The Circle of Time
Let’s talk a little bit now about the series The Circle of Time. The paintings I’ve working on in this series were done by chance. An artist’s preparation of supplies and ideas has something similar to the work of a tailor, who needs materials and supplies. So what are my materials, they are parts of images I observed outside and inside my living space. At home I display antique pieces that I like, they become sources of inspiration, and I leave them around me. In my house, there are always places to display objects, décor items, old sculptures, ceramics, wooden pieces... these are images, colors, creative methods, ideas on materials and time that I want to see, as they inspire me emotionally and motivate me in my work.
And in this image, you can see it’s a spring scene with peach blossoms and a romantic scene with two birds, enjoying a moment on the branch. Normally, as I start a series by choosing items from daily life, from our culture, spirit, nature, and faith... This is a detail from a couplet from the South. There are various pieces of pearl and shells used in the inlaid. Within the circles of traditional woodworkers, these are considered less sophisticated compared to the way inlaid is done in the North or in Hue. For example, in the pieces from the North, there are decorative designs with particular standards, like the four seasons, the four sacred animals, combined with calligraphy or mixed elements of the Eight Ritual Objects. Meanwhile, the couplets in the South often include objects from daily life, ancient games and toys, and religious items. I believe that in the South, they incorporate into their decorative pieces whatever items used in daily or religious activities as design elements. I think the images contain a certain creative style, a poetic quality, and a freedom that’s different from the North when it comes to how they choose a theme, or designs that can be easily seen and compared.
This is a detailed view of the phoenix and the turtle among the four sacred animals, and surrounding them are clouds that look like blossoming flowers, a representation of the legend of the heron riding on the back of the turtle. I find in this a decorative approach that I like, including the octagonal mirror on the top. I find it exciting, and many of the images give me ideas for my own work. It opens up many ways to draw items as well as how to see spatial relations and scale.
Before talking about the three-dimensional appearance on the surface of the painting, I want to speak a little about my work, about the concepts, or how artistic ideas come to me. I think they can come from a mistake, or a faulty product, such as the damage details in the old couplet. It’s precisely because of the details from the damaged couplet with the images of springtime, or summer, which I bought and brought home many years ago. When I first looked at it, I found it really attractive but didn’t even understand the reason. At that moment, I didn’t know how I would use it...
It is a damaged product, not pleasant enough to display in one’s home. Once in a while, I’d bring it out of storage, set it up in the studio to look at it for a while then I’d put it away. Then one spring in Ha Noi, with the endless misty rain, the air turned extremely humid, everything seemed depressing and dark. I got up and went out in the mornings, but I was bored with the cafes, bored even with seeing people. I returned to my studio, turned on the lights and music, and contemplated the scene of peach blossoms in the damaged couplet, with some petals missing. I realized at that moment the peach flowers blossoming incompletely seem to be opening up at night, the faded black surface around it all scratched up, traces of the passage of time... I felt uplifted in the wet dreary days of spring... All the images reminded me of so many things.

( Excerpt from interview with curator Natalia Kraevskaia, Vincom Center for Contemporary Arts, Hanoi, July 2017 )