No 3, Vol.8 ,July – August 2015

Alone’, oil on canvas, by Lim Khim Ka Ty

Trifurcation’ is not a word you come across every day, but there it was in the literature for the Craig Thomas Gallery’s latest exhibition. The customs, cuisines, language and even perhaps the character of the people of Vietnam differ in the three regions of North, Centre, and South. This extends, I learned recently, to Art-as the three main art schools of Hanoi, Hue and Saigon tend to produce artists who employ differing styles and techniques.
As part of its sixth birthday celebration, the Craig Thomas Gallery currently is holding an exhibition of twenty-eight frames by fifteen artists from across the country. It is aptly named ‘One Country’. Along with other writers and art luminaries and art lovers, I was invited to the premier held at the gallery, which is housed in a charming villa at the end of a cul-de- sac in a quiet area of HCMC’s District One.

In The Midst of Life’, collage, acrylic on canvas, by Ngo Van Sac

All but five of these pictures are either portraits or feature people. I have noticed in general, Vietnamese regard a photograph without a person in it as a waste. This often seems to be the case for art, too. Two pairings facing each other were in stark contrast. A Hanoi artist has two pictures of angry policemen, while the duo opposite by an artist from Ho Chi Minh City depicts everything in the garden as fine, with children happily playing while a beaming Uncle Ho benevolently looks down upon them from a tree. The exhibition got off to a flying start as somebody bought a policeman painting- ‘Glorious’ by Nguyen Hung Son with a price tag of $6,000.
The portraits can be realistic. One, perhaps reaffirming Vietnam’s reputation of being one of the world’s happiest countries, is of a smiling young lady under her conical hat. Another, entitled ‘Alone’ has another young woman, feet up on a chair eating rice at a table. The more abstract portraits play to the observer’s emotions with titles such as ‘Dreamy Age’ ‘Land of Memory’ and ‘In the Midst of Life’. There are also a couple of nude paintings, which amply illustrate the Spanish architect Gaudi’s dictum that ‘the straight line belongs to God; the curve to woman (slightly misquoted).

Ho Chi Minh’ by Tran Quoc Tuan. Photos provided by Craig Thomas Gallery

Regarding techniques and materials used, oil on canvas seems to the most popular. There is also mixed media and acrylic on canvas. Oil and lacquer on wood takes one back to former times while digital art on canvas brings us up to date. Acrylic on Do paper and lacquer, glass, and inox are perhaps the most unusual materials in use. I have noticed before Vietnamese artists as a whole love colour. The most favoured colours in this exhibition are shades of blue, red and gold.
If you are interested in Vietnamese art and want the ‘big picture’, the Craig Thomas gallery is one place to find it. Mr Thomas has assembled a wide range of paintings that show what the country as a whole is capable of producing and is to very high standards. This exhibition rams home the point that variety is the spice of art as well as life in general. There is something here for everybody’s taste.
Catalogue price range from $400 (VND8,400,000) to $10,000 (VND210
millions). The exhibition is on till 25 July.n

Craig Thomas Gallery
27i Tran Nhat Duat St, Tan Dinh Ward, Dist.1, Ho Chi Minh City
12:00 – 18:00 – Tuesdays through Saturdays; 13:00 – 17:00 – Sundays and Mondays;
Otherwise by appointment, call Craig at 0903 888 431 or Thu at 0937 112 341

By Pip De Rouvray