(No.6, Vol.4,Jul-Aug 2014 Vietnam Heritage Magazine)

It is always worth popping your head into the lobby of the Sofitel Saigon. One corner of the voluminous hall is usually given over to an exhibition of paintings or photography. The other day I was invited there for a ‘vernissage’, or in English, a ‘varnishing’. New word for you? It certainly was for me. It simply means a small party to which a privileged few are invited in order to see a preview of an art exhibition.
The artist in question is Mr Bui Tien Tuan. The exhibition is entitled ‘Frivolity 2.0’. The show consists of a dozen or so frames a graceful lady flaunting herself in various poses. I was not the only one to notice a similarity with those pictures of Japanese ladies of the Meiji Restoration that once very much in vogue in Europe. Yet here the face is very much Vietnamese.
The artist paints in ink and water colours on silk canvass. He is very much a colourist, using pale pastel hues mainly of red and black. Interestingly, he leaves the exposed skin parts unpainted-leaving just the silky white of the canvass. After all a young woman’s skin ideally should be as smooth as silk.
The poses are varied. You see the girl sleeping, dancing, sweeping her arms in almost karate fashion, reclining, pulling back her hair and pouting, and seemingly showing off a new dress. The facial expression on each of these wide ranging frames is varied. In some, she appears aggressive and menacing. The small group I was with all agreed that she looked her most serene in the two sleeping pictures. Another point of interest is that he paints arms and limbs out of proportion-of exaggerated length.
The artist, his wife and young daughter were in attendance. It was clear he had used his wife as his model.
Once again, the Sofitel whilst being a very French hotel has shown it engages fully with local culture. It shows its business attitude is ‘Win Win Win’. The hotel itself gains a lot of kudos from showcasing Vietnamese artistic talent. The artist himself and his agent reach a wider audience than in a dusty gallery. Furthermore, this a place frequented by the well-heeled, who may well wish to purchase one of these freshly original and beautiful paintings. Finally, the public in general is given a free show. If you find yourself in the area and can spare a little time why not give it a whirl yourself?
Frivolity 2.0 Art Exhibition by Bui Tien Tuan in co-operation with the Craig Douglas Art Gallery is on show at the Sofitel Saigon Plaza Hotel 17 Le Duan Boulevard, District 1 from 10 July until the end of September, 2014.

By Ritch Pickens