The Joint Exhibition of Sculptor Dao Chau Hai and Painter Dinh Phong:


1. People are present everywhere but also hide their faces everywhere. Art is not for all times, for everyone; the visual value of fine arts is not necessarily recognised by everyone, even though eye contact accounts for more than three-quarters of all human contacts. The real world in which all things exist in an infrangible, harmonious microscopic correlation is a realm that cannot be represented through a trend, definition or concept.

It’s not to mention that perception of art, exposure to art, and art criticism nowadays is tending to escape from the academic dogmas, break away from the obsolete value standards that used to force visual arts – paintings, statues, carvings, installations… – to count on words or verbal expression, implicitly defining the verbal language to be as important as fine arts itself – it’s something like “put clothes onto the visual arts works”.

Which means using the illusory = Voice to locate or determine the tangible = Works. How miserable!

Even if the crucial point is, a work of art cannot go beyond its own dimensions, it can be considered as a conduit for the artist’s internal thinking to get through to the beholder’s objective thought. The message conveyed, however, depends on the viewer’s knowledge, feelings, life experiences or range of open-mindedness which has sometimes been cut off, or has marked with every line of slavery in enjoyment and afraid in reception.

Having said all this, I cannot help thinking of the ‘duo’ exhibition of the two Egos, sculptors Dao Chau Hai and painter Dinh Phong, as if through two images, “Monster” and “Cosmic plan”.

“Monster” because, first of all, this exhibition of the two Egos is both strange and unique. Especially Dinh Phong with a series of conjugated statues as the expression of the “Heaven – Earth – Human” reality.

Especially in the midst of the Corona outbreak, the whole world is threatened by a small virus and no research has led to a conclusion. What is the truth? “Being everywhere, yet hiding everywhere”? Like Dao Chau Hai with his new statues that, through personal observation, I know are the result of the metamorphosis of the overlapping complexes of his inner mind or his search for inner unity after many levels of torment, stepping through the contradictions in his personal art history so as to continue touching the core of life, of minimalism.


2. “Monster” is also means this a rare phenomenon, very unlikely to happen, because it is not easy. It is a “duo” combination between, first, a leading Vietnamese sculptor, once trained formally at a world-renowned Academy of Fine Arts, once the teacher of many generations of students, whose works seem to have absorbed both ancient and classical art knowledge from thousands of years ago. It is the purification of a soul that leads to the conception of artistic vision as carving into this Ego who strives to find the remaining crystal of the humankind in their twilight. This Ego has achieved certain achievements in many different materials and experienced numerous artistic trends, from Realism to Early Expressionism to the trend of Geometric Abstraction to Conceptual Art. In the Vietnamese sculpture scene, he is a pioneer and has many innovations in metal sculpture, inspiring a whole generation of young artists. Dao Chau Hai, one of the leading sculptors of Vietnam after the Renovation period. Liberator and exploiter to the extreme of intuition.

And, secondly, another Ego which is exactly the opposite. New name, new talent. Not for one day has been through any formal painting school. A great passion and steadfast dedication to art for decades. He who initiates the first strokes on the white canvas like a blind touch, searching for a meaning, a truth between the walls of delusion and the divine.

“You have to be someone before you can be nobody” (Jack Engler). As the critic Nguyen Quan comments, he “paints like by instinct” or “chases” Nothingness. Sensitive to emotions, sharp in observations, he meditates and listens to deep, heterogeneous voices, as he once made his bone-freezing statement about his delving into the emotional void at the deepest level of contemplation, “I see the collapse of monumental structures”.

His figurative works from the “surreal world” is a sharp antithesis to many previous extreme inquiries. Surrealism means more real than ever, not something that is not or is only dreamed of. This is a kind of challenge to the old paradigms. And in front of reality, the vision needs to be constantly added new angles of creative thinking.

He once confessed his own confusion when facing the chaotic world of “Universe or not Universe”:

“Looking at the white canvas is more enjoyable than looking at the finished painting / Silence / Silence / A white canvas / Shimmering / Space halo / Flowing in the eyes / Which universe / Which universe / Gliding softly / Gliding forward / I can’t hear the wind / Passing my ears / Light or / No light / Colours or / No colours / Silence / silence / Still sounds alive / Quiet sound / Thousands of thousands of thousands / Joyful colours / The universe or / No universe / Blissfully immersed / Intoxicated …”

Consciousness and unconsciousness co-exist as in a dream. This is also the third exhibition of artist Dinh Phong, after two previous visits in Hanoi and Saigon.


3. Enjoying Dao Chau Hai’s works such as “East Sea Ballad”, “Thinh”… always gives me new emotions, causes strange yeast in the senses, reflux of pleasure. Those breakthroughs made me think of the Cosmic plan – the invisible columns reaching through the survival, or the essential support of the symbolic space. The statues of Dao Chau Hai propose a new grammar for sculpture.

An independent individual thinking, a mind capable of synthesising generalizations, and to see the universal in the particular and unique, the eternal in the transient, Dinh Phong’s works are the vivid visual illustrations of the subconscious mind.

The same look for Dinh Phong’s paintings and statues. From drawing under the impulse of an instinct of spiritual survival, he has overcome the troublesome distractions of the traditional custom of symthetising self-enlightenment and sudden enlightenment. He doesn’t let himself confined inside the “isms” but always follows his own most natural urge. Absolutely passionate desire generates energy to nurture creative inspiration. It is no exaggeration when many painters and critics see in Dinh Phong’s work the language variation of a New Generation of Figurative Arts.

So what connects them if not the magnetic waves created between the two individuals oscillating at the same frequency? Isn’t that “monster”, “cosmic mechanics”? Isn’t that interesting?


4. As vaguely implied in my introduction, today’s art tends to risk establishing the value of language, something as obvious as the “clothes put on the fine arts work”, thus pushing the visual arts work, which ought to be “the unique, the One” to the background, and put the verbal language about it, which is objective, at the centre. So to end this minimalist article, I don’t wish or ask for anything more than you ignoring it you find the above comment ephemeral and trivial and instead come to the exhibition. This “Cosmic plan”, full of ideas and free thinking both in terms of creating figures and creating meaning, with multiplied vigorous creative power, is sure to cause visual shock!

Come to break the layers of words, even the language of the article, to try to “undress” the works of sculptor Dao Chau Hai and painter Dinh Phong.

Why? Because it is possible to re-enact a concept from the artist Pablo Picasso “Art is present!”


Saigon, the first full moon of the Lunar New Year, January, 2022


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