Mekong Delta artist creates a burning sensation

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A rice husk painting by Vo Van Tang. Photo: Thanh Dung

Vo Van Tang knows that to leave an indelible mark in the overcrowded art scene, he has to always stay creative, not only with what he paints but also what he paints on.

The 74-year-old from the Mekong Delta province of An Giang says he often tries to find inspiration from simple things around him. Tam had some success experimenting with creating artworks from sugar palm leaves, but the unusual material was not very versatile and somehow restricted his imagination.

Then he found rice husks, which are aplenty in his hometown.

“After learning that rice husks are very durable, I knew I need to use them in my paintings,” he says.

The husks are finely ground into powder. It will then be spread over a sheet of paper with a thin layer of glue in between.

What happens next looks like magic: the artist will use a handheld welder to burn the husk power, carefully and slowly, into shades of gray and black. Faces and mountains and birds and trees then appear. More colors can be painted on later.

“Rice husk paintings are even more difficult than what I did with sugar palm leaves. I almost gave up many times, but my patience was finally rewarded,” he says.

Tang says while the technique required a lot of fine-tuning, he feels that he has found the perfect outlet for his creativity.

Since his paintings were first reported by local media last year, hundreds of people from Ho Chi Minh City and other Mekong Delta provinces have flocked over to buy them.

His small workshop now has 15 artists trying to replicate his craft. He is selling a painting at up to VND1 million (US$45) a piece.

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