No 3, Vol.6, May – June 2015

In December, 2014, three artists teamed up to create a special event. Artist Tran Thanh Minh, art director of Vi Quan Advertising and Marketing, and martial artist and instructor Truong Quang Huy of Nam Chon Temple organized an unusual double event to create a wonderful Christmas for 110 disabled children in Ho Chi Minh City.

The first event was an unusual art show with paintings by artist Tran Thanh Minh. The exhibition was held on 23 November, 2014, and over 40 paintings by the artist were exhibited and sold. Several abstract paintings were propped up by the entrance to whet our appetites for what was within.

Done in different styles, some of the paintings were of flowers or folk scenes. While the artist downplayed their artistic significance, I was enchanted by the combinations of colours and elements.

One painting was of a simple flower, but the shades of lavender and blue were gorgeous! (Unfortunately, another buyer got there first.) Two women working in the fields seemed at first glance a simple genre painting, yet the artist conveyed the feeling that the women are village rivals.

I was particularly fascinated by paintings reminiscent of ancient Chinese styles, yet each character has a lively personality and there is more to it than meets the eye. An old man holding a glowing globe meets two men in blue, one holding a sleeping baby. The old year greets the new, perhaps handing over the globe of the world or of time.

Board games are popular pursuits found in every culture and one painting shows two men playing, another watching. Change the clothes and alter the style a little and it could be in any century anywhere.

An old man on an ox is a study in contrasts; the old man is contemplative while the youth walking beside him is happy and carefree.

Artist Tran Thanh Minh has a special interest in and compassion for children, especially those who are poor or disabled. In one painting, two poor boys enjoy the snow, or perhaps they are petals of blossoms falling from a tree.

The largest canvas in the show, and another of my personal favourites, was a classic painting of cranes and pine trees, both symbols of longevity. Done in an ancient style, they were perfect symbols for the coming new year.

A pair of more abstract canvases painted as two parts of a whole were simply electrifying! The forms and the wonderful play of colour sent my imagination soaring. Were these the sun and moon in stylized lotus blossoms? Or the regenerative powers of yin and yang? Or something else?

Another favourite was a painting of Mother and Child, the rounded forms giving a feeling of sacredness and the appearance of stained glass.

In one painting, a modern woman dressed in 1940’s style, holds a bird and a ring on her hand. Which is the real treasure, the diamond ring or the bird? What are life’s truest values, the artist seems to ask.

In the painting of a girl and cat sleeping, the angular figure of the girl is contrasted with the soft, circular forms of the cat, the bowl and the table. Is the girl dreaming of a better life? Or perhaps it shows that all beings are united in sleep.

The painting of a boy, a girl and a dove shows childhood innocence, done in a simple folk style with heavy outlining of figures. The influence of cubism is seen but is felt as an integral part of the simple scene.

Mr Minh, who uses the pen-name Vi Tran to sign his paintings, leaves most of his works untitled, allowing the viewer to enter into the painting and experience it through his own perceptions

The second event was really the purpose for which the exhibit and sale were organized. Mr Minh and Mr Truong Quang Huy, martial arts instructor at Nam Chon Temple in District 1, HCMC, joined forces to help Sister Hien create a fun-filled day for the students. ‘The object was to create a joyful Christmas for disabled children,’ said Mr Minh.

The event included a nutritious breakfast of chicken soup, playing games and winning prizes, a delicious lunch, then cake and gifts from Santa.

Both Mr Minh and Mr Huy feel a deep concern and compassion for disabled children. Mr Huy teaches beginning martial arts in local schools to children with special needs, giving them greater co-ordination, strength, confidence and a sense of belonging.

More events are planned for the future. No donations are received, and everything is paid for by the sale of artist Tran Thanh Minh’s paintings. According to the artist, he plans to organize an exhibition in August, 2015. Something to look forward to!



Artist Tran Thanh Minh and children learning martial arts. Photo: Thong Dang

Text & Photos By Jonathan Bar-On