Culture Culture

18/06/2019 - 06:55

Tossing and turning with “Image of Predecessor”

Faces of kings, queens and mandarins in imperial silk costume, court robe; red-colored pavilions, gates, screens, etc., of the golden past are reproduced by Pham Thịnh the artist in his series of paintings called “Image of Predecessor.”

Pham Trinh the artist

More than 20 acrylic works on this theme are Pham Trinh’s own feelings of the mysterious and gorgeous beauty of the golden time. In this series, faces are not depicted clearly, so that the viewer can imagine about the characters. Beautiful or ugly, gentle or ferocious, it all depends on the viewer’s feelings. 

“Image of Predecessor” had been cherished by Pham Trinh for 30 years. With this theme, Pham Trinh's works are filled with memories of the glorious Nguyen Dynasty, which was fading with wars and time.

“Image of Predecessor” is what I have cherished so far about Hue. Every time I come to visit the Imperial City and the royal mausoleums, I always feel as if the golden past were still lingering in the palaces, by the gates, in Temple of Generations or somewhere at the royal mausoleums. In my paintings, it appears, then disappears, melts, then fades in floating colors like smoke and clouds,” said he.

 “Image of Predecessor (No. 0)”

When coming to Hue to attend the College of Art, Hue University in the last years of 1980s, Pham Trinh was attracted by the beauty of Hue Citadel and royal mausoleums.

“In hot summer afternoons or late afternoons, I often went to the Imperial City to paint. Under ancient trees were mossy ancient palaces. They gave me the feelings beyond description. At the time, the Imperial City was still desolate, but so regretfully beautiful,” recalled the painter.

After about 30 years of cherishing his desire to paint about the Nguyen Dynasty, in 2017, when he thought his time in Hue was long enough for him to understand about Hue culture, he started to paint the series. Based on his documents about the Nguyen Dynasty that he accumulated on days when he wandered around taking notes and making sketches, he painted successively 21 acrylic paintings on canvas in the same painting style, numbered from 0 to 20. He is now continuing with this theme.

“Dead Forest”

In 2018, Pham Trinh was one of the artists who was awarded by Alliance of Arts and Literature Associations of Vietnam for his work “Faces”. The painting was the 18 faces of all emotions of man: happy, angry, loving and hated. Though he did not paint any particular man, the viewer can still recognize it was either the artist himself, or a certain man, or even the viewer himself. Portraits are what Pham Trinh has been pursuing this year. Almost all of the portraits in his paintings are distorted so that he could depict their tempers on a deeper level.

Born in Binh Dinh, Pham Trinh’s childhood was attached to buffalos, ploughs and paddy fields. It explains why bucolic scenes with green paddy fields and buffalo tenders playing the flute are present very often in his lacquer pictures.


The artist finds it pretty easy to paint his series about the Vietnamese countryside because it is inherent in him, waiting to overflow. His paintings remind people of childhood memories of his peaceful homeland. Those modest and familiar images in his paintings were reproduced on the collection of fashion “Bucolic Painting” worn by Miss Ngoc Han in the fashion show at 2017 Hue Traditional Craft Festival.

Graduated from the Department of Painting, majored in lacquer, Pham Trinh make his mark on not only lacquer, but also acrylic and oil painting. For over 30 years of hard working for a living to pursuit his passion for art, he has painted commercial pictures for tourists while creating the artworks of his own. 

He does not restrict himself to any theme. Pham Trinh paints everything that impresses him in life. With the themes he really enjoys, he often makes more than one painting such as his series of portraits, girls, “image of predecessor,” the countryside, etc.

Many other works by Pham Trinh show his worries about human life full of anxieties, life and death; and environment. Best of all, what he desires is the positive feelings and excitement that his works can bring to the viewer.

Story and photos: Trang Hien