He would not stay there for long. I have visited him there and saw then in the evening this view. There are two versions of this painting. A very dark version, with many blacks. But in this painting I have made dawn to brake through. Very faintly, but anyhow…”

The paintings of Dang Duong Bang are exposed at gallery Amber, Hooglandse Kerkgracht 8, Leiden the Netherlands.


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