A BRIEF HISTORY OF VIETNAM FINE ART
By Artist Nguyen Thanh Binh, 2000
The history of Vietnam Fine Arts has began when the French colonialists established the "Fine Arts College of Indochine" (FACI) which exclusively opened for the three Indochine countries Viet Nam,Laos and Cambodia following an allaround European training method.
In 1945, the Communist Party of Viet Nam (Viet Minh) led a general resistance against the French invaders in order to gain the independence for the country.
A part of Vietnamese intellectuals, including some of the most symbolic artists such as To Ngoc Van, Tran Van Can, Nguyen Do Cung, Phan Ke An, Luong Xuan Nhi follow this patriotic insurrection and formed a new artist generation.
Meanwhile, remaining in some big cities was a smaller part of famous artists such as Nguyen Gia Tri, Le Ba Dang, Le Pho, Mai Trung Thu, Le Thi Luu...
The year 1954 was marked by Dien Bien Phu Victory and Viet Nam was temporarily devided into two regions, North and South, according to the Geneva Argreement. While North Viet Nam undertook the establishment of a socialist system, in South of Viet Nam, replacing French Forces, the American continued to maintain the parting of the country. In accordance with the Geneva Agreement's consents, a party of intellectuals regrouped in the North from the South and vice versa, there were other groups moved to the South from the North. This event caused a tragic seperation of Viet Nam Fine Arts.
In North of Vietnam, Nguyen Sang, Bui Xuan Phai, Duong Bich Lien, Luu Cong Nhan, Nguyen Tu Nghiem and several young generation artists were trained under the socialistic drawing methods, appreared with some good works showing characters of the new political system. In South Viet Nam, those names Nguyen Trung, Dinh Cuong, Nguyen Lam, Nguyen Phuoc, Nguyen Khai, Nhieu De with their intentions and efforts towards innovation has made a first step to individual creative works.
In 1975, when the war ended, Viet Nam became a unified country. However there were no great changes in Vietnamese Fine Arts due to unavoidable conflict between the two different Northern and Southern cultures. From the year of 1985, the government has carried on an overall economical and social reform and worked out an "opening policy" so as to be able to enter the general world trend to improve the country in all aspects. During this period, there appeared great changes in Vietnam Fine Arts. Althouth some extreme turbulances couldn't be avoided at first, but later several brilliant artists with their individual creative styles began to show up without abandoning their traditional inheritance.
Basically, Vietnam Fine Arts has been bearing the seal of an agricultural tradition, attaching to the community life of small villages under the influence of confucianism, a tradition with more poectic than creative features. Thus, we can hardly find any new trends or thouthts except those coming from the outside world which have been changed in accordance to Vietnamese life. It's not to say that contemporary and modern art don't exist here but in fact, there have been no impressive or monumental works showing any philosophical traits (if there any, it would only illustrate an available philosophy or school of thought).
If brief, whatever styles or whatever material a Vietnamese Art Work shows, it mainly represents a quiet beauty or even simplicity of Vietnamese people whose for their long history only struggle against invasions.