Artist Bui Thanh Tam
Artist Bui Thanh Tam has been inspired by folk material to create his works and encourage his colleagues to preserve and draw attention to traditional art.
His solo exhibition at the Viet Nam Museum of Fine Arts has made an impression with paintings on a combination of the quintessence of traditional and modern art.
The Thể Thao Văn Hóa (Culture and Sport) newspaper interviews Tam about his work
Could you introduce your paintings at the recent exhibition?
I have accessed folk art from the first days of my career. I know and love folk art from my field trips to rural areas which have pagodas, temples and villages.
Kim Hoang, Đong Hồ and Hang Trống are the most famous folk painting genres in the north using dó (poohnah) paper, different techniques, themes and patterns which are typical Vietnamese cultural characteristics. I want to create art with folk material.
I think modern art is known in the world. Masterpieces by Pablo Ruiz Picasso or Vincent van Gogh were also inspired by folk art. Picasso learned from aboriginal art whilst van Gogh studied Japanese engraving.
Many modern artists, including established ones, are returning to their roots, finding cultural identity where they live and creating art based on folk elements.
I want to keep beautiful traditional artistic values of Vietnamese people that are gradually being replaced by foreign cultures and new technologies.
Could you tell us about the process of making these paintings?
The exhibition introduces 20 artworks created using collage. Some pieces are combinations of two or three 1.2m by 1.8m paintings.
I can’t remember how many folk paintings I bought for researching. Folk culture researcher Nguyễn Thị Thu Hòa said the number of paintings I bought was enough to cover the Mỹ Đình Stadium.
I used pieces and patterns made by artisans then painted my own works over that base.
Did you encounter difficulties to complete these paintings?
It took three years to complete the paintings. The biggest difficulty was to decide what material to use for the painting. I met the artisans and commissioned them to make the folk paintings including Kim Hoang painting, Sình painting and worship paintings of the Dao and Mong ethnic groups.
I also had to buy one material from Germany to complete the painting.
Plus, I used golden leaf worth about VNĐ80 million (US$3,500) for the painting entitled Cõi Nhan Gian (In This World). Inlaying the gold leaf on a painting is not new. I used it because it suits some of the paintings. Gold leaf makes paintings more attractive and unique.
Will you continue to use folk paintings in your work?
I have used folk paintings as one of materials to create my works for several series of paintings before. But it has not satisfied me. I want to create art based on traditional culture.
I want to affirm that folk painting still exists in Viet Nam.
You have had several solo exhibitions and many paintings have been sold. Will you sell the paintings at this exhibition?
In the past, I sold paintings to foreign collectors much more than Vietnamese collectors. This time, half of the paintings have been sold to Vietnamese collectors.
I have a plan to introduce my paintings abroad but now I cannot because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
I will display my paintings in HCM City next time. I hope to introduce my paintings to foreign art lovers as soon as possible.
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