With Minh Phuoc in Hanoi outside the Dong Son Foundation April, 2009.

Nguyen Minh Phuoc

Artist Nguyen Minh Phouc was born in Son La, Vietnam in 1973 and graduated in 1997 with a Bachelor of Arts from Hanoi Fine Arts University. In 1999, his works won a Philip Morris Encouragement Prize at the Asian Art Awards and were exhibited in China. In the following year, he held a solo exhibition, Go West, in Hanoi and subsequently participated in many other group exhibitions in Hanoi, the US, and around the globe. Minh Phouc is a member of the Hanoi Fine Arts Association and is currently lecturing at the Vietnam National College of Music and Art.

Adopting an Eastern approach to all his works, Phouc strives to attain a balance in the various facets of his life. Finding peace within his soul while living in the bustling urban city that is Hanoi, is an unending goal. Phuoc’s signature monk pieces have earned him a following both in his native homeland and with international audiences.

Much of Phuoc’s commercially available art focuses on the iconic image of a monk or a group of monks, viewed from the back, travelling onwards in a purposeful journey. The backgrounds of his works vary, from pagodas, temples, tree-tops, and even simply a deep hue of reddish-orange. The simplicity and two-dimensionality of the backgrounds serve to contrast the detail of the monks’ robes; as every fold and shade is in sharp focus. An additional distinctive characteristic of Phuoc’s work is the detail afforded to human musculature. Each monk is depicted with an effort toward the accuracy of the human form, juxtaposing it with the slightly ethereal aura and spirituality his pieces exhibit. Phuoc finds himself in a meditative and tranquil state when he paints, and his efforts result in a serenity that makes Phuoc’s art truly remarkable.

As a contemporary Vietnamese artist, Minh Phuoc also strives to use his skills to send messages, not simply to create beauty. In his ‘Red Etude’, a performance piece, he envisioned a conductor, leading the orchestra of the modern Vietnamese society in an etude, or a piece written in order to practice or demonstrate different musical techniques. The conductor, a female, performs Tai Chi movements while wearing a Vietnamese militant uniform, representing the path of modern Vietnam; the backdrop includes films showing the formation of the current state based on the military state after the Vietnamese civil war as well as the traditional cultural artifacts of Vietnam, influenced by China and other Southeast Asian countries. The idea for ‘The Unhappy Dragon’, an installation piece, originated from a comment from a foreign friend visiting Vietnam: “[In Vietnam], I saw people often wearing a serious face.” Drawing on Vietnamese mythology and culture, Minh Phuoc highlighted the historical events and themes that led to a lack of individual compassion in the present. “I believe The Unhappy Dragon must be born from unhappy eggs.” A foreigner may come in and see simply the installation, but a Vietnamese person, with the cultural background to understand the piece, can see the themes behind the piece as a whole, and will think about their own lives as relevant to the themes. “Whatever [art] form is fine, as long as it can carry the idea truthfully to an audience.”

Available paintings by Nguyen Minh Phuoc are available for viewing in our Asian art gallery in Sisters, Oregon.

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