The Street of Paintings coming soon

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A four-kilometer section of Hue will soon display 2,012 paintings on easels in an exhibition that promises to be a highlight of the upcoming Hue Festival


Zero Studio painters (from left) - Nguyen Duy Hien, Tran Huu Nhat and Nguyen Hoang Viet - at their art gallery at 75 Le Ngo Cat Street, Hue.

Among the events of the Hue Festival 2012 (to be held from April 7-15 in Hue Town), the Street of Paintings will be of specific interest to art lovers.

Three artists "” Nguyen Duy Hien, Tran Huu Nhat and Nguyen Hoang Viet are primarily responsible for the project. Representing three generations of men from Hue, they worked together on the Street of Paintings project out of their love for art and their desire to do something special for their hometown on the occasion of its biennial festival.

As planned, the Street of Paintings, which extends from the Nam Giao Altar of Heaven to the Tu Duc Mausoleum, will display 2,012 paintings varying in their subject matter and style.

At present, the three painters are busy completing new pictures for the international festival at their Zero Studio art gallery on Le Ngo Cat Street. There, thousands of paintings are arranged in layers, nearly giving one the feeling of being "suffocated" upon entering the art space. According to Hien, chief of Zero Studio, he and his two colleagues have been living at the studio recently in order to keep pace with the schedule and ensure all 2,012 paintings are completed before the festival.

The 2,012 paintings aim to honor Vietnam and its people as well as the cultural identity of Hue Ancient Citadel, a national historical relic and a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. They feature still-life compositions, landscapes, wild animals, women, Hue's architecture and ethnic groups from throughout the country. Abstract and impressionist pieces will also be included.

The paintings are drawn on canvases which range in size from 30 centimeters to 25 meters in length. They will occupy over four kilometers of the area surrounding Le Ngo Cat, Huyen Tran Cong Chua and Doan Nhu Hai streets.

"Displaying art on the street is a way for artists to meet and talk with the public, bringing art closer to them. It's also a way for us to contribute our small part to giving visitors a good impression of Hue," said Nhat.

Funding the tremendous undertaking remains a major concern, as Zero Studio has yet to receive any financial support for the Street of Paintings project, which will cost VND2 billion (over US$95,000) to complete. This sum has been advanced by Hien from the savings he and his wife had planed to use to build a new house.

Referring the extravagant personal expenditure, Hien said people have called him idiotic but they do not understand the extreme joy of "playing" with art. "We love Hue and want to contribute to it," he said.

His wife, Nguyen Thi Khanh, said, "At first, I strongly objected, but I finally had to support it as I found my husband working so untiringly that he forgot to eat and sleep."

The paintings set to be displayed demonstrate the differing styles of the three artists. Hien's paintings are primarily inspired by Hue's people and scenery. Typical examples include Thieu nu (Young woman), Hue and Lang tam (Mausoleums).

"It was my predestined fate to be a painter," Hien said. "Hue provides me with infinite inspiration. No painter could ignore the beauty of a tender Hue girl in an ao dai [traditional long dress]."

Nhat's works are abstract and distinctively different. "If Hien's paintings are romantic and sentimental, my paintings are furious and unafraid," Nhat said.

Unlike his elders, Viet prefers the graffiti style of pop art. His paintings for the exhibition feature animals, mostly dogs, created with unfamiliar methodologies.

To elicit public participation, the three have prepared two 25-meter sheets of canvas and a large amount of paint, brushes, and color pallets so that visitors to the Street of Paintings may create their own compositions.

Attendees of the 2012 Hue Festival's Street of Paintings will also have the chance to witness live performances by other well-known artists from the country's three regions, as well as view works painted by more than 300 students and self-employed artists living in Hue.

After the event, the Zero Studio painters plan to auction much of the collection and donate the proceeds to charity organizations that help disadvantaged Hue children.

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