Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Interviewing Mr Minh/ Ty

Mr Minh, Artist in Nha Trang

Craft and cottage industries receive quite a lot of attention in the media in Vietnam. Documentary programs and newspaper articles on the various artisans’ communities and villages around Hanoi are common. Artists who paint images of unisex beings suffering mental and physical torture do not get much press. For many years I had no idea that one of the guys I had been playing tennis with is an accomplished artist.

Mr Minh, Artist in Nha Trang

Born in 1960, Mai Hoang Minh, originally from Hue but currently living in Nha Trang, has produced over 500 paintings in the past 7 years. Minh is a self-taught painter who has not only studied his craft but also the theory and history of art. For 20 years, art has been his passion. A few years ago when I saw his paintings, I thought they were quite difficult to understand and confronting but life is complicated and as I get older I know that people experience all kinds of difficulties in their lives. I suppose Minh's paintings could represent that.

Mr Minh, Artist in Nha Trang

I met him again in Nha Trang recently.

How well-known are you in Vietnam?

My paintings are not as popular in Viet Nam but western people seem to enjoy collecting them. This is probably because I paint very abstractly and Vietnamese generally prefer realism in their art. In Vietnam, art is not emphasized in the education system unfortunately, and visiting art galleries here is mostly a pastime for foreigners.

What media do you work in?

Mostly oil on canvas.

When did you start to take a different direction with your work?

I started painting more abstractly in 2000 to set myself apart from other artists. I wanted to break away from the norm, to make my work stand out. I wasn’t sure how well it would be received as I know my abstract work can be confronting. When I first started painting this way, I knew it would take a while for people to take it seriously. Some people say it is depressing.

Some of the images are quite dark and disturbing. Do you set out to shock people?

No, not at all. I think it is more about awakening. The language of art makes people feel and perhaps face things from their pasts, to maybe realize what is missing. It is true that some people may be shocked and may look for a message or some meaning. I don’t paint with a message or cause in mind – that is more the realm of the people viewing the paintings. Their reactions are individual reactions, not collective ones.

You talked about art as a subject in Vietnam’s education system. What are your views on how art is taught here?

I think the teachers are very much holding onto old methodology and ideas. In art classes here, the teachers force students to follow old rules, to paint old concepts of beauty, like rural scenes and street scenes. But art and the world are things that are constantly evolving and changing. We all view the world in a different way, experience beauty in different things. Creativity needs to be encouraged and rewarded, regardless of traditional concepts of beauty.

What advice would you give to young students currently studying art?

My advice would be to embrace and learn all of the technical knowledge and skills that they can from school art classes but be bold enough to break the rules to follow their individual creative paths. It may take longer to succeed but persistence is necessary, particularly in the arts.

You mentioned that your work receives attention from foreign art lovers. Can you talk about that?

Well, I’ve been lucky enough to exhibit outside Vietnam on several occasions. I’ve had individual shows in California and Colorado. In France, too, in a town called Valenciennes in the north. At the moment I have several paintings in a show at the Fresno Discovery Museum in California.

Mr Minh, Artist in Nha Trang

Minh’s work can be viewed at his studio in Nha Trang (4 Nguyen Thien Thuat St).
Minh's website:


Anonymous said...

Very interesting paintings. this is the first time i ever see this paintings. Love it

Anonymous said...

Would it be possible to add a contact email to your profile? I have a few questions to ask you about blogging in Vietnam and would like your input.

Eric L.

chanchow said...

great profile. i will be in hanoi in the spring and have been reading about the art galleries that have cropped up. looking forward to it.

Van Cong Tu said...

Thanks for all comments.
my email is

chanchow : Hope you have a good time in Hanoi.

Anonymous said...







Unknown said...

Thank nice your post.