Vietnam realist painter to exhibit discontent

Thanh Nien News

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A painting exhibition, said to represent a new artist generation’s ability to use the arts to express social criticism, will open in Hanoi next month.
“At the end of the line” by realist painter Nguyen Trong Minh pictures Vietnamese school students as both obedient and rebellious.
One has them standing in line with proper uniform including red neck-scarves and making a ceremonial salute, while another has them facing the wall as if they are being punished. Yet another shows three boys not following uniform regulations with their shirts out of their trousers and not wearing their neck-scarves. Their faces have been crossed out with black strokes.
Critic Vu Huy Thong said the strokes can be Minh’s message that being different at schools is considered taboo, or they can mean punishment that has become a dark and unforgettable memory. Minh, who used to be a rebellious student, chose to be a teacher as a grown-up.
About one painting in which students all look alike with emotionless faces, Thong said Minh could be criticizing the education system that is homogenizing all children and stripping off their own personalities just to win a good record for the school.
Minh quit after three years of teaching fine arts at a secondary school in the northern province of Lao Cai, disagreeing with the approach that fine arts is just a subject to complete the list instead of a mainstream subject that teaches children to appreciate the good and the beautiful.
Then he studied at Vietnam University of Fine Arts until 2012.
The exhibition is organized by the Green Palm Gallery in Hanoi and ACCA, a group of independent curators and event organizers working to promote artists in Vietnam.
The exhibition will be open 5:30 p.m. April 18 at the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum, 66 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Hanoi. It will close on April 23.
It will be Minh’s first solo exhibition in Vietnam, though a number of his works have been presented at the national exhibitions in 2003, 2010 and 2011 in Hanoi. In 2013, he had his first solo exhibition at Galerie Forsblom in Helsinki, Finland.
The 32-year-old from Hung Yen Province has used realism and some of his troubled life experiences to develop a style that is rather elusive but full of anxiety and satire, critics have said.
He himself says his art has equipped him with the ability to best respond to life, which “I’ve found to be so complex, everything is at once crowded and vague. Everyone tries to scramble for something, even for one’s own breath.
“I need the calmness. Things need to be stalled, clarified as black and white, condense and tight.”

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