It’s a changing time of the Vietnam art to move to a new younger generation of artists who were born after the wars, at least from 1975 to 1980, 1990. Modern Art used to be attractive to artists of war time and Subsidized Period, and but now is no more to them. Many young artists are following three new arts: installation art, performing art and video art with direct social ideas, painting is only part of creations changing art basically which is called Post Modern Art. When the world is more globalized and “flat” according to the economists & new generation of Vietnamese, those have more opportunities to go abroad, admiring the international arts, working with international artists have been influenced more or less. However due to some of Vietnamese situations, the young democracy, the cultural life crisis, downgrades, the art industry is still not very professional, depending totally on the foreign buyers, each individual artist has to choose his own path in the society, in his life.
Thanh Chuong (born in 1948) belongs to the generation of artists in the years of 1980. He went to the war and continued his painting passion trained since he was small. He has many different passions – passion of collecting traditional culture, building a model museum of old Vietnamese architecture, passion of Love Duets of Bac Ninh, and painting of cubism. Although doing many things at the same time, Thanh Chuong does everything to his best, creates arts with depth. From a newspaper illustrator, with simple sketch, Thanh Chuong is closer to separate figuration and organizes the pieces in a new order. The contrast of colorful colors with the shining of lacquer creates his own beauty of art.
Dang Xuan Hoa (born in 1959) belongs to the matured artists of 1990s. Although Hoa didn’t experience the army he went through all the hardness of war and the subsidized period. When the time of Opening and Perestroika, The Gang of Five became famous with quality paintings with its own style towards abstract expressionism and using the traditional art motives. Hoa paints with oil on canvas with simple technique and achieves visual effects, expressing inspirations, evolves the ancient and modern cultures into each brush. Hong Viet Dung (born in 1962), growing together with the Gang of Five, was rated the best in the group for oil on canvas by Viet Hai artist. Dung didn't pay attention to the Modern Art like others but turned to the dreamy realism. He paid attention to general simplicity of a scene, expressed the air and the water evaporation diluting everything in that scene. With not much ambition, Dung didn't want to change much but more & more deepen his painting style.
Ha Tri Hieu (born in 1959), did not study at Yet Kieu Art University but graduated from the Industrial Art College. Besides being a newspaper designer he didn't work in the designing industry but soon joined the Gang of Five with arts of the countryside life, under the abstract expressionism. Hieu started with some simple figuration of a cow, farmers walking in the farm, children singing folk songs in a dark air called "light of the earth" by Thai Ba Van. Hieu's paintings are truthful with his mankind thoughts.
Dinh Quan (born in 1964) is in a group of five artists (Nguyen Quoc Hoi, Tran Tuan, Pham Ngoc Minh, Tran Quang Huy & Dinh Quan). This group has some specialty after the Gang of Five with different characters. Dinh Quan explored lacquer technique with shiny, stylish expression - a surface interest of his own. He does not only lacquer paintings but also oil paintings and nude sculptures without hiding one’s ego and sexual desire. Looking for a new thing is always his goal, although most of the time it ends with forms & techniques, but it is good enough to create his own aspect.
Pham An Hai (born in 1967) is of a younger generation of the above artists. Initially his paintings were about himself, sadness, even misery with expressionism. Gradually he moved to abstract and found his own path here. Hai is the best abstract oil painter now in Hanoi, harmonizing simple feelings but deep on the surface. First his art was the streets' images generalized as a map leading to abstract structures, then moved to plane surfaces with thoughts & confidence controlling all the colors.
All the above mentioned artists have been known for twenty, thirty years now; they are no more news, when Vietnamese art is not only paintings like before. They have become experienced, expressed with depth, accepted themselves as genuine Asian where all the family & social ties don't allow them to reach an absolute free art. Vietnamese art has its own situation, it is not easy to say things or to have true styles but artists & talents are not short of & it helps them to reflect the social perception in the best way.
Phan Cam Thuong
Artist, Vietnam Art historian