For me the most important thing is expression. It is not my intention to be either Eastern or Western. When I paint, I do not think about East or West but only about conveying my feelings.” Hau says.
I see my soul more clearly now and I can paint more beautifully. As I get older, I find my real self in my art. Finding myself, I am more at ease with my art”. At sixty-three, Tran Luu Hau’s artistic confidence and assuredness of craft resonate from paper, canvas and silk. The objects remain the vehicle for the expression of emotions, the village a source of inspiration, but like many fine artists, his work has gotten better with age, one is tempted to say more youthful-looser, more colorful, more expressive in its “subjective deformation of nature.” To the warm browns of the 1960s’ landscape have been added vibrant reds and yellows and glowing whites. Hau’s still-lifes explode with colour. Hau is very much a painter who is in full command of his materials and appers to know exactly where he wants to go.
Perhaps his mastery comes from having faced the realities of life and death as a young student in the Viet Bac and having seen a bit more of the world than most Vietnamese artists. He studied art and theater design in Moscow for six years and had the opportunity to see art from all over the world. He taught for twenty-eight years at the Hanoi School of Fine Arts, has been a leading member of the Association of Plastic Arts Workers – most recently chairperson of its Artistic Council – and is conversant with European and American art. In 1990 he spent two months in Paris where he had an exhibition at Vietnam House.
Hau grows impatience when asked, likely for the umpteenth time, the difference between Eastern and Western painting: “What is important is to express one’s emotions it is a short step to “spirit” and “soul”, staples of Vietnamese aesthetic discourse.
“Realism is dull” says Hau in echo of Matisse’s famous dictum,” Exactitude is not the truth.” An artist must “capture the spirit of the sense” not bury him or herself in details. The twentieth – century painters he admires from Matisse, Derain and Renault to Kline, Tobey, de Kooning and Pollock are artists of expressive energy and spirit, artists more interested in the emotional unity of their work than its faithfulness to external reality. Even the early maters he admires – Grotto, EL Greco, and Rembrandt – had a Modernist disinterest in detail. What mattered was of EL Greco’s Spain to Gauguin’s Tahiti and Matisse’s France to Hau’s Vietnamese village. While in Moscow the international exhibition that had the greatest impression on him was of modern Japanese paintings with their “very high quality of generalization.” Hau said they created a “very real yet in no way naturalistic worlds”.
You do not sense in Hau maturity and assuredness a dead end complacency:
Just the opposite: you sense his works will be even more expensive that like an artistic test pilot, he will push outward the edges of his creative envelope. “I have more work to do than I have done or even imagined”, he says. “All of my past paintings were experiments for what I want to paint”.
“From that I know of world art, I feel that I am nothing but a small dot in an immense sea. Art is something marvelous and mystic. Often you would get hold of it, but eventually you don’t. An unending search and hunting. A tough struggle to affirm oneself and then to negate oneself. As regards myself, there is another simple reason: whenever I sit in front of my easel I feel joy, serenity, hope, and I forget all the hardships and mishaps of everyday life”. Hau says.
The teacher and mentor for many of Vietnam’s young artists, Tran Luu Hau is an extremely successful painter in his own right. Invited to participate in nearly all of the National Fine Arts Exhibitions in Vietnam, he was awarded a silver medal in 1980 and a gold medal in 1985 for excellence in painting. He was invited to give an exhibition in Paris in 1993. His work is included in the collections of the Hanoi Museum of Fine Arts, the Asian Museum in Poland, and the Asian Museum of the former Soviet Union, where he studied at the Surikov Fine Arts Academy from 1956 to 1962, learning about theatre set design as well as paintings.
Not quite old enough to have studied with the last graduates of the Ecole des Beaux Arts de I’Indochine, Hau studied instead at the Resistance Fine Arts School of the Viet Bac from 1949 to 1953, during the war against Vietnam’s French colonizes.
Tran Luu Hau’s bold work combines vivid colors with broad, confident brushstrokes. He expresses his feelings as he paints, conveying a strong, emotional impact. His favorite subjects include voluptous female nudes and lush still lifes, often combining brilliantly hued bouquets with an array of fresh fruits. His sensuous compositions are as intense and personal as is his choice of the classical music he loves to listen to when he paints.
Hau has taught at the Hanoi College of Fine Arts from the time of his return from his own studies in Russia in 1962 to the present. He is highly respected by his countrymen, both as a teacher and as an artist.
“Real life is of great help to me in artistic creation. With it, the artist feels elated, reassured and is capable of avoiding the dullness and emotional barrenness of life. On the other hand, painting is a poetic and mystic work, which genuine artist never have enough of and there is no end to it.
Tran Luu Hau, a student of To Ngoc Van, was first trained in the Viet Bac Resistance Zone. Thereafter, he continued his study at Surikov Fine Arts Academy in Moscow for seven years. His works are strongly influenced by the Paris school. His paintings are characterized by black or dark blue outlines.
His favorite subjects are landscape, still life and portrait. His works give the impression of rapid mark making without delay or hesitation. The brilliant palette and bold brushwork can be viewed as a mixture of calligraphy and Asian ink painting.Despite the appearance, Tran Luu Hau’s works do not project a happy atmosphere but rather an inherent restlessness awaiting eruption. Lurking behind the exciting atmosphere of his landscape paintings is a sense of loneliness.
Tran Luu Hau