Last night, at Sunrise Hotel, Discover Nha Trang launched the 5th edition of its tourism magazine – “Arts & Culture Edition”. The event was co-hosted with the launch of the Sea of Love Art Exhibition by Pham Luc – The Picasso of Vietnam, who was showcasing 74 of his paintings that, remarkably, were painted in only 20 days. The event was sponsored by Sunrise Nha Trang Beach Hotel & Spa, Emperor Cruises and Tan Khoa Wine.
Often referred to as The Picasso of Vietnam, Pham Luc is one of Vietnam’s most celebrated painters. The exhibition, “Sea of Love”, showcases his varied skill and mastery of painting. This collection conveys the wonder of the sea, and the intricate relationship shared by different people with the water and coastline .
Born in 1943, Luc has been around paint brushes for some 70 years. From the age of 3, he tried to turn things into paint brushes. It could be a piece of brick or charcoal, a tree branch, or a stone, and everywhere was his canvas. Many times he was scolded by his neighbors, whose house walls he used to express himself.
Growing up during wartime, the young Luc became a soldier after graduating from the Hanoi College of Fine Arts. But his passion for painting never ceased and his constant companion was some paper, a brush and paints. “The mission of a painter is to record what he observes. Life is so colorful and I don’t want to miss a thing, which is why I paint constantly,” Luc explained. After finishing his army service, he started different canvases in every corner in his home, which became his working space. “Just leave me alone in a room with an old radio playing pre-war Vietnamese music, and I’ll work spontaneously, by feeling, without sketches,” he said.
Due to regular headaches from high blood pressure, Luc has suffered from insomnia since he was 14. Many new ideas flash into his mind at night when he tosses and turns in bed. He usually has no idea whether it comes from reality or a dream, but he quickly gets to the canvas to depict the idea. Whenever he touches a brush his headaches ease, and he feels like falling into a dream. He sometimes forgets his nocturnal creativity, waking in the morning to be pleasantly surprised at the new addition to his collection.
Luc never limits himself in a particular style either. From his studies of the French school of European Art or Chinese watercolours, his work reflects where East meets West. He also challenges himself in different techniques – oil paintings, lacquer, silk paintings and wood engraving are just some of those that he works with regularly.
The characters in Luc’s paintings are also diverse, such as a local market, Tet (New Year) paintings or depictions of famous historical figures. Women seem to inspire him most. It may be a woman in an old dress giving her son a bicycle ride during wartime, another collecting mussels on the shore, or an old woman selling fruit at the market. Luc’s sympathy towards and love of women in his paintings also brought him true love. A French lady who fell in love with his art bought many of his paintings on credit. Three years later she took him to a villa, which was his payment, and proposed to him. With his wife’s support, his paintings have now been displayed worldwide to critical acclaim.
Among modern Vietnamese painters, Luc is the only one who has a fan club collecting his work. More than a hundred of its members have some 6,000 of his paintings and regularly hold exhibitions. More than just a collector, Pham Ha, co-founder of Emperor Cruises, also counts himself as a friend of Luc, and hangs some of his masterpieces on his cruise boats in Halong Bay and Nha Trang.
“Each of his pieces is unique, full of love, hope and meaning, telling stories with his distinctive style. His art helps viewers more easily understand Vietnamese culture through his visual language and artistic expression”, said Ha. Having lived through numerous conflicts, the horrors of war, and many decades of cultural and political upheaval in Vietnam, Luc has created an immersive and highly emotive voyage through history. It represents a bridge between the 20th and 21st centuries, a visual representation of the history, heritage, culture and diversity of Vietnamese life.
Luc has visited Nha Trang many times, but “Sea of Love” marks his first full display in here, and he will present a collection of 74 pieces that cover various painting genres including townscapes, seascapes, figurative composition, intimate nudes and self-portraits. The works are done in a variety of classical painting media – oil on canvas, oil on paper, gouache and watercolor, as well as in the traditional Vietnamese lacquer technique. His trademark paintings of oil on rice sacks are also prominent in the collection.
From a child street-vendor selling desserts on the beach, a wounded soldier coming back to the sea with his guitar, to two young ladies lying on a pristine beach, there are rich and varied emotions expressed through Pham Luc’s gifted hands. “I do hope that people enjoy seeing my exhibition, and that it gives them a deeper understanding of Vietnam and its people”, he concluded. The official exhibition runs until 22nd of October at Sunrise Nha Trang Beach Hotel & Spa, however, a curated selection will be on permanent display for those interested in seeing his wonderful artwork.