Artist Dinh Tu Phong was born in Hanoi and shortly afterwards moved to Saigon where he established a career and became a successful businessman in the hospital and education sectors. His passion for painting has never stopped ever since he was young; he kept on learning from master artists. The two great painters he admires the most are Willem de Kooning and Gauguin.

He also was attracted to the Cubist works of Pablo Picasso and Surrealist ones by Salvador Dali. He collects the works of artists such as Nguyen Tu Nghiem, Tran Luu Hau, Tran Hai Minh… His house is a small-scale private museum with works of art he loves and cherishes. Most of these pieces belong to the schools of impressionism and abstract expressionism.

Dinh Phong Artist – Flying Man and Surreal Dreams
Dinh Phong Artist – Flying Man and Surreal Dreams

“I live in a space full of pictures and statues, but never thought I would draw. My passion for reading about, and indepth research into painting, however, made me always think about and dream of taking to brushes, colours, and paints, to create my own works. The more deeply I look into myself and focus on my inner worldview, the more clearly I feel these obsessions and desires.

No matter how passionate I am with the works by Vietnamese artists in my personal collection, it is the individuality and the private stories of each author. When I look at them, I often contemplate my own world. My subconsciousness is full of colours, I’m just searching for the meaning, the message of dreams coming from past years. Right at the moment that I connect with it, I execute it on the canvas. When thoughts are gradually formed, barriers and fears disappear, and then I’m free, with a feeling like I haven’t connected with my inner self for a long time.

When concentrating, I forget to eat, just like that, painting is like a stimulant, leading my mind from the moment of taking the brush until when the painting gradually takes shape. For many months now I have been drawing, I am doing sculpture with continuous vigour and passion. All these things I have heard and learned from senior artists or have researched and archived in the subconscious mind; they help me understand clearly about the painting style that I pursue, the way I try to express with new methods.

I use a big brush and a chisel to draw, so frankly speaking, my experiment was successful. That is when I see the cubic structure I’ve imagined manifests itself in reality by way of my paintings or sculptures.

“Dinh Phong’s paintings are curvy blocks of colours moving freely in the canvas, freely, gently. Like beautiful creatures that appear before your eyes: reach out your hand to hold it and you realise it’s just an illusion.”

How did you trigger your dream?

It’s all based on experience and imagination. Above all is my spirit, which has always been centered towards art since childhood. And now, finally, here’s the gift I received from that dedication, which is the dreams that bring me closer to creativity, freedom.

Sometimes I feel from my heart a creative joy like a flash of electricity shining in my mind. I’d lock myself in my room, pick up the brush to sketch all the ideas that come up in my mind. Isn’t this just creativity? It is also a passion, a strong passion that motivates me to want to realize, wants to let everyone see, share and feel my surreal dreams.

Certainly, all of us are curious to know how this person, who spent most of his life studying painting and yet only recently began to draw, would feel, how nervous he would be.

Dinh Phong had once confided on social media about his experience, a late but solid experience that few people have: “Tools are well prepared, everything’s ready to go. Yet, standing in front of white canvas, I kept shaking! Tension, nervousness, heart pounding, and sweat…”

He told himself not to be afraid, but facing what he had been learning for so long really made him tremble. “After that moment, painting becomes fascinating,” he said. “It was the most motivating for all kinds of work I’ve ever done before.”

Poet Han Mac Tu wrote: I write poetry? That means I’m weak! I was tempted, I betrayed everything, every single thing that my heart, my blood, my soul try to keep in secret. And that also means I’ve lost my mind, I went mad.

Artist Dinh Phong painted a dream without wings, but he was very awake. Among the conversations, only a few saw him talk about his passionate desire to express his ideas by painting. But he has a very professional plan for exhibiting and displaying his sculptures.

When you draw, do you think you’re weak or tempted?

My waking world and my dream one are like two different worlds. Whenever I go to sleep, I dream of myself flying, chasing objects that cannot be grasped, abstract objects which haunt me. Painting has helped me to explore, be free and powerful. I am completely awake during the day when I return to my work. It’s only when I hold my brush or make sculptures that my dreams come to existence again.

What do you think is the creativity, the novelty in this way of expression?

Finding a way to express your subconscious or your dreams without repeating them. To do so unlike everyone. It’s about finding a way, a way of your own – it’s style, and it’s also creativity.

Is each picture a dream, or can a picture contain images from many different dreams?

Drawing is like a process that guides me through the night, through my dreams. I drop them on the canvas in front of me, sometimes I loosen up in the flow of emotions so that the art freely connects with my dreams.

Through the pictures, viewers enter the forest of colours of dreams. To understand more deeply, you should directly stand in front of the work with different perspectives. I take good care of my senses first to enlighten my own garden.

When the flying man and painters are best friends

A distinguished, elegant, amusing businessman with a tight schedule, but with a strong passion for painting, he manages to find time to create and fly with his artist friends. They call him Dinh Phong the Painter, but he finds himself more than being just a “painter”.

You can call him a ‘Flying Man with his Surreal Dreams’. A flying man who, at the crossroads of life, have met friends who are artists. They are people with profound knowledge of art, who share with him their beliefs, passion, and understanding, so that the flying man can fly, sublimated with his expressive abstract style.

Dinh Phong’s paintings are full of courage and inner strength. Creation originates and proceeds towards the delicate and beautiful aesthetic values of a profound and diverse artistic life.

Large and medium sized paintings, acrylic on canvas seem to unleash his creative energy. Through generous brush strokes, flying colours, people enjoy being lost in the world of art with dreams without wings, through time and space.

Besides painting, you will soon release your sculptures, the shapes and blocks of which you also “captured” through your surreal dreams. Do these two different languages of expression make it difficult to “express” your ideas?

I’ve researched the concept and the material before making it. First of all, I’d select figures from pictures, then sketch the outlines on paper, add or remove this or that to create blocks. According to the sketch made by crayon, the workpiece is made, then the workpiece is refined, let dry, then revised.

When the workpiece dries completely, I use two types of yeast: folk yeast and oxide glaze, to paint on the work. I purposely control the shaping and the heating processes, whereas the effects come by random. What about ozide glaze, the colours come exactly like when I painted. When combining two types of yeast, unexpected effects can be created which is very interesting.

To achieve the desired visual effect, especially when placed in a 3-dimensional space, products should be tested several times, with the properties of pottery, cover, enamel, and then grouped. The end effect produces many surprises. Wait for the work to come out and you will have a very special feeling about these strange objects.

His bronze and glazed ceramic sculptures are the “fragments” of surreal dreams. He arranged them together to create a new, poetic sculpture.

A painting atelier, a sculpture studio, and a pottery kiln, with a long and large workshop space, are to be completed later this year in My Tho. Where I work, create, meet artists and people who love art.

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