The exhibition would not have happened without a fluke that happened over two years ago. Officials from the French Embassy in Hanoi were visiting the Hien Van ceramics workshop, which is run by descendants of Mong Bich, when they discovered paintings by the artist. Moved by these works, they suggested that Mong Bich organize a monographic exhibition for him. She hesitated for a long time before finally agreeing, to the great satisfaction of Thierry Vergon, Director of Space.
“For us, this is arguably the most important event of the year. This is the first solo exhibition of an artist who has had a long career behind her with a lot of work done during different time periods. It takes place at a time when the artist felt the need to present all of his work to the public, ”he says.
The artist, who has led a life of recluse for several decades, had never had a personal exhibition, on the one hand for lack of resources, and on the other hand because his works never followed the great trends of his time.
Little known to the media and the general public, Mong Bich nevertheless established himself in the community of initiates. “Her features are as hard as silk engravings, engravings imprinted with emotion… Her works are as many dialogues with life, each line being a sentence pronounced slowly and distinctly… She does not paint much, but the little that she does. she lets us show that she is one of the last among the rare artists to know silk deeply and to know how to dialogue correctly with this material ”, thus remarked the painter Do Duc in an article entitled“ The secular tree of the village paintings of silk ”, published in August 2019 in the Revue des beaux-arts.
Mong Bich herself has a very simple vision. For her, nature deserves a lifetime of trying to describe its beauty. According to Tran Van Can, one of her masters, "she paints with her instinct and her emotions". Her first major work is “The Mother and Her Child” depicting a woman breastfeeding her baby. She sent it to a competition organized in the Viet Bac region in 1961. No doubt the organizers found no interest in it since they left the painting lying around at the foot of a wall. It was by chance, again a happy coincidence, that the painters Tran Van Can, Pham Huy Thong and a Polish academician saw it. They judged that this painting simply deserved the top prize. It will be done.
While the national fine arts were dominated by propaganda posters, Mong Bich was passionate about portraits of ordinary people: a beggar, an ethnic minority, a child Her paintings sold poorly, but she did not complain. . "If running behind money can lead to a rise in living standards, it can also lead to the loss of art," she tells us.
It is since his retirement that Mong Bich has been able to fully invest in his art, his children having grown up and the national economy having improved.
“Everywhere I went, I made sketches that would serve as the basis for my silk paintings. But at a certain age, you can't move around. This is what made me decide to do a lot of sketches, sketches detailed enough to become paintings in their own right. I wouldn't have to come back to this place to find more details, ”she says.
"At nearly 90 years old, Mong Bich not only lived longer than most of her generation, she represents the changes experienced by the fine arts in particular and Vietnam in general over the last century", notes Professor Nora A.Taylor, of the Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago, who sees in the exhibition at the Espace “a recognition of the unique place that Mong Bich occupies in Vietnamese fine arts”. "Her paintings transcend all movements in which most generations have been involved. They are a nice reminder of the universality of human values, ”he adds.
Mong Bich's "Between Two Centuries" exhibition will last until November 22 at Espace, 24 Trang Tien, Hanoi.
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