Painter Dao Hai Phong finds time for Hanoi

Published on February 14, 2010 |

Once a year, Dao Hai Phong, the author of unique landscape paintings, goes abroad at the invitation of international exhibitions. He talks with VietNamNet about future plans.

You recently had the “Destination of Peace” exhibition in Japan. What impressed you the most in this exhibition?

 I was very surprised that the exhibition was not opened for Japanese people, but for Europeans and Americans who live in Japan.

Japanese people like traditional decorative items like dolls, which are interesting and beautiful in nature. Middle-class people often buy paintings by famous Japanese artists and the wealthy buy paintings by world famous artists.

Japanese museums are very large. Visitors have to spend at least one day to visit a museum thoroughly, so they eat lunch in the museum. With such time, visitors may not clearly understand the value of artworks, but they have time to wallow themselves in the space of art, which will make them milder.

It seems that you are lured by Japanese culture. Why?

 I was enchanted by Japanese culture. I’ve been to many European countries, but I think we should learn from Japan in terms of culture. They show their pride in a close way. Japanese people like families that own a mountain of gold, but they only put on a small gold ring on their hands.

 I arranged to stay in a hotel designed in traditional style. I was shocked to see three paintings by Renoir in the hotel’s drawing-room, which I had seen in books. The hotel’s owner paid millions of US dollars to buy these paintings from international auction floors to hang them in his hotel.  My enlightenment is that this life has many values, not only money.

 What other things make you different from this exhibition?

 A teacher invited me to a US school in Japan to paint for her pupils. At first, I only planed to draw a painting in my style. But seeing the kids’ interest, I decided to paint with them. They were very lovely indeed, but I had not liked children before. I think that I disliked children because of the way adults teach them.

 Compared to many Asian countries, art in Vietnam is cheap, in both literal and figurative senses. Artworks only have artistic valuable of their own, not the value of marketing or materialism.

 You have more overseas than local exhibitions. There are hundreds of exhibitions in Hanoi yearly, but audiences don’t have many chances to see your paintings. Why do you carry your works abroad?

Many people asked me why I don’t display my paintings in Hanoi. I answered them in a gentle way to not displease them. When I want to hold exhibitions as “gifts,” I can organize them at home. As a professional painter, I have to go to the mat to earn a profit to take care my family. Only foreign audiences can pay me.

But now I’m asked: Why do I have to go abroad? At least 20 Vietnamese painters have to travel abroad a lot. Regretfully we have good cuisine, but it is not tasted by our people, but by foreigners.

In Vietnam, the range of audience for painting is narrow. Experts of the arts cannot lack culture and knowledge. Moreover, to own paintings, they must be rich. At this moment, paintings are still too luxurious for the great majority of Vietnamese.

 What is your plan in the near future?

I’ve had a plan for an exhibition next year in November 2011 in London. This year is a special one and it touches my feeling, so I want to do something for Hanoi to show my gratitude to this land. I’ll have an exhibition after over one decade of absence in my hometown. From now to August, I will try to finish around 20 paintings for my Hanoian audience.

 This year will see the 1000th anniversary of Thang Long – Hanoi. Many artists will show their best works this year. Are you afraid that you will be lost in the crowd?

 I have my own style for landscape paintings, which is different from any artist in the last century. I dare to confirm this. My father is also a painter, so I’ve studied painting since I was a child. I think in the painting arts, the most important thing is form. To make impression, you have to change the form. I see that I’ve passed my great master in that aspect.

Thu Huyen

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