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Article of Nguyen Quoc Huy

Heart to art

Vietnamese artist Nguyen Quoc Huy recently picked up a Juror’s Choice Award in the Philip Morris Asean Art Awards in Bali, Indonesia. Hoang Mai spoke with Huy on the sidelines of the competition in order to find out a little more about Liberation Road

How do you feel about your award?

Needless to say, I am extremely happy. I am proud to receive a Juror’s Choice Award this year, especially as I was up against 44 other artists. It would be a shame if Vietnam took no awards away from the competition.

Is this the first time you have won a regional prize?

That’s right. I actually received an Honorable Mention in the Philip Morris Asean Art Awards in 1996, but prizes of merit have so far eluded me.

Organizers of the Asean Art Awards decided to use a panel of international judges for the first time this year. Do you think this made a difference?

It’s great that international judges from Australia, France, Taiwan, South Korea and the United States were used instead of representatives from Asean member states. With an international judging panel, national discrimination is removed, but the intrinsic beauty if art remains. To a certain extent, however, international judges should be an expert in Asia art, so that they can have a thorough understanding of the peculiarities inherent in most Asian paintings.

What’s the concept behind your painting?

The painting depicts of a new road named “Liberation” where daily traffic pressures and stress once existed.

Liberation Road was the only lacquer painting on show in the competition. Do you think you won simply because you used a traditional medium?

Most of the judges said that they liked the way I conveyed a message about modern life with a traditional medium.

Does Vietnam have an advantage in world art competitions because of lacquer?

Absolutely right and Vietnamese artists should make full use of these advantages as it is one of the few countries in the world that uses lacquer as an art form.

Does it mean that Vietnam’s art would gain high recognition in the regional and world art?

This depends on the views of art critics. I believe that the critics will have accurate remarks on the real value of Vietnam’s lacquer art.

Nguyen Quoc Huy, 31, graduated from the lacquer department of Hanoi Fine Arts University in 1994. He is currently a member of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association, the Hanoi Fine Arts Association and the Young Artists’ club. He has received several Honorable Mentions at previous Philip Morris Asean Art Awards.

(Viet Nam Investment Review, Timeout, May 27-June2, 2002)

A painter devotes to the art of lacquer

Nguyen Quoc Huy is one of the three painters who have won the gold medal at the recently held National Fine Arts Exhibition which is organized every five years. He is one of the few pursuers the art of traditional lacquer art at present.
Born into an artistic family Quoc Huy’s father is an artisan of lacquer painting), he enjoyed painting since he was a little boy. Later Huy learnt the art of lacquer at the Hanoi Fine Arts University, in the 1989-1990 intakes. After his graduation, he has been continued this kind of art, having created a huge number of traditional lacquer paintings that can be measured in hundreds of square meters.

His prize winning painting at the recent National Fine Arts Exhibition is in lacquer. Entitle “tan ca” (Rush hour), the lacquer depicts not only the day-to-day pressing traffic problem, but also sends a message of solidarity. The artist said “I decided to create the painting when I saw workers from the X20 Garment Company near my house rushing on the street after their working day. They were very crowded and therefore, a traffic jam occurred. Each of them expresses their own feeling. I put on them raincoats so that they can face up to daily problems. With a concrete view, I want to look towards to the future. There fore, I painted workers in a firm block.”

According to Huy, normally it takes him three months to complete such a painting. It’s not a short period of time, moreover, the technique of traditional lacquer painting is painstaking, but the artist is still determined to pursue the only kind of this art. While devoting to the profession, the artist meets difficulties in media. Because there are fewer and fewer artists using so basic media for this kind of art such as gold silver and other professional material is now rare and quite expensive. Such difficulties seem to make the artist become more passionate about the path he has chosen. He said “It’s right to say that the traditional lacquer is painstaking. But it’s always flexible and I have never mastered it so it attracts me very much”.

“It’s not easy to have an achievement but I hope I will have a painting which is highly appreciate for hundreds of years. Therefore, I create only this kind of paintings as it stands the test of time,” he added.

Having a great passion for traditional lacquer, the artist said he hoped one day, the State would submit its proposal of the Vietnam’s traditional lacquer to UNESCO in recognition of its place as a world intangible heritage. “Only in this way can Vietnamese traditional lacquer be preserved and promoted. Lacquer painting is a specialty of Vietnam. Chinese, Japanese and Korean people have used paint for a long time but they can not use them in painting. They respect Vietnamese traditional lacquer paintings very much. Many students of art from those countries have come to Vietnam just to study the art of lacquer,” Huy said.

Having won various national and international prizes such as the second prize of the ASEAN Philip Morris Fine Arts in Indonesia in 2001, bronze medal and consolation prizes at the National Fine Arts Exhibition in 1995 and 2000, bronze medal at the Vietnam Fine Arts Association’s Exhibition 1995, official prize at the Capital Fine Arts Exhibition 1998 among others, the future is still ahead for this young talented artist.

By Nguyen Dieu Thuy 

“Nguyen Quoc Huy’s lacquer work entitled Liberation Road addresses the problem of change and non-change, where things may appear to be different from before but are often in reality the same, with the same struggle required to move forward. But it is not always action that is required to motivate change in life but through the adoption of new patterns of thought. In discussing his work Huy said: “The painting depicts the reality of a new road named Liberation where daily pressures and stresses once existed and still exist. Through the road, I want to explore deeper and further the notion of life, while through the word Liberation I explore ways of thinking”.

Asian Art News- July/August 2002