A few year ago, in my trip to Hanoi, I had an occasion to view Dinh Quan’s painting in his joint exhibition with other painters of the group such as Quoc Hoi, Pham Ngoc Minh, Quang Huy and Tran Quoc Tuan. Each artist had his own peculiar way of painting but they all showed a powerful strength of creativeness novelty and no overlapping. Separately speaking inside the smoothness and luster of Dinh Quan’s lacquer paintings, there exists a concealed, mysterious distinctive feature of the media as well as their poetic inspiration. These are precisely – as he put it – the reminiscences of his childhood with image of festive days in villages and communal houses of familiar beasts and objects of the country side. Female figures – which are well finished and beautifully refined, surrealist rather than realistic – always occupy a central position in his paintings. They are no doubt images stemming from the statues of Guan Yin of the one-thousand-arm and one-thousand-eye Buddhas in ancient pagodas. Banners and streamers are also one of the indispensable elements in Quan’s art.
They are memories of old legends which he already heard in his infancy. Generally speaking, the pictures of Dinh Quan at that time are submerged in his close connections with the past, the great history of our nation and his own past experiences. Hence they simultaneously arouse the great excitement of festivities and inspire the melancholic quietness of a Zen priest.
In my recent trip to Hanoi, Dinh Quan showed me a series of his novel paintings, novel in proper meaning of the word. In fact, they are new in terms of time, the way of expression, the main idea, the composition and the content. Though the stream of creativity remains the same, hardly does Dinh Quan borrow his motifs from national cultural life or ornamental designs in communal houses or Buddhist temples, and even of the borrowings do exist, they are quite insignificant, since those external elements have already been metamorphosed into a modern outward look and ambience. Today’s atmosphere is now vigorous and definite with neither idle talks nor far – fetched politeness. The images once given special care and duly polished up now seem to explode and disintegrate into emotional, expressive images. “Scared Songs”, “loves” and “moons” are no more viewed in a romantic, dream – like manner or execute by gentle meticulous hand. They apparently appear on the lacquer background in the author’s sudden inspiration prompted by a fit of anger or a moment of despair. It seems as of the personages would like to let out a cry prior to their self – explosion. Nevertheless, it is self – destruction which man can use to raise questions to himself, to get rid of the many sorrows and worries, and to sublimate his own sufferings.
The view of Dinh Quan’s new paintings gives the feeling that we are closer contact with the author himself because they are simple, free from preciousness and they are not trying to daggle our eyes with technicalities. Quan is more and more the master of lacquer painting and gets more effective command of its technique, which accordingly gives him enough freedom and power in his artistic creativity.
Constantly searching in order to surpass oneself, that is a quality and a necessity for an artist. Dinh Quan is exactly an artist who is qualified as such.
Ho Chi Minh City, 24.9.’94