People who visited the L'Espace cultural centre in downtown Hanoi recently may have witnessed a peculiar sight, a herd of seven horses made of paper mache that appear to be grazing peacefully in a field.

The horses arrived at L'Espace, 24 Trang Tien street, as part of artist Trieu Tuan Long's first installation: Information Transmitted by Horse Riding.

Photos pasted onto the horse figures depict the relationship between French and Vietnamese culture. The exhibition will run until October 26.

"The art works well with the fact that this is the year of horse," Long said. "But I was inspired by people making paper horses in Phuc Am village on the western outskirts of Hanoi."

Long spent about a year crafting the statues, he said. They are similar, but differ in size and decoration. To make them, he first fashioned a skeleton out of bamboo, and then covered it in layers upon layers of paper – like the traditional process for making paper masks.

Thousands of photos gathered by Long and his friends were then pasted to the outermost layer of paper. The largest horse weighs about 30 kilograms and is made from 300 layers of paper.

Each horse's photo reflects a particular theme or place, such as Ta Hien old street; French colonial buildings; French performances in Hanoi; examples of French architecture, such as the Opera House, the Cathedral and Hang Dau Post Office; French and Vietnamese children; and cultural exchanges between France and Vietnam.

"I wanted to express the long term relationship between the French and Vietnamese people in a more friendly and casual way," Long said. "It's the way that ordinary people talk to one another, not the way of diplomats."

Long said he wanted visitors to think about the messages the animals conveyed, instead of learning by sitting in front of a television or computer.

"Although the photos were printed in a random way, I find the most interesting pictures under the horses' bellies and legs," said student Vu Thu Phuong.

She bent lower and lower to see the pictures farther down the horse. "The photos tell me a vivid story about French people's feelings toward Vietnamese people and vice versa."-VNA