Artist Dang Mau Tuu has been working over the past four years on his most recent collection of paintings and they will be exhibited at the Le Ba Dang Arts Foundation in Hue (4th-15th March 2020).
The exhibition consists of 36 paintings of oil and silk; a tribute to the artist’s expression of the female divine. Mr Tuu comments in an interview with Hue Grit Tour ‘Women are the root of life. If there is Adam but no Eve, the world would certainly not exist.’
In the exhibition’s brief foreward, Mr. Tuu reflects on how women have helped him through varying moments of his life:
‘[during] wartime – I was soon away from home, in straitened circumstances in foreign land, dependent on the heart of other mothers for meals, protection and help, comfort and encouragement to overcome the times of distress. Then the vibrations before the beauty of their figures, dispositions, and [their] ways of life gave emotions and became indispensable material in my creative process. The hearts of grandmothers, sisters, mothers and my companion for life have helped me to live and follow my interests, thinking that without them life would be meaningless – I think!’
Vietnamese artists have focussed on Women as their subject since introduction of portraiture in Vietnam for over a century. Never finding themselves tired of the concept, they continue to produce art focusing on the female form in a manner akin to a celebration of a deity. Dang Mau Tuu’s subject may be no different but his distinction comes with his perception of ‘Eva’ captured in his work.
‘Sometimes I can admire a woman’s soft and long fingers, her eyes, hair…lips. That isn’t to say my appreciation goes no further than physical appearance. I also pay special attention to the simplicities and the complexities within; to capture her spirit, her personality or traits.’
Despite the exhibition coinciding with international women’s day, Dang Mau Tuu opted to concentrate on the female characters of Hue rather than global generalisations.
‘We are living in Hue right now, why not paint something about Hue to embrace it? Besides, the ladies in Hue have very special characteristics [to which] each artist has his or her own perspective.’
Aside from the ao dai (Vietnamese traditional dress) and scenes of rural Vietnam, Cảm Ơn Eva also includes trademark Hue landscapes such as the Huong River and the royal Citadel. There are also moments from the mundane to the extraordinary; whether it is a female sewing in the family living room or the high-school students amongst the winged-like flower hoa phượng on graduation. Another painting dabbles with the surreal, as the figures of two women are finely warped by a sun-blemished sky into the shapes of modern and classical Vietnamese instruments. One goddess, from the prominent indigenous Vietnamese religion Dao Mau, also appears in one painting, to give an enraged warning to humans over the destructive use of earth.
As touched upon lightly in an earlier Hue Grit article, Matriarchy and Modernity: Reflecting on Gai Gia Lam Chieu 3 and the Artwork of Boi Tran, the lives of Hue women are often subject to myths, legends and realities surrounding their geographical ties to royalty, nobility and feudal concubinage under the former Nguyen Dynasty. Does Mr Tuu consider his paintings to focus on the myth, legend or the reality of the Hue woman?
‘You shouldn’t separate like that.’ Responds Mr. Tuu. ‘ It depends on how the artist considers that woman to be in his or her painting. For example: a female street sweeper might look ineloquent in this reality, however, she is the breadwinner of the family. That can be considered as a legend. A hero.’
The exhibition, Mr Tuu’s first solo exhibition since 2014 (before that in 1991 and 1999), and is held in one of Hue’s most reputable galleries, yet extends to just 11 days. While time to see his artwork is somewhat short, he hopes that those visitors able to attend the exhibition will enjoy viewing his work, Thank You Eve.
‘I thank all the ten ways for their distinguished services and I cannot say all about them but only the possible, So I named the exhibition “Thank you Eva”. I do not use new fancy styles to find new expression with modern property, I just honest minded. Anyone who compliments or disparages me would be fine, I [hope] a few people cand feel [the artwork], realizing they had entered my paintings [is] more than enough for me… just a little fun in the provisional world!’
Who is Dang Mau Tuu
Born in Binh Dinh, 1953. Mr Tuu Came to Hue in 1964 and studied at the College of Fine Arts, graduating in 1972 and has lived in Hue since. He is currently a member on the Scientific Council at the College of Fine Art and until this year, also part of the Executive Committee of the Fine Art of Central and Tay Nguyen Region of the Vietnam Arts Association. Aside from his solo exhibitions, Mr Tuu has also been part of numerous group exhibitions both in Vietnam and abroad.
Dang Mau Tuu came to the arts through what he describes as ‘destiny’, a road from a previous life that led him here. He does not abide within one specific form or theme, allowing for his work to wander with his mind. He is best known for his work in abstract painting and with his project Cảm Ơn Eva, he decided to use it as an opportunity to work with realism.
Dang Mau Tuu lives with his family in Hue and his home also serves as an art gallery named Song Nhu. Since 2005, Mr Tuu has been holding exhibitions at his home at the end of every lunar year themed on the upcoming year’s zodiac animal. This provides the him opportunity to celebrate the new year with friends, family and other artists in the community. Works by numerous artists on this year’s zodiac animal, the rat, currently decorate his gallery.
Knowing Mr Dang Muu Tuu’s position of assessing Vietnamese artworks, we asked him to spill the beans on what makes a good painting:
‘Many factors [make a good artwork]. First, once the artist…should demonstrate well [the artwork’s] topic. Second, the paintings should communicate the true feelings of the artist. Finally, the work’s metaphor. An excellent painting does not point out a message directly…the viewers have to think deeply to obtain the bigger message.’
Cam on Eva Exhibition
By Dang Mau Tuu
4/03/20 – 15/03/20
Le Ba Dang Arts Foundation
15 le Loi, Hue City
7h30 AM – 11h30 PM, 13h00 PM – 17h00 PM
Song Nhu Art Gallery
(Gallery of Mr. Dang Mau Tuu)
14 kiet 7 Nguyen Cong Tru, Hue
Request before visiting.
Views expressed in this piece are expressed by the artist and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the author or the website.
Thank yout Mr. Tuu for taking the time to answer our questions and show us around his home. Thank you to his daughter Quynh Anh who reviewed the article and helped to amend correct information before publication .