Hanoi reflected through character portraits

A new exhibition entitled Chan Dung Hanoi (Hanoi Portraits) is giving a broad overview of the capital city's contemporary art scene at the Maison des Art.
A new exhibition entitled Chan Dung Hanoi (Hanoi Portraits) is giving a broad overview of the capital city's contemporary art scene at the Maison des Art.

The exhibition gathers works by 58 members of the Hanoi Fine Arts Association, plus three international painters and two American photographers.

American painter Dan Potter first had the idea for the exhibition two years ago when he happened to ask Maison des Art director Nguyen Nga why she didn't display portraits by local artists.

"We developed this idea with the intention of linking painters with different styles," Nga said.

On the first visit to Viet Nam in 2003, Potter said he was attracted by the beauty of the capital city and its citizens. For several years, he has spent two to four months per year in Hanoi, walking the streets and photographing city residents.

"Going back to the US after my first months in Hanoi, I suffered and missed Hanoi very much," Potter said. "So I decided to come back. Every time I look at the people of Hanoi, I feel like I understand more about myself."

Painters in the exhibition have depicted a wide variety of individuals, including late painter Bui Xuan Phai, legendary poetess Ho Xuan Huong and composer Nguyen Cuong, as well as Vietnamese heroic mothers, soldiers, and friends.

The work of painter Hong Nam Thai is represented in the exhibition with his lacquer portrait of Phai.

"Through impressions in conversations and sketches, I painted emotionally a talented artist who had a simple lifestyle and overcame poverty," said Thai. "The artists [in the exhibition] do not paint what they see. They paint what they feel about their characters."

Living in Hanoi for the past five years, where he teaches at the University of Hanoi, Douglas Jardine has expresses his love for the city through his photographs of its residents.

"Hanoians have made a big impression on me because I love this city," Jardine said. "Now I teach the first ever-class on the history of Hanoi at the university. In my free time, I walk around Hanoi and take photos of beautiful Hanoians. Hanoi is my subject."

On the opening day of the exhibition, many visitors had an opportunity to have their portraits painted by members of association. Although having a portrait at home, poet Bang Viet still asked painter Bui Anh Hung to draw another.

"The acrylic picture was painted in about one hour," Viet said. "I think that this is a very interesting exercise because everyone wants to know how they are seen in another person's eyes."

The exhibition runs through Avril 10 at 31A Van Mieu Street, Hanoi, with most of the proceeds to be donated for Japan earthquake and tsunami relief.

"The exhibition is being held with the aim to help member artists exchange with foreign artists," said association chairwoman Pham Kim Binh. "We are introducing the faces of Hanoians and of the Vietnamese people in general, while conveying the message that we stand beside Japanese people and share their pain."./.

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