Once upon a time, three monks observed a flag waving in the breeze and engaged in a debate. The first monk remarked, “The flag is moving.” The second countered, “The flag itself cannot move; the wind is moving.” The third monk posited, “Both the wind and the flag move in harmony.” A fourth monk, passing by, declared, “Neither the wind nor the flag truly moves; it's our perceptions that shift.”
As I explored Hồ Viết Vinh's “In Motion” exhibition, I felt a mix of emotions and thoughts. Each artwork was filled with different colors and hinted at movement, even though they were still pictures.
Every painting by Hồ Viết Vinh is a visual delight. While his intent might have been to capture the essence of motion in nature, he achieved something profound: a reflection on the inner movements of our souls.
Walking Amidst the Colors
I visited the exhibition on a Sunday afternoon in the vibrant and spacious Audi Charging Lounge. The first thing that struck me was the ingenious arrangement of paintings interspersed within the existing layout of the Audi Charging Lounge - primarily a venue to display and charge vehicles.
In front of the art display area stood an Audi car, embodying the spirit that Architect Hồ Viết Vinh captured in his paintings: the relentless transition of all things. This particular notion resonates with the theme of “art in motion” - the fusion of art and movement, the convergence of paintings and cars, as the artist shared during his talk at the exhibit.
Eighteen paintings were showcased in the space. Some were mounted on walls, while others seemed to “fall” from the ceiling, unexpectedly appearing before the viewers, illustrating the serene shifts of nature.
Among these “falling” artworks, clusters of three or four paintings merged. The movement of these pieces wasn’t merely vertical from the ceiling downwards but also spanned horizontally, unfolding right before the viewers. Additionally, these “falling” artworks leaned against one another, forming pairs that seemed to hover in the air.
Beyond these elements, there appeared to be no specific intent in the sequential arrangement of the paintings, whether front to back or outer to inner. True to what Architect Hồ Viết Vinh mentioned in his interview with Vietcetera: “Relax, let your guard down, and take your time with details that captivate you. If none do, it’s alright to move on.”
Experiencing Art Beyond Just Sight
The first time I saw these paintings, it was a delightful and captivating confusion, and I think many young people who aren’t familiar with art felt the same way.
Almost all the artworks did not depict any tangible objects. Viewers might struggle to grasp solid subjects or sharp features if they cling to traditional aesthetic experiences such as realism or the expectation that every object must be explicitly depicted.
To truly appreciate Hồ Viết Vinh’s art, one needs to feel it in ways beyond just sight. In front of certain paintings, after meticulously following every brush stroke, I had to close my eyes to visualize and organize my perceptions. The essence of understanding his art lies in engaging multiple senses and individual experiences.
What really caught my eye in his artwork was how he played with colors. Some colors smoothly flowed into each other, while others looked intentionally uneven, giving the impression of swirling winds and twisting waves.
The painting that struck me the most, “Untitled 18,” seemed to involve not just paint but also wood – or what seemed like wood. I say this because the canvas isn’t truly flat: upon close observation, you can discern the coarse wooden texture emerging from it. To me, this painting exploits light and material to play with the viewer’s perception.
From a distance, it feels as if you’re looking down a long corridor illuminated by a sidelight, with the soft yellow glow of a house at the end. However, as you draw nearer and notice the rough surface, the perception of depth fades, and the corridor seems to vanish, leaving behind intertwined hazy squares.
The Untitled: Letting the Work Speak for Itself
On the day of my visit to the exhibition, architect Hồ Viết Vinh had a sharing session with the media and attendees. He talked about his artistic endeavors, the confluence of architecture and fine arts, the motivations behind the exhibition, and his insights into his creations.
The highlight of this sharing was his revelations about drawing inspiration from nature and the artistic ethos he adopted. Hồ Viết Vinh expressed a deep resonance with the artworks of Caspar David Friedrich, the emblematic painter from the Romantic era.
Vinh’s pieces echo the evocative style and liberality of nature portrayed in Caspar David Friedrich’s paintings. He saw harmony in Friedrich’s illustrations, emphasizing humanity’s humble stance against the overwhelming majesty of nature.
This sentiment is palpable in Vinh’s “Untitled 5” – a portrayal of the ocean that captures human awe and humility before nature's magnificence, reminiscent of Friedrich’s “Wanderer above the Sea of Fog.”
He also shared the reason why all the paintings are untitled. He didn’t want them to be confined to a predetermined meaning, aiming instead for viewers to find both familiarity and uniqueness in their interpretations. I find this approach intriguing.
Indeed, it’s always insightful to admire a painting and then hear the artist’s thoughts on it, understanding the emotions and intentions behind the colors and strokes. Yet, I often found that my interpretations didn’t fully align with his explanations.
While observing his work and listening to his insights, I began to grasp his artistic intentions. But still, I found myself resonating with emotions that he might not have anticipated.
This disparity might be the essence of art: it’s not about uniformity but about individual interpretations, as long as there’s mutual respect. This seemed to be the core of the discussion: listening, understanding, and appreciating the diversity of perspectives on art, life, and nature.