Hanoi to host woodcut exhibition featuring local peasants

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The first solo exhibition featuring traditional woodcut techniques depicting Vietnamese peasant life today by graphic artist Pham Khac Quang will be on display in Hanoi from Nov 27 to Dec 4.

According to a press release from organizer, Vietnam Fine Arts Museum, the "Contemporary Scenario" Woodcuts Exhibition will be held at the museum in Hanoi and consists of two parts.

The first part includes 10 color woodcut prints created with a woodcut block destruction technique (the woodcut block is destroyed after the last print). These graphic works express the artist's thoughts on the multiple problems surfacing in rural life.

The artist represents Uncle Teu the narrator in Vietnamese traditional water puppet performances in contemporary life, giving him the leading role in many present-day stories.

Uncle Teu can be a dealer, businessman, important and satisfied with his lot. In another version, Uncle Teu is depicted as a peasant, humorous and delighted with his position in the community, working with his co-villagers to prepare the harvest, as well as relaxing with them in his free time.

"However, this peasant has an alternative face, selling parts of the spiritual elements of his home village, including the banyan tree, the commune-house yard, and the village pond, at the village market," says the release.

"These spontaneously raise the question of whether Uncle Teu's innocent smile hides the sorrows caused by material pressures, or instead expresses his self-satisfaction."

Subtly suggesting his leading protagonist's multiple personalities, the artist uses the woodcut technique to carefully express his biting social messages.

The second part is an installation art piece titled "Breath." Presented in a 30-square-meter-area reminiscent of a small rice field, the artist plants 1,000 original woodcut portraits of Vietnamese peasants, among which female characters are the most visible.

The wood blocks are wooden spatulas familiar in every home kitchen. The artist's meticulous cut lines vividly express the Vietnamese peasant today. Despite the limited area, this work alludes to the issue of the future of Vietnam's peasants in today's rapidly changing society.

The two parts of the exhibition are complementary, both expressing the artist's deep thoughts about the many changes occurring in his home village, a cradle of folk water puppetry in the northern province of Hai Duong.

Similar shifts also can be observed in many of Vietnam's villages, from the delta to the mountains.

"The exhibition also expresses the artist's commitment to traditional woodcut art as an appropriate medium for the discussion of today's living stories, effectively using  traditional modes of expression to breathe real life into contemporary art," the release says.

For information, contact Ms. Dao Mai Trang, e-mail: daomaitrang@gmail.com

The Vietnam Fine Arts Museum is located on 66 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Hanoi.

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