Painter Nguyen Thi Hien: living for what remains

Sunday, 2016-08-28 07:02:14
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A painting at the exhibition ‘A stage on a road’ by Nguyen Thi Hien
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NDO – Having a rare endurance, power and soft-heartedness in creation, well-known Vietnamese painter Nguyen Thi Hien has constantly moved her deep love for life into unique arts ideas.

Personal style, the hallmark of each creative artist, is created from professional experience and cultural background. Nguyen Thi Hien, a 70-year-old artist, has not only experienced happiness and hope, but has also faced numerous challenges as well as suffered losses, sadness and worries.

Born in Phu Luu village in Dong Ngan commune, Tu Son town, in the northern province of Bac Ninh famous for beautiful customs and talented people, she is an artists whose talents shine both in the country and the world.

Her father, writer Kim Lan, has a deep passion on preserving ancient Quan ho (love duet singing), a traditional folk art of the northern region. He invited Quan ho singers to perform at their house many times, making Quan ho tunes always in Hien’s mind and soul. Villages with beautiful scenes including fragrant lotus ponds and limpid rivers have become major themes in her paintings.

With firm graphic techniques and diversity in thinking as well as a sensitive soul and great desire, she reflected the things she had seen and experienced, from the urban to mountainous areas, from Asia to Europe.

Painter Hien gained successes, outstanding achievements and a reputation when she was very young. She had her first foreign customers in the early 1970s when Vietnamese people were suffering deprivation and poverty. In these days, she was invited to come to Bai Bang Paper Factory in Phu Tho province to paint a Swedish expert’s portrait as well as was allowed to come in and out of foreign embassies in Hanoi to paint portraits of ambassadors and counselors. She has been very successful with a wide variety of exhibitions both in the country and abroad, particularly the prestigious one themed ‘Flow’ at the Spanish Royal Gallery in 2008.

Her thorough knowledge of Vietnamese and English, as well as literary knowledge and a capacity to absorb the cultural quintessence of the world, helped Nguyen Thi Hien create artworks with depth. Her youth was associated with the resistance war against US imperialism. During those years, Hien witnessed the fierceness and devastation of the war. With the vitality of youth, she captured all villages and localities she had passed despite danger to her life. For example, in 1970, Hien and writer Luu Quang Vu went to Hai Phong to visit Dao Trong Khanh who was one of the leading directors and producers in the field of documentary films. In spite of bombs sprawling around the port city, the romanticism and peacefulness of Tam Bac river inspired her to create paintings for an exhibition being displayed at 38 Le Cong Kieu Street in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.

Nguyen Thi Hien’s gallery at 38 Le Cong Kieu Street is one of the most prestigious galleries in Ho Chi Minh City, organising numerous exhibitions of as well as support and connecting many talents in the field of fine arts. Hien has an impressive number of artworks in various materials, particularly oil and lacquer.

The painter owns a massive archive including manuscripts, autographs and books of her father as well as a system of paintings and photos scientifically archived and encoded on computers. She has not only become an archivist for her family, but also maintains and remembers the past for many people. Due to her awareness of maintaining documents, respecting life and valuing time, Hien kept memories through documents and artworks. The artistic value, humanism and vitality of her works reflect her love for her family as well as deep passion for the fine arts. She used to have to stop temporarily painting in order to focus on earning money for her family; however she has never intended to give up her career.

In addition to fine arts, Nguyen Thi Hien has paid much attention to literature, contributing numerous illustrations as well as articles for the Vietnamese press over the past half a century. With Hien, new and continuous creation is required to create the loftiness and beautifulness as well as miraculous power of the arts.

Her exhibition themed ‘Mot chang duong’ (A stage on a road), which is taking place at 38 Le Cong Kieu Street from July 12 to September 12, showcases 36 oil and lacquer paintings. It follows the exhibition ‘Nhung gi con sot lai’ (What remains) that was held earlier this year. The exhibits were selected from paintings created by Nguyen Thi Hien from 1966 to 1999, recalling the memories of herself and her contemporaries, as well as connecting generations. They also helped her to calm the mind to look back the past and set careful preparations for upcoming activities.

“A large number of poems, songs, literary works and paintings were created during the arduous years caused by the wars. The rest helped me to look at my life as well as look for my pieces of memories in order to prepare for the completion of my favourite set of paintings on portraits of my friends and contemporaries who I had met during my life. They left good impression on me and were associated with my life, importantly contributing to creating my personality and love for the arts that I have pursued.”, shared painter Nguyen Thi Hien.

She is gathering her strength and time to paint portraits of 100 intellectuals and artists who were outstanding representatives of her generation and arts field in her opinion. Through the paintings, Hien wants to expressed her great admiration and deep respect for her contemporaries.

Nguyen Thi Hien is a faithful and affectionate person. In any circumstance, whether in wartime or peacetime, she has been willing to help predecessors and colleagues whenever they faced difficulties such as painter Nguyen Sang and several poets, writers and translators.

Worshipping the beauty, Hien took great pains with collecting and carefully preserving beautiful culture and heritages. The essence of her life that was created by her spirit of seriously working and true talent will be remembered forever and vitalise younger generations. Despite her old age and illness, she has painted and written with her deep passion.

Painter Nguyen Thi Hien