Phu's World — Tran Viet Phu
“Tran Viet Phu’s world” is back.
The artist returns with a recently completed collection of paintings following a seven year hiatus since his last solo exhibition in 2007. Phu’s world is filled with the familiar objects which the artist has always chosen to make the subjects of his work. The corner of an old house, a tiny rusty balcony, the blank space inside a cheap apartment, a midnight garden… Those well known settings which are so familiar to us all.
After many years observing Phu struggle with his challenging surroundings, I have finally stopped questioning why he does not choose more elegant or attractive scenarios; something that would brighten the walls of our homes or which the majority of people would find more suitable. The glamour and gracefulness inherent in his work is more than enough. The attractive, magical lighting one sees in his work is clearly within his power to create. The dexterity and elegance of his paintings are a part of his very nature.
Phu decisively rejects the decorative function of his paintings. What he aims for is not really radical or draconian in the way that he organizes his compositions, but instead the slow removal of detail. He pays less and less heed to affectation and decoration, and to the shapes of items and surrounding nature. The sharp shapes and clear vision of objects become illusory in his view. To go to his world, everything must be relaxed, empty. And at that moment, when we are in his world, all that is left in front of us is rustic and primordial. We will be haunted by the hollowness and the emptiness. Then rhymes appear. They are rhymes of light, and of shadow. Long, short, fuzzy rhymes, and rhymes of independent tones, all combining to construct the vibration of the light in his paintings. The light is formed by itself; the light is weak, depressed, and lonely. Hovering above it all is Tran Viet Phu himself, and his creative personality as an artist.
The demands of Phu’s extremely sophisticated sensibility will at times cause him to reach a sticking point which halts his progress. Unfinished paintings will collect as a result while he works through his process. This does not deter him, however, or cause him to give up. Only by continuing to press on will he be able to satisfy his unique artistic sensibility while at the same time creating a dream world that touches the blind corners of feelings and emotions in us the viewers.
When we witness a performance on stage, we have many ways to interpret the messages of the performers and each of us feels our own special way. It might be because of the melody, the beautiful lyrics about love, or philosophical musings about our own temporal lives. It might be the skill of the professional singers and their impressive vocal range. However, the certain thing is that a good voice is not the only thing. A priceless performance is one that allows us to feel the rawness, the sincerity within it. An artist who can achieve that reaction must themselves possess that artistic instinct. It is something special, valuable. It comesunconciously from the deepest part of an artist's soul. That way of viewing art also applies to how we look at the paintings of Tran Viet Phu. Viewing them, it is unnecessary for us to think hard about what their meanings are. There is no complexity. There is no flowery philosophy. His paintings are simple, raw and real. They are like mirrors that will reflect the feelings of the audience. Standing in front of them, we unconsciously see the reflection of our own sentiments. What we can derive from Phu’s paintings is not excitement nor ecstasy. It is something quiet, tender. It is still strong enough, however, to let us know the hidden parts within us. There will be feebleness. There will be helplessness. There will be things that we cannot easily share with others. There will be pride within the dreariness. And the anxiety we have for something in life will also be revealed. That is art. It is unique. It is difference. It is originality. Only that can bring us to the world of beauty, of love. It is simple yet timeless and unchangeable.
Duong Thu Hang - Hanoi Studio