(No.6, Vol.6,Aug-Sep 2016 Vietnam Heritage Magazine)

No great surprise it was to come across one of my favourite Vietnamese artists, Nguyen Quang Vinh, at an exhibition on the two upper floors at Blanc Café, located in the deep recesses of H.C.M.C.’s District Three the other day. I have written about his varied work twice for this magazine. He is a close associate of UrbanArt, the organisers of this show. What was exciting was to learn that the three exhibitors are all student protégées of his at the University of Art and in their fourth year of study. The exhibition is aptly titled ‘New Wave’. There are sixteen works in all for one to see.
First to catch the eyes are the pastel shades of a group of oil-on-canvass works by Nguyen Thi Minh Nhut. They all feature a portrait of a young girl. She is shown in among fruit trees or against the branches of leafy boughs of autumnal trees. The dreamy quality reaches a peak in one frame in which the child appears to be swimming like a water baby in an underwater world of fish and sea creatures. On close inspection, we see that the fish, squid and octopus are actually soft toys made of patched cloth. These paintings evoke an ideal childhood of innocence, freshness and wonder at life. I like to term this ‘de-stressor art’.
Tran Thi Ai Van seems to be a more complex artist. Her most striking painting is of a girl with her face close to a door painted bright blue. Reflected in the panes of the door is the street outside, featuring a factory with its chimney. Behind the girl is a long, empty corridor with its floor scrubbed clean and shining brightly. I found it brooding and mysterious, speaking of loneliness and a lack of fulfilment. What it might mean could be a conversation piece for the person who buys this to discuss with his or her visitors.
Other pictures by Ai Van include a self-portrait with a much-distorted neck which I can not imagine she has in real life. Then there is a frame of three girls in their underwear with a ball of unravelling red wool. This artist seems to be developing as a colourist, as there is another portrait of a pretty girl with flags around her against a background of exquisite shades of blue and green.
Nguyen Xuan Nghi, like the others, paints largely realistically and uses oil on canvass. She has a pleasing portrait of a young woman, titled simply ‘My Friend’. Her most interesting work for me was a detailed scene of a pottery workshop. Perhaps she has talent with ceramics too?
Only one frame could be called in any way abstract. It is called ‘Playing with Boxes’. It is quite geometric, with lines bending and intertwining and has the general appearance of a wrought iron railing turned into art.
My friend Quang Vinh certainly seems to have nurtured some talent. Gratitude too should be expressed to UrbanArt for championing not only great oaks, but budding saplings as well and also to Blanc Cafe for providing the space in a corner of a bustling city with their array of excellent refreshments on hand for accompaniment. The next generation has made its debut, and if this sample is anything to go by, the future looks bright for Vietnamese art. Why not pop along and see with your eyes and feel with your own heart.

‘New Wave Art Exhibition’ is on show at Blanc Cafe at 57D Tu Xuong St., Dist. 3, HCMC till 25 August.