Bui Thanh Tam with Mona Lisa in Vietnam

Mona Lisa is an impressive name for  the artist Bui Thanh Tam’s first personal exhibition shown in Viet Art Centre, 42 Yet Kieu, Hanoi. The exhibition space is filled with humorous smiles from participants’ corner of mouth. Under “peaceful view” of the artist, Mona Lisa in the classic Renaissance contributes happy grins of water puppets which are typical of Vietnam.

1.    Mona Lisa exhibition is the achievement of a year’s restless composition of Bui Thanh Tam. Born in 1979, he is a young artist at both age and seniority. Despite being graduated from the University of fine arts, Vietnam in 2009, he has taken impressive steps on the art road. He creates separate marks for his style shaped by creative sense of humor but audacity also. He attributes the faces of the puppets and teu, which are the clown of the folk art, to all the characters in his paintings from ordinary portraits of a modern guy driving a car, of a new family with a couple of newly-weds and their children, etc to people from upper classes of the society; especially, culminating is one of classic images of Art Academy: Mona Lisa brings a mysterious mind hidden under a humorous face. In addition, Virgin Maria is a Vietnamese heroic mother carrying a child wearing gold-starred hat in her arms . People enjoy his pictures with full of surprise, burst out laughing when finding out something curious and foolish, but feel great admiration for full- sensible- thoughts concealed in his works.

The art works in the exhibition Mona Lisa is a miniature society with full of burning issues. Bui Thanh Tam is clever to perform by surrealist view. Seeing his pictures is like walking through the life cycle. What we have seen and heard in the society seems hush and awful but in this exhibition, it is just  performed in a smile. Using neither harshly satiric style nor dramatics in titles, Bui Thanh Tam guides audiences to a much gentler, calmer and deeper perspective.

2.   Hundred years ago, artists drew Mona Lisa sucking pipes or added moustaches for her. However, Bui Thanh Tam did not mean to satirize or deny the classic art by creating such extraordinary images. In fact, he just sees the life and art under the eyes of a strange “madman” who Tam ran into. “He has troubles with his nerve after an accident but takes interest in talking alone about all issues of the society”. That is the madman’s world which is sufficient and even larger than ours. And Tam desires to become such a madman in art.

For these days, while a large number of exhibitions with huge scale are arranged and shown, Bui Thanh Tam still displays the works of his easel paintings. As an artist trained in art academy, Tam wants to develop painting career of his choice. The paintings of Bui Thanh Tam are not spectacular but their place is surely not small. Hopefully Tam will not make viewers disappointed with the promise of a better exhibition in the next year. /.  Trần Hoàng Ngân (THVH)