The sudden chill in Kolkata over the last few days have been a delight, but, of course, have not over compensated for the warm summer months, and, to renew the spirit of art and poetry, the book fair and literary fests have kept our heels busy in the month of January. If this wasn’t enough to seek strength in our soul, the city is proud to host a selection of contemporary Vietnamese art consisting of 6 painters from Vietnam who have been invited by Alliance Francise du Bengale, the Bodhi Tree Monastery Art and Sampark Publishing House, and by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations to exhibit in Kolkata at the Palladian Lounge, Bengal Chamber of Commerce. The artworks will be showcased also in Delhi next week.
Stephane Amalir, Director, Alliance francise du Bengale, Kolkata, who has been instrumental in bringing Vietnamese painting to India, recalls “My first overseas posting was in Vietnam, and it was, therefore, there as a young man that I had the money to spend on paintings. The first painting I ever bought, a seascape, was by a Vietnamese artist. It travelled back to France with me, then on to my next posting in South Africa, and it now hangs in my sitting room in Kolkata. I have, therefore, in my own way, already brought Vietnamese art to India”.
While I was going through the artworks on display at the lounge, I observed few paintings which had the impressionist style reminiscent of Claude Monet, whom I greatly admire. After speaking with the artist Nguyen Quy Kien, I came to understand that he divides his time living between Paris and Hanoi, and, therefore, able to bring European observational skill of using memory that stores information and using them to create new sensational imprints on natural landscape in Vietnam. In such a cohesive union the colours of sky in Paris and that of Hanoi become enmeshed with each other in the naturalist setting of a wood-bridge and stream flowing underneath it. This overlapping of space and time creates dynamic topology in painting which is distinctly clear from the exhibited artworks. This is, of course, a paradigm shift in the paintings of these new artists making me reminisce the lines of a famous Vietnamese poet Tinh Trai who writes: I still remember Rimbaud and Verlaine,/The two besotted men of poetry/Drunk with exotic verse and with passion,/Defying worn paths and old ways…/Nothing matters, future or past,/Who wears makeup and colored dress./Who cares about heaven or hell?/They are simply in love; that’s swell.” This swelling love is between the artist and his vision (his art), here the subject is the object and vice versa, they are united in art, in the demonstration of skill, like a dynamic movement (or flow) which defines the complexity of processes involved including art history, time and space non-locally.
While attending to other works of art notably the nude series by Pham Huy Hung, the texture of the figurines overpower physical shapes of hands and legs creating a visual sculpture in 2-d which is geometrically distinct yet inchoate at the subliminal level. His artistry lies in creating textures that almost blur the sensation between the physical and the non-physical aspect of the nudes in study.
Nguyen Khac Chinh’s works are beautifully rendered in different hues of red that bring the folklore or fairytale like characters in a modern context doing office work or just plain gossiping and speaking over the phone. This is very playfully done to habitually express our evolving unconscious and how that can be traced to an archetypal folklore pattern that we still carry beneath our multi-personal self, the colours connote to our existential reality where lies our frailty and also our hope. Artworks by Nguyen Duc Hung are very intricate with detail sketches of cosmic energy fields in the subtle bodies, lotus of the spirit and other minute symbols. It also shows the mechanical stress on the brain from the environment and also the artistic process inherent for de-stress and cleansing of the morphological fields connected with bodily organs.
Nguyen Xuan Lan’s art titled ‘Soul’ and ‘Kindness’ are exemplars of very eclectic post-modern expressionist art showing different states of man’s inner transformation. The only female painter in this group, Tao Thi Thu Huong’s works including her ‘Sunset’ and ‘Boat’ are very moving and inspirational –the plasticity in the colours show a high-level emotional language in art that speaks of the unspeakable, the Tao through the movement of the brushes across the canvas. The painting ‘Sunset’, of course, has an air of melancholy about it -that which is passing is happening, here and now, we can’t grasp at it but can only experience the beauty of every single moment through our mindfulness. Her non-judgemental way of capturing nature in its ‘suchness’ and the clarity of her perception is indeed a remarkable artistic achievement.
Having seen the artworks displayed by this group of six talented Vietnamese painters, I will be delving more into the dynamic evolution process in art as consciousness that is non-local and non-reductionist.
To thank and acknowledge everyone for this exhibition, I must mention Sunandan Roy Choudhury, Publisher, SAMPARK and Director, Sampark Literary Evenings and Madhubanti Roy Choudhury, Writer and Consultant, both of them have been the chief coordinators in making this event happen. Also much thanks to Bodhi Tree Monastery of Art for arranging this event very meticulously.
– Joy Roy Choudhury, ArtVantage UK-India and Call-Key9 http://www.call-key9.net