Ha Noi: Art Exhibition Shows the Human Toll of Pollution

By Nguyen Thanh

Ha Noi: Art Exhibition Shows the Human Toll of Pollution

Paintings expressing concern about human toll of pollution are on display in an exhibition titled “The Mask,” which started on October 11 in Hanoi.

The exhibition showcases 50 oil paintings expressing painter Nguyen Thanh’s anxiety about the environment through the human image. Subjects wear masks to filter out pollution, or else show skin chapped like a field in a drought. Others are flaccid and fatigued, showing the human toll of pollution.

Thanh is a self-taught painter. He spent most of his career struggling to sell paintings in a variety of styles ranging from realism to expressionism. But he always nurtured a dream of painting what he wants to with no regard for what galleries will show.

By the time he turned 40 this year, Thanh had saved enough money to make his dream come true. He spent a year painstakingly creating the works in the show, all the while confronting his difficult subject matter.

“The environment is a serious issue, and it is discussed in many fields from politics and academia to media and popular culture,” said Thanh. “It is not an easy topic for art, because if it is not done thoughtfully then what the artists creates is no more than propaganda.”

Each person has his or her own experiences and perceptions of the environment, he said.

“When you breathe you feel refreshed or stuffy because of polluted air. When you eat you feel invigorated or allergic because of chemicals,” he said. “How you feel brings up emotions such as fear, anxiety and insecurity. Your perception of the environment in your daily life is detached from what you hear from scientific research or from the media.”

Thanh decided to use images of people wearing masks to express how pollution changes the connection between mankind and the nature.

Bui Quang Thang, art director of the Viet Nam National Institute of Arts and Culture Studies (VICAS) Art Studio said Thanh’s paintings are remarkable for how their exotic shaping is balanced by his use of subtle colour gradation.

“His paintings cannot be mixed with someone else,” said Thang “In other words, he has his own personality, a thing that many other artists may not achieve for the rest of their lives.”

The exhibition will run until November 4 at VICAS Art Studio, 32 Hao Nam Street, Hanoi.

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