Adsense Top Bar

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pham Luc, North Vietnam's Soldier-Painter, and Living Legend

I received an email yesterday from a certain Mr Phuc (of Vietnam Pathfinder Travel) in Hà Nội which read: "I found your website and contact at Crowded World and would like to sell some paintings of Pham Luc Artists in my collection (at attached files). Pham Luc artist live in Hanoi, Vietnam. He is around 70years old now and some of my paintings bought from him that was painted during Vietnam war time (60-70)."

Nude, painted by Pham Luc from Hanoi.
Nude with flowers, by Pham Luc (courtesy Vietnam Pathfinder Travel)
In a land which reveres patriots, Phạm Lực occupies a particularly hallowed position among the pantheon of heroes: he served in the North Vietnamese army as a painter-propagandist, using art not just as a witness, but as a weapon. That said, his paintings don't appear particularly militaristic: nudes, still lifes and pastoral idylls are among his most common motifs. While the Americans and other counter-revolutionary forces that he confronted brandished state-of-the-art cameras to record their side of the war, Phạm had to make do with good old-fashioned paint, canvas and brush. When canvas dried up, he reverted to painting on burlap rice sacks, as one foreigner who visited his home in Hà Nội remarked. "The paintings from the war are rat-eaten and shrapnel-ridden but embody an irrepressible spirit," the visitor wrote. "They are darker in composition and content than his later works, which are equally fine. The painting which I call Forbidden was painted in 1974 at the close of the war. This painting of a beautiful woman during wartime conditions was against socialist dictum of the time. Phạm Lực hid the work for over a decade before he could display it." (Note: this is not the nude painting depicted above, which I received from Mr Phuc, but there is doubtless some resemblance between the works. It all goes to show that despite being a nationalist and patriot, Phạm was no stooge. In his mind, perhaps, the revolution could never be curtailed by dogma, or realpolitik. As Trotsky famously proclaimed, the revolution should be eternal! But that is my take on the story, so it ought to be disclosed as such.)

Still life, painted by Pham Luc from Hanoi.
Flowers with lamp, by Pham Luc (courtesy Vietnam Pathfinder Travel)
The picture above is a still life, one of the literally thousands of paintings Phạm Lực has produced over the years. If you are in Hà Nội and have the chance, you can visit the artist at his home, and perhaps even have your portrait painted by him. He has become something of a celebrity in the northern art scene, something of a living legend. Ambassadors from other countries own his works.

Landscape, painted by Pham Luc from Hanoi.
Pastoral landscape by Pham Luc (courtesy Vietnam Pathfinder Travel)
The landscape above has something of a pastoral dimension. As with the two other paintings featured on this page, it is available from Vietnam Pathfinder Travel in Hà Nội. If you represent an artist or gallery in Vietnam and would like to promote your works on this site, please let me know. Leave a comment below, contact me on Facebook or Soundcloud or YouTube or Quora or Twitter or whatever, or just send me an email. I am always keen to make new friends!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...