Artist Dinh Phong – Dreams are still there | Reseacher Truong Nguyen Nga

After the success of the first solo exhibition in Hanoi “The Flying Man and his Surreal Dreams”, Dinh Phong has become a “special phenomenon” that created a sensation, even a seriously big one, to the country’s professional art circle and art loving community. And Dinh Phong did not stop there, but quickly introduced to the Saigon public his second solo exhibition with the theme “Surreal Dreams”.

True to the meaning of his name, “Wind”, Dinh Phong’s multi-dimensional and multi- nuanced paintings and sculptures have brought really new, fresh and strong winds to the art world. At the same time, he has brought new perspectives to art professionals and art lovers alike – which was also an interesting surprise.

In the gallery that displayed artist Dinh Phong’s work at the Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts before the opening day. From left: Sculptor Dao Chau Hai, painter Ca Le Thang, painter Tran Luu My, collector Thanh Hai (Gallery Mai) and artist, art critic Ly Truc Son.

In just a short time, “out of the blue” appeared the name Dinh Phong in all its majesty. Instantly he entered the professional art arena with dignity and confidence, earning the public’s admiration and causing the country’s art creators and critics to spend a lot of time and paper to decode a phenomenon called “Dinh Phong”. So, what’s good about Dinh Phong? Still a big question for the public.

In order to decode the Dinh Phong phenomenon, it’s necessary to first clearly clarify the theme of the exhibition, “Surreal Dreams”. Because surrealism is a school of painting, at first many people mistakenly think Dinh Phong’s works are inclined towards this school. In fact, his works are originally based on dreams that have always haunted him for a very long time. And up till now, Dinh Phong affirmed he has never imposed any theory upon his works, and will never do. Not accepting any confinements, tangible or intangible, Dinh Phong wants to develop his work in complete freedom, beyond any confinements, so he can play, fly, can be satisfied with colourful dreams.

Tam Tam abstract painting. Acrylic on Canvas. Size 390 x 200 cm. Author 2021

Dinh Phong has a long history of in-depth self-study including philosophy, culture, and art, both national and international, through books and/or extensive travels. A person who has spent an eventful life with a rich pool of accumulated experiences, all the stories and images from nearly a whole lifetime have been deeply embedded in his brain. All these, accumulated for a long time, are shown through his personal prism and knowledge, compressed into the mind, day by day, hour by hour, and then manifested in dreams that evoke memory. And when that repressed accumulated mass reaches the critical point inside a sentimental soul, naturally it… explodes.

Dinh Phong’s sudden outburst with two well-suited exhibitions made the viewers go from bewilderment to amazement, when they were able to see his works created with complete freedom and personal style. And, of course, the country’s art scene now has the addition of a modern “young artist” with works of abstract style, although Dinh Phong always thinks he paints according to his own feelings, without deliberately associating himself with any school.

This is quite an interesting thing, for it can help realize that art in general and fine arts in particular are a non-linear, boundless space. There, all thoughts, all inventions, all art styles, even though they may oppose each other, are tolerated in the spirit of academic freedom, freedom of expression. Of course, in order to be recognised, survive and develop to greater heights, authors need to have full inner resources and strength so as to confidently engage in the path of art. And what is it if not the basis and depth of individual accumulated knowledge transformed into the creative capacity, as in the case of Dinh Phong?

The exhibition “Surreal Dreams” has attracted many young people who come to see the paintings or check in on Facebook. This is a totally new signal, very different from the traditionally monotonous atmosphere as it has always been with fine arts galleries.

The many-year study of I Ching, the conflicting theories, the harmony of yin and yang, the variation of nature, the opposites of the hot-cold and static-dynamic pairs and the like, the ancient Eastern way of looking at the balance of the universe, have gradually imbued in Dinh Phong’s thoughts and became his lifestyle. These characteristics, from deep within the mind, have become an instinct, a natural reflex, so in presenting himself to the outside world he has quite cleverly broken free from the pressure in dealing with techniques and colours in each work.

With the inherent resources turned into natural emotions, in many works, Dinh Phong has flexibly handled the lines and colours in a vivid way, bringing the viewers to different levels of emotions. His works seem to be still, but on closer inspection they seem to be moving, and on the contrary, moving as they seem at the first glance, in fact they’re rather completely still. This is also what prevents Dinh Phong’s works from falling into naturalism, which many authors without sufficient academic background have stumbled upon in the process of free creating.

His recent works have shown an obvious restraint after the rapid onset of an early period. Colours and lines in his new works tend to exploit the depth of the symbolic abstract style, but still, it is slightly different from the semi-symbolic abstract style of his earlier output. And this is what highly appreciated by the professional art circle, taking into account the fact that this is a “newbie” to the fine arts scene of the country.

Viewers see artist Dinh Phong’s paintings at the Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts

The art circle must have been amazed at Dinh Phong’s sculptures on display at the exhibition, something they found unfamiliar. Normally, according to the conventions of sculpture, the sculptors always try to keep the necessary and continuous connection in the working process so as to form a complete whole in each work. On the contrary, as the result of a process of “free creation” independent from any known constraints, Dinh Phong’s works show numerous different stylised patterns depending on each angle, thus creating different, strange emotions to the viewers.

To be more specific, each single work of Dinh Phong is the resonance of several different works depending on the freedom in creative inspiration, which thereby brings excitement

to the viewer according to her point of view. Could it be the beginning of a new school of sculpture? It remains to be seen from his works in the future.
Art in general, fine arts in particular, is an arduous road with only a starting line and never a destination. When artists and sculptors accept to embark on the path of professional fine arts, they all know this is an extremely arduous path, a long and harsh journey of a lifetime. That path is never for those who don’t have sufficient internal strength, or don’t have the ability to perceive and manifest the contents of accumulated knowledge through their works.

And on that journey, artists are always lonely travelers. Lonely in the act of creation, lonely in front of the “hammer and axe” of public opinion, and sometimes lonely even with oneself. Such loneliness can plunge immature artists into hopeless depths, and at the same time are valuable motivations for artists with suffcicient internal powers to penetrate into the depths of their minds, then burn again with new works.

Sometimes it was the loneliness in moments of creation and the exhausting feeling of being deadlocked in the face of the motionless white canvas and scattered soulless tins of colours that made Dinh Phong confess to the outside world – a confession that, actualy, is a dialogue with himself: “Drawing is murky in the realm of the deaf / Drawing is a desperate dumb route” (“Draw”, Dinh Phong’s poetry). But after those moments, it was his resourceful spirit that arose in his soul, becoming support buoys that didn’t allow him to give up: “Drawing is to majestically soar into the sky full of wind / Lions of a dark time / With their night-long roaring that spans centuries / Deep, hidden melancholies tearing the dark night” (“Drawing”, Dinh Phong poetry). These inner echoes come from a person who should have rested after the storms of life, now wanting to embark on a risky game, dangerous, yet containing the magical charm of an unending passion that has been repressed for more than forty years.

Can the inner strength itself help Dinh Phong overcome moments of hopeless loneliness, or will he be engulfed in the midst of a magical game called art? His works are the most accurate answer, when the colours bring a work to the soul through the magical hands of an artist flying with dreams, looking back for the lost golden time.

Fine arts are forever a road with no destination, maybe just temporary stations near and far. Where to park depends on the ability and internal strengths and passion of each artist. Hopefully we will see more of the far wider shores of Dinh Phong – the man who turns his dreams to art.

Hoi An Night, 14.04.2021.

Truong Nguyen Nga.

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