Ambassador of arts

Nora Annesley Taylor, a Swiss researcher, is known among researchers and art critics of the West, Asia and Vietnam in particular. She has come to Vietnam to research and work since 1990. Her researches focus on Vietnam and Asia ’s contemporary arts.

Nora has good command of five languages. She speaks Vietnamese as smoothly as her mother tongue.

She used to be an associate professor of humanities and art science at the University of Arizona and now is Southeast Asian art professor at Chicago Art Research Institute .

Nora often made shuttle trips between the US and Vietnam and other Asian countries and has become an ambassador of art and friendship between America and Asia . Nora is always busy with researching, publishing, writing and organising exhibitions.

Nora enjoyed her mission in Vietnam very much as she could share experiences with her art friends in Hanoi.

Passion for Vietnamese art

This female ambassador was born and grew up in Geneva, Switzerland. She graduated from the art history faculty at the University of Brown and received a doctorate in Southeast Asian art history from the University of Cornell in 1997 .

She started her research on Southeast Asian art history in 1986. It seemed it was her fate to conduct researches on Vietnamese art. At that time, her university had a scholarship to study Vietnamese language in Vietnam and Nora decided to register for that scholarship.

Arriving in Vietnam in 1992 with her first mission to research archaeology, Nora had chances to meet with professors Ha Van Tan , Tran Quoc Vuong and Phan Huy Le .

Riding a bike around Hanoi streets, visiting small galleries and Lam café, Nora was immediately attracted by Vietnamese paintings.

She then was interested in meeting and talking with Vietnamese painters.

From 1993 -1994, she wrote many articles on art for Vietnam Investment Review . She interviewed well-known painters such as Phan Ke An , Tran Van Can, Mai Van Hien , and Luong Xuan Nhi . Nora also witnessed the process of Vietnam opening its market to the world. As other foreigners, she felt warm being welcomed by Vietnamese painters to their families’ dinners.

To her, painters Tran Van Can and Nguyen Tu Nghiem are a bit quiet while painter Mai Van Hien is very easy going. Hien often told her stories about Viet Bac revolutionary base and the Dien Bien Phu battlefield.

Painters are really the live material sources for researchers like Nora and she decided to defend a doctorate on Vietnam’s fine arts history. It was her article about the exhibitions of the 5-painter group in Vietnam Investment Review that created a resounding echo for Vietnam’s painting at the open-door period.

An art book

Stemming from her doctorate thesis, Nora developed it into an art book titled “ Painters of Hanoi : An Ethnography of Vietnamese Art ”, which was published in 2004 by University of Hawaii Press . This 250 -page book is about Hanoian painters’ lives, how they were trained and created paintings.

How painters of different generations of the Indochina Fine Arts College joined the resistance war against foreign invaders and the difficulties and hardships they overcame to create works are all included in this book. For instance, Painter Duong Bich Lien had to draw again and again on a single piece of paper and painter Bui Xuan Phai had to use colours in a very economical way.

To write this book, Nora had to conduct a lot of interviews with painters, art critics, collectors, culture managers, and individuals of Hanoi.

Based on individual analysis of all ups and downs in their lives and their social and historical situations and the conditions in which painters created creative works, Nora wishes to make readers understand how important paintings are in Vietnam’s modern society.

Stamps, notice boards, posters to annual exhibitions organised by the Vietnam Fine Arts Association all prove the important place of painting in a country where painters were considered soldiers on the ideological front in war-time.

In 2004 , she assisted the International Arts and Artists Organisation in organising an exhibition named ” Changing Identity : Latest works by female artists from Vietnam”. This exhibition has been touring the US, from Dallas, Texas, San Francisco , New Jersey , Colorado, Boston to Minneapolis .

Nora said she had seen many changes in Vietnamese art and in painters’ lives over the past 15 years.

Source: HNM

Translated by Mai Huong

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