No More War! Tran Trung Tin: Vietnam's Optimistic Tragedy

Artvehicle 17/Recommended

13th April 2007 — 14th July 2007

In her recent lecture at the Courtauld Institute, Catherine de Zegher described the works of North Vietnamese war artists in terms of 'drawing as drowning out the sounds of bombs'. De Zegher resigned from the Drawing Centre in New York earlier this year after it was banned from moving to a site on Ground Zero due to controversy over its exhibition of works of North Vietnamese artists. She was accused of being unpatriotic and denigrating America, but she refused to be censored. What is interesting is that the works by North Vietnamese artists are so restrained when compared with the images produced by American photojournalists of the time. Included in this exhibition are a small selection of works by North Vietnamese war artists which demonstrate the vital role women played in the conflict. Such works were designed to boost moral at impromptu exhibitions in villages. They were intended as a cathartic reflection of shared trauma, a way of coping with the bloody reality of war. North Vietnamese artists emphasized the bonds of community, rather than focusing on pain like American photographers tended to. The artists had trained in the French style at Hanoi Institute of Fine Arts and this inflects their work. The images here show women militia seated on the ground, a girl playing the violin in the resistance zone, women carrying ammunition as elegantly as a Rodin sketch, others show the wounded being operated on in the jungle. Such unfamiliar and beautiful images are refreshing to Western eyes, deadened by years of American 'Nam' movies. Humanising the enemy is still a transgressive act. And one that is needed in the current war in Iraq, which has terrible parallels in the Vietnam War, especially in the way it is being fought in media images. Cu Chi Guerillas, a 1967 black and white documentary is on view at Asia House. It shows the picturesque, tourist-destination Vietnam of rubber tree plantations being bombed to oblivion and follows a girl soldier seeking revenge.

The main part of the show is formed by poet and painter Trang Trun Tin's delicately beautiful works, painted in oil on photographic paper or newspaper, War, loneliness and poverty were the inspiration for this art. He said that 'If I hadn't started to paint I would have committed suicide.' His works are reminiscent of Klee but with a hotter colour palette. Trang Trun Tin was a young soldier during the French-Vietnamese war and started to paint during the American-Vietnamese war (1965-1975).


Asia House
63 New Cavendish Street
London W1G 7LP

Monday-Friday, 9am-7pm

Saturday, 10am-6pm