In 2015, Tuyen Vu wrote:
“I love lotus flowers and also love painting them…
They represent love, optimism and a beautiful life.
I love them with all my heart and for reflecting the spontaneity of life.”
The love with lotus becomes a passion in Tuyen Vu (Vietnamese name: Vũ Tuyên) life. Throughout his career, Tuyen Vu has painted more than 500 paintings of lotus, in addition to other subjects. During our conversation, he came across as an energetic, enthusiastic and optimistic painter, who truly loved the beauty of nature and was eager to share his love of life with everyone.
Born in 1977, Tuyen Vu is a contemporary artist based in Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. Having found his passion for art, he started work with ceramics and lacquer to created relief sculptures of lotus flowers. 2013 was a turning point for the painter, when he discovered the beauty of the sacred flowers and began his professional painting career.
In July 2014, his first major solo exhibition took place in a prominent art gallery in the center of Hanoi. Since then, he has had 7 or 8 exhibitions, sometimes curating them by himself. He also loves writing poems to express his feelings and uses those verses to introduce his paintings to audiences. His poetic approach towards the work has resulted in conveying deeper painting meanings.
Tuyen Vu’s oil paintings of lotus flowers have multiple sizes, from small to very large canvases. His lively flowers never keep their natural colors like pink and white. Sometimes they are orange while other times they are blue, depending on the artist’s mood and inspiration. Tuyen Vu usually uses a vivid palette to connote happiness and contentment in life. More than simply performing a physical work, he sees painting as a way of meditating. His act of painting represents his escapism of modern life into an ultimate state of tranquility.
His early canvases are characterized by extravagant composition and elaborate use of brushes and painting knives. An abundance of lotus flowers are depicted to exuberant effect. The pattern of his background is usually composed of short, horizontal, thick lines, which are juxtaposed with the curvy lotus petals. The general mood of his paintings is uplifting, evoking bliss and the love of life.
As an experimental artist, Tuyen Vu has transformed his style within a cycle of two to three years. His paintings have become more painterly and his lotus flowers are distorted almost into abstract expressionism. Using painting knives to spread blocks of oil paint, the diverse shapes of his lotus flowers and their thick textures reveal a vigorous context. His artistic exploration reflects his constant need to improve upon his own works.
The colors in Tuyen Vu’s paintings can be meaningful. When Tết (Vietnamese New Year) was approaching, he chose red, yellow and green for his latest work when I visited his studio. Red symbolizes luck, yellow signifies wealth, and green alludes to youth. Red and yellow are also the colours of the Vietnamese flag. As it was springtime, Tuyen Vu named the painting The Dancing Towards Summer to suggest what would come after spring. The painting has an overall festive feel.
Lotuses have been an inspiration for many generations of Vietnamese writers, poets and artists. Not only do they possess an elegant look, but they also play a significant role in Vietnamese culture, suggesting purity, beauty and strength. Even though lotus flowers bloom in a muddy environment, they still uncontaminated. Lotuses are also the national flower of Vietnam and represent Buddhism throughout Asia.
In Tuyen Vu work, each lotus signifies a human being, as constantly interacts with others. The intimacy of his flowers suggests how lotus flowers become strong by protecting and supporting each other. The artist conveys in his paintings an exhortation to follow the way of Buddha by living a righteous life and being content with the present. Good deeds and healthy relationships can lead to enlightenment.
Tuyen Vu paintings deliver a message about humanity: ‘Life is so wonderful! Why don’t we spread love, kindness and generosity? Let us keep good relationships and create beautiful paintings full of life and humanity.’ The artist is strongly inspired by the religious meanings of lotus in Vietnamese culture. Not only do his canvases depict the magnificence of lotus, but also the artist’s contemplation of spiritual life.