Boi Tran Garden
One often forgets the immediate context of a work of art. Certainly, the context of its creation, of its “invention” by an artist, of its insertion in a “school” or a “flow”, is often invoked or even developed. But, finally, perhaps in art the artist is of least importance because his destiny, sculpted by others, free or constrained, escapes him. Perhaps also, accordingly, is that the collection, this social link between the artist and his milieu, constitutes the most important evidence of art.
The collection which we are proud to present here illustrates a profoundly Vietnamese style of collecting: a homage, without ostentation, to genuine masters; a eulogy to the lacquer, the positioning of this collection within the space of life: that which could have been a minuscule apartment in Hanoi with walls filled with piled up artworks is, here, a garden, filled with majestic trees and languid pools, where the wind comes to gently caress the “Nha Ruong”, those exquisite old traditional wooden houses of Hue. A homage to the national masters like…
A eulogy to lacquer: lacquer is, with painting on silk, one of the two major elements which the Vietnamese School has brought to world history. In this presented collection all the artists witness this: how can one forget that Tran Quang Tran was the first to produce a lacquer that met the new concepts advocated by Victor Tardieu’s Ecole des Beaux-Arts? How can one forget that To Ngoc Van was the creator of the finest lacquer masterpiece “Nghi chan ben doi” (Stopping Place on the Hill). And one must not overlook Truong Be (Vietnamese, B. 1942), the greatest contemporary lacquer artist, of the caliber of Nguyen Gia Tri, and Nguyen Trung (Vietnamese, B. 1940) whose lacquer production remains exceptional and Boi Tran (Vietnamese, B. 1957) who knows how to portray his grace and force in a powerful composition – all of whom remind one of just how magnificent this extraordinary medium of lacquer is.
In order to understand this collection, one must imagine this collection in the interior of a “Nha Ruong” in a garden in Hue, on Thien An’s hill – where everything suggests meditation without langour.
One thinks of Nguyen Gia Thieu (1741-1798) and of his masterpiece, the “Cung Oan”:
“In courtyards planted with peach and plum trees
Large shadows sleep
On terraces decorated with urns and gongs
The moon rests, dreaming
Sails on the ocean with limitless dignities
The waves and the winds tussle with each other”
Tran Quang Tran (1900-1969), the famous “Ngym” who gives us a suave view of his dear “Western Lake” at Hanoi, or To Ngoc Van (1906-1954) who describes for us elegant women whose pose also reveals a hint of audacity. These works, drawn from the best sources the sons of the painters, respectively Tran Hung (an architect) and To Ngoc Thanh (an artist) offer us a privileged insight into these two major artists, unsurpassable protagonists in the genesis of Vietnamese paintings.