With the Heart and Soul & Mind

With the Heart and Soul & Mind

by Yvonne Eu

Modern Vietnamese history records a nation that has survived over 1,000 years of foreign domination and warfare. Contemporary Vietnamese art history is testimony to the marriage of East and West, the merging of past and present, and the convergence of traditional and modern.

Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is one of the main centers of cultural and artistic development in the country. Since the establishment of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine in Hanoi in 1925, painting in the western medium has been favored by Vietnamese artists. Until the school closed in 1945, its graduates were the pioneers of contemporary Vietnamese art. When it reopened in 1946 as the Hanoi University of Fine Arts under the Communist Party, it was controlled by government political ideology and became a school of socialist realism. After World War II, destruction continued with the nine-year struggle against the French attempt to regain control, and the ensuing twenty years of warfare to unify the country. Peace was finally attained in 1975 with a socialist victory, then a ten-year period of international isolation followed. Artistic life was strangled and made a slow and painful recovery.

It was not until after the Doi Moi (renovation) policy just over a decade ago that the Vietnamese art scene flourished again. After years of suppressed creative freedom, the release has produced an explosion of exciting discoveries and experimentation. Artists now work with a sense of liberated confidence. They celebrate modern life with optimism while retaining a reverence and sentiment for a dignified past.

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Much attention has been focused on contemporary Vietnamese art in recent years. They are rich, stimulating, romantic, and delightful. I am thrilled to be witness to the beginning of an exciting new era, and in awe to imagine the infinite horizon beyond their current visions. Their warmth, sincerity, and generosity touched me deeply. It is with this same graciousness that I invite you to embark on the journey into this enchanting world and to reach into the heart and soul and mind of these gifted people.

Introduction for the fine contemporary Vietnamese art exhibition "With the Heart and Soul & Mind", New York, 1998