Trinh Tuan (born 1961, Hanoi) graduated from the Hanoi Industrial Fine Arts College in 1985 and received his M.A. from the Hanoi Fine Arts Institute in 2000. He is currently a Professor at Hanoi Industrial Fine Arts College.
Trinh Tuan has always been an advocate of intensity. Throughout his artistic journey, he has dedicated himself to the vitality of Hanoi and his Vietnamese background. His paintings, however, have never been nostalgic hymns of a romantic past. On the contrary, his aim has been to inhabit a pictorial space that communicates the present while still bearing Vietnamese cultural sensibilities.
Some of his paintings have been inspired by the life and rhythms of Hanoi. In others, he depicts aspects of his loving family life. His life is complemented by his wife, Cong Kim Hoa, who is also a world renowned and accomplished lacquer artist. While they share a studio, they rarely collaborate or influence one another’s work, both dedicated to their own unique styles of expression. His life with their two children has been filled with joy and pride but like the birds that are often present in his works, he understands the need for nurturing them before they can soar and ultimately be set free on their own journeys of creativity.
Trinh Tuan’s reflective paintings bear the footprints of an emotional journey he has undertaken while in the process of exploring the imperatives of his creativity. His humble, quiet disposition and meditations are reflected in his representations of sensitive and poignant gestures. He has embellished life scenes with subtly imposed movements coupled with a technique implemented with perceptive and thoughtful artistic control that have become his hallmark as a master lacquer painter. The interplay between light and dark, shadow and luminescence imparts an ethereal quality to his subjects. However, in spite of the dreaminess of his compositions, his subjects do not lose their authenticity and in fact, take on an earthiness that reflects their maturity and beauty.
Often the simplest of expressions is the most complex. While Trinh Tuan uses his unique style as the aesthetic vocabulary for his characters, he also indulges cognitive and disquieting concepts that show the emotional distance that often develops in relationships. Tuan clearly deals with the process of aging and maturing, which he attributes in a number of ways. The drooping lotus flowers that appear in many of his paintings and the fuller female forms are some of the elements that he uses to express aging.
More complex is the quiet manner with which he expresses a plethora of emotions. The stoic stance and expressions in some of his paintings are a result of Tuan’s personal feelings about nature and destruction that resulted after tumultuous earthquakes rocked China and Japan as well as his concerns about nuclear waste disposal and climate change. Some pieces evoke thoughts of caring, compassion and/or concern for loved ones; some depict lonely, contemplative or introspective individuals while others depict men and women struggling with strife, reconciliation, forgiveness, memories and loss. All of his works offer the viewer an opportunity to reflect.
Trinh Tuan is adored by his students and rightfully honored as one of the top lacquer artists in Vietnam. Many of Trinh Tuan's followers claim that his sense of humor is equally balanced with his sensitivity toward human emotion. Apart from being meticulous and labor-intensive works, Trinh Tuan's paintings are admired internationally for their beauty and their ability to silently depict emotion.
His paintings are found, among others, in the collections of the Crown Prince of Norway and the National Art Gallery of Malaysia. He has represented Vietnam in exhibitions and workshops throughout the world including Japan, China, Germany, Singapore, Denmark, France, Argentina, Laos, Australia, USA, Thailand, Israel, Netherlands, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Malaysia.
Portions of this biography were written by the art historian and independent curator Shireen Naziree who worked with Jorn Middleborg, the founder of Thavibu Gallery and Art Advisory in Bangkok. Other insights are from my conversations held with Tuan over our many years of friendship.