Culture Culture

06/09/2018 - 08:25

The Magic Journeys

Hoang Thanh Phong has been known to art-lovers as a young creative artist, who founded Gakka gallery together with his wife, artist Nguyen Thi Hue. He is realized through works of semi-abstract style, portraits and paintings on the theme of Buddhism.

Artist Hoang Thanh Phong at the exhibition Sac Thu (Autumn Nuances) – photo provided by the artist.

Hoang Thanh Phong surprised the public with his large acrylic painting (120 x 160 cm) The Magic Journeys, which creates a feeling both strange and familiar, at the exhibition Sac Thu (Autumn Nuances). This exhibition, opened on the afternoon of July 31, was co-hosted by Le Ba Dang Arts Center, Diem Phung Thi Arts Center, Vietnam Fine Art Association, Thua Thien Hue branch and Thua Thien Hue Fine Art Association. The work was “unique” in the exhibition as it was the only painting of War theme among 34 works by 25 artists.

The pulley-operated bridges for vehicles along Truong Son trails in the American war has been legendarily talked about as far. According to historical documents, a journey of vans moving across the river with the help of cables and pulleys as such was first experimented in the area of Dien bridge, over Nhue river banks. The van was driven by Colonel Nguyen Trong Quyen.

The magic work of transportation was designed and constructed by the engineer of the then Vietnam Institute of Traffic Engineering. The concrete pillars were erected, anchored 5-6 meters underground, and then fixed with big cables, spanning the two banks with a proper technical curve. Nguyen Trong Quyen drove a USSR van with pulley system, running on the cables, which was similar to a train running on the rails. While engineers and drivers tried running continually during the experiment from February 1965 to May 1965, the American reconnaissance aircraft hardly saw anything but two streaks of the cable, and never thought that they were bridges.

Born in the peaceful period of the country in the 1980s notwithstanding, artist Hoang Thanh Phong does not feel unfamiliar with the patriotism as his father was a soldier in the American war and his mother was a member of the Youth Volunteers. His strong feeling was built up through stories of chivalry told by his parents and relatives.

His parents’ war souvenirs that he embraced have been donated to Thua Thien Hue Museum of History. Inspired by the wartime documentary of the pulley-operated bridges across Truong Son, artist Hoang Thanh Phong started painting the work The Magic Journeys in 2017 and finished it in 2018.

On the black and yellow background, the van is the focus of the acrylic painting with half-burnt disguising leaves; and the surrounding scenery in brownish yellow creates strong effects for the focal van. The “courageous” van looks as if it was dangling in the space; the image of the van like a block of iron, put in a situation of “hanging by a hair” figuratively; the surrounding atmosphere filled with smoke is typical of a war and its hazards which can occur at any time; all these suggest a firing wartime memory and the endless creation of the whole nation for the sake of liberation.

The work is a manifestation of the artist’s good skills, the emotional experience and the pride in parents and family traditions. Notably, he chose to retain the semi-abstract style instead of the conventional style of painting to manifest the historical facts.

The yellow background has different shades: dazzlingly bright, burning and darkness. These create a miraculous and non-realistic atmosphere, but it is a true reflection of Hoang Thanh Phong’s artistic mind, which shows a desire to maintain simplicity in contrast with huge miracles of the nation: a ready sacrifice for independence and liberty.

Hoang Thanh Phong’s painting has contributed a both strange and familiar note to the symphony ‘Autumn Nuances’ of the exhibition. The work is also evidence of artistic values and the multi-faceted reflection of life from the inspiration of both yesterday and today.

The Magic Journeys is a respectful and grateful message from a contemporary artist and a generation born in peace and independence to those of a heroic historical period of the country. The Magic Journeys has both artistic and historical values of a revolutionary war, which is a theme and inspiration of creation for young generations of Vietnamese artists.

By Pham Minh Hai