Artist Dinh Phong: ‘I see the collapse of monumental structures …’

Artist Dinh Phong will be holding his exhibition “The Flying Man and his Surreal Dreams” at the Art Space of Vietnam Fine Arts College, 42 Yết Kiêu Street, Hanoi between November 24 and 30, 2020. From HCMC, he gave Duyên Dáng Việt Nam (Charming Vietnam) a conversation just before leaving for Hanoi in preparation for the opening of his first exhibition…

Art critic Nguyễn Quân talks about the case of artist Dinh Phong in the online newspaper Charming Vietnam: “The writer could not help but be surprised and confused”. Then he searched to find the answer closest to his heart when faced with the highly energetic, abundant world of a new artist no one had ever known: “Half a century ago, a famous American painter once said: Now, people only need 15 minutes to become a celebrity. Is it now possible to say: You only need one day to become an artist?”

Statue – Artist Dinh Phong – Photo: Pham Tuan Ngoc.

* Dong Duong: I have read many articles by the famous contemporary art critic Nguyen Quan. It must be said that Mr. Quân has a contemplative mind, an ability to synthesize, a high level of insight into “each and every centimeter” of the paintings. And yet, in the article about Dinh Phong, he was unable to avoid causing confusion to the reader and himself in the midst of an unprecedented case. What do you personally think about the article “Artist Dinh Phong – Artistic Speed”?

Artist Dinh Phong: – There is a fundamental truth that I’ve never thought of drawing or doing arts to find fame, to borrow Nguyen Quan’s words. Likewise, I never thought about becoming an artist or a sculptor. Only recently did I start drawing and making ceramic sculptures with excitement and passion.

*And yet, with such an “artistic speed”, I think there has been a long, deep, hidden or latent process behind you and and your painting? Does the “Dream of Flying” today has overcome that much “surreal” time because it came from the past?

– I did not come across painting. I came to fine arts a long time ago, perhaps in my high school years. I’d love looking at paintings, sculptures… I’d also go to local art museums, search for fine arts material in magazines and books. On the other hand, I’d had the luck of having many friends who are painters, sculptors, researchers, art theorists and critics… from whom I have learned a lot. I,ve always had dreams, in the past as well in the present. I see vivid flying forms in quiet space and in that quiet space I can hear their sound. The sound of stillness. I have also seen the collapse of monumental structures. Collapsing, shattering, stopping still in space! I found myself soaring with all… I’m being honest from the bottom of my heart to you about that!

Khai mạc triển lãm tranh và điêu khắc "Người bay và giấc mơ siêu thực" của họa sĩ Đinh Phong

* How interesting! Who are the artists around the world you’ve seen and followed? What are you constantly interested in when it comes to painting? Is it surrealistic, abstract? The complex, confusing? Or something that is easy to understand but not to grasp?

– I see paintings and sculptures by many famous artists around the world. I think they also have their dreams. I am not haunted by anyone. The images in my dreams may be called abstract, surreal in relation to the real life, and yet in my dreams it is 100% real. It is true that it cannot be grasped. I draw to see that dream for the second time!

* Many people say it’s easy to draw in an abstract, surrealistic way. It’s like the old Eastern saying that “it’s easy to draw people and difficult to draw demons”. Is this true in the modern sense?

– I think that is a misconception. For me, it is very difficult to express my subconscious thoughts and images in my dreams by way of painting or sculpture. Skills are needed, and skills need to be learned, training is required. I have no formal education, no training in painting.

* And yet, one can see in your works how ethereally, poetically and beautifully you have drawn. And how multidimensional, how multifaceted, how unpredictable the creative world came out! What time of the day do you usually paint? What was your first streak of colour in front of a white canvas?

– I draw at all hours of the day and night when I have inspiration. During this period I spent all my time drawing and sculpting. I’d only stop when it’s time for my wife to feed me (laugh). I work tirelessly. I’d only put the brush down when my consciousness reminds me how I need to spend some time sleeping to stay healthy. It is hard to avoid the temptation of endless horizons and dreams.

When I start painting I’d sit in front of the white canvas for a while (like in meditation) for about 1 hour to 1.5 hours. It takes great concentration to draw. At that moment the images in the subconscious would begin to appear. Having successfully put it on the canvas, I don’t know the time anymore! It can be said that, in the drunkenness of colours, I draw while eating, while sleeping. While I’d been pursuing ideas and colours, my wife used to say, “You seem to have lost your soul”.

Artist Dinh Phong's paintings - Photo: Pham Tuan Ngoc.

Artist Dinh Phong’s paintings – Photo: Pham Tuan Ngoc. 


* Is there a bridge between painting and sculpture in your art? If so, what is the message?

– I make sculpting using my drawings. For, before I put figures into the painting, it was a real object in the three dimensions of my subconscious mind. I always think there are other worlds that exist in parallel with the existing world as the fine art researcher Trần Đán once said.

* Why is it that you live and work in Ho Chi Minh City and yet your first exhibition was held in Hanoi? Is it a deliberate choice or just by chance?

– It’s fate. But I did really wanted my first exhibition to take place in Hanoi, where I was born and raised. This is a miracle.

* What are your upcoming plans after the exhibition “The Flying Man and his Surreal Dreams”?

– After the exhibition in Hanoi, I will hold the second exhibition, “The Flying Man and his Surreal Dreams” in HCMC and other places. Of course, the eagerness before each exhibition does help me, I believe, to find energy to keep working on paintings and creating sculptures…

Thank you, painter Dinh Phong, for giving Charming Viet Nam a very open, totally amazing and interesting conversation!

Reporter: Dong Duong

Artist Dinh Phong at his workshop and his paintings - Photo: Pham Tuan Ngoc.
Artist Dinh Phong at his workshop and his paintings – Photo: Pham Tuan Ngoc.



I don’t know whether dream goes into the subconscious or comes out of the subconscious as dream
I only know that the dream is very real in me
I fly with the most beautiful dreamlike figures
I tumble in a world of still, vague, shapeless tranquility I transform myself into dreamlike real shapes
I dive and fly in the real metaphysical world
I transform into a real figure in a dream
I immerse myself in a real dream
I separate myself far o so far to clearly see it and myself And then I blend with it again
I see the formation of magnificence and majesty I see the collapse of majesty and magnificence
I see it all stop in front of my eyes
I see the void drifting silently I can’t touch it or myself
I want to take my dream out from the subconscious I want to bring it out into my real world
I want to throw it all and me on the white canvas
I want to fling it and me up and then press all down the multicolours I want to flick, hurl, whip, lash, crush, grind it and me
I want to see it and me clearly in real life
I want to touch to feel it and me
I still see the real dream outside of me…

The Morning of Sunday, March 29, 2021

Dinh Phong

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