Vietnam Artist Nguyen Thanh Binh
Introduction to Nguyen Thanh Binh
Nguyen Than Binh was born in Hanoi in 1954. He graduated from The Vietnam Fine Arts College in 1972 and following that, graduated from the Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts University in 1983.
Than Binh's simple compositions are rendered with subdued hues of creams, browns and whites, only punctuated occasionally with reds and blacks. He likens his preference for simplicity in composition and design to his own way of life, citing that he wants to express the sorrow of the Vietnamese soul in his works.
The elegance of his works moves beyond the form of his subjects and captures their innate grace and beauty that is at once private and at once a collective appreciation of poetic beauty. Than Binh does not just see females for their physical forms but is inspired by the sense of each woman, that elusive feminine mystery that can change like the wind. He looks beyond her attire, imagining her nude as women's bodies be it old, fat or thin, contain secrets. The sense of movement each woman has when she she sits, stands, or lies down, whether dancing or playing sport or working, tells a story about who she is as an individual as well as other stories when she is with other people. To Than Binh, women are always beautiful, from the line of their form to the smoothness of their skin and its texture.
The background itself becomes a subject; albeit pared down, it still suggests textures and backgrounds. When asked about his minimalist approach to his backgrounds, Than Binh cited Japanese poetry as an inspiration. Drawing parallels between haikus and art, Than Binh feels that although a haiku contains only three lines, its meaning is profound and similarly, art can have great meaning with very few colours and details.
Simplicity and Femininity
Nguyen Thanh Binh's art has recently become a phenomenon in Vietnamese art life sphere. Not only was it the supersonic momentum of sales, an unbreakable record for the last few decades and perhaps also in the few coming ones, but also the vast area of the coverage zone named Nguyen Thanh Binh on the current art market.
Nguyen's art doesn't catch the eyes by exotic elements or the visionary hoaxes that jolt back passers-by. His paintings are always tranquil and modest, waiting until we have made a full walk around the gallery to realize their presence as the existence of memories, even though such memories might never have existed before in our mind. His art is both peculiar and familiar, as a sympathetic bridge between the banks of human collective unconsciousness and reality. As long as humankind share their dreams, resentments, regrets as long as human are still yearningly seeking for their identities obscured under cultural variances and dissimilitude, the modest art of Nguyen will always be the hidden aesthetic needs of everyone in every culture.
Nguyen's art is genuinely simple. Simplicity is one of the most indefinable characteristic in art. It is not the minimalist tendency that reduces everything to its basic elements of visual perception, or the search for conventional solutions to formulate perceptive process. His paintings directly describe the objects, displaying their aesthetic objectives in realistic forms. These paintings are simple in the representional methods without projecting the viewers?impression onto thinking schemes. They are simple in the artist's vision of the outer and inner worlds, or in other words, there are on the borderline between these worlds, and thus, they minimize and omit anything that only belongs to one of these worlds. Nguyen's paintings are the visual floor for the overlapping of the outer and inner worlds. In their basic foundation, they seem to be perfunctory and monotonous, as if they were sketches of another masterwork that would come in the forth dimension - time.
The simplicity of the core Eastern arts is often expressed with one word: frugality. The frugality in Nguyen's paintings is modernized by the Western artistic procedures and the oil-on-canvas materials. In the absence of the classical factors such as law of horizontal perspective, the artist still complies to the basic designing techniques given in formal education: model lay-out, body anatomy, shadows and dimensional effects?Yet, above all, the numerous variances of the most frugal colors: white, light yellow, light brow, light gray..., sprinkling with some acute patches, compose a concerto of complicated feelings. It is these genuine feelings that guide the artwork over and above the common tastes to find shelters in our modest dreams. The residency in dreams gives his paintings overwhelming empty space, half surreal and half substantial. Even faces are opaque patches. Has any dream ever emerged with full details in consciousness? Our imagination complements faces with the gleam of certain eyes, the corner of a mouth, and completes the seemingly unfinished strokes of the artist. This impression of incompletion seems to fulfill the artwork. It is fulfilling in the mind of the viewers. This is also the basic aesthetic foundation of Eastern visual arts.
The frequent topics of Nguyen's paintings are schoolgirls in tunics, ballet dancers, nude females and mother and child. His nude paintings, though passionate and sensual, are sometimes a manner of displaying art techniques: lay-outs, colors and forms?However, the series of paintings on mother and child are the most emotive. Solely with the modest patches of color that recreating the images of maternal love, the series convey the most feminine feelings of the artist, as the most profound bell toll of human souls. Nguyen's art is spilling with feminine emotions. The femininity in arts always creates a mysterious seduction when concealed behind frugality, especially in the sphere of dreams. His paintings are permeated with the Eastern ambience, thus his dreams are vastly discriminate from the surrealist style which radiates a kind of masculine energy, with the exemplar of Salvador Dali.
The frugality is also the discriminating feature between Nguyen's and Vietnamese folkloric arts such as Dong Ho or Hang Trong, though he always wanted to position himself within these traditional art schools. If he ever inherits anything from folkloric art, that would be the simple style in familiar topics, without the common characteristics of folkloric paintings such as naivety or primitiveness.
Overcoming both the psychological barriers of preserving traditions and going back to the roots, and the opposite trend of fashionization?commonly found in post-colonized cultures, Nguyen's art has opened his own path, being natural without naturalism, with liberal but effectual strokes, with realistic style stripped off the background of reality. The simplicity and frugality of his emotional paintings spring up from a plain but delicate view on general beauty.
Perhaps the attraction and the ever-growing market of Nguyen Thanh Binh's is and will remain a seemingly easy question, yet the answer always slips off phenomena to fall into an empty space, the tranquil vacuum spreading throughout his artworks.