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December 17, 2023
October 20, 2023
Trần Trung Tín

Manzi and Blue Space Gallery are pleased to present an extraordinary exhibition by Trần Trung Tín entitled ‘Birdsong’ on the occasion of the late artist’s 90th birthday anniversary

Opening: 06.00 PM Friday 20 October 2023

On display: 11.00 AM - 07.00 PM (Tue - Sun) from 21 Oct until 17 Dec 2023

Venue: Manzi Exhibition Space, 2 ngõ Hàng Bún, Ba Đình, Hanoi

Free Entrance

Trần Trung Tín (1933 - 2008), a talented man with an exceptional life born into a bizarre epoch, had started painting merely as a way to go through the aftermath of an ideological crisis. Stuck in the extreme disillusionment and suppression, forbidden to speak up his thoughts or write out his opinions, Trần Trung Tín began to draw. In such a strange twist of fate, the used-to-be actor/announcer/film screenwriter then spent the entire last half of his life painting ceaselessly and quietly, and unexpectedly became the most absurd and brilliant phenomenon of Vietnamese art.

He painted to release himself from all the suppression,

to seek salvation,

to break the silence,

to not get lost or give up,

to hold onto his self, with all its essence and ethos

… he painted in a struggle “to overcome the atrocious era we were all living in” (said by director Tự Huy - a friend of Trần Trung Tín)

Perhaps from chaos of all confusion and disappointment, a new strength would blossom; amid the destruction and collapse new construction would arise, as always, though isolated and muted yet absolutely pure and true.

The exhibition ‘Birdsong’ at manzi will display over 30 artworks painted on newspaper and photographic paper including both figurative and abstract series. This is the second solo show by Trần Trung Tin in Hanoi (the first one ‘Optimistic Tragedy’ was held ten years ago), naturally it has a sense of home-coming, for most of the displayed works were painted in Hanoi during the years of 1969 - 1973. The period is the peak time of the bombing and airstrike in North Vietnam during the war, and Trần Trung Tín, despite the order to evacuate from the dangerous area, persisted to stay inside the city; then under the bombshelter he painted these works. Coming back here after half of decade, they just like an alternative way the late artist kept his promise to ‘𝑟𝑒𝑡𝑢𝑟𝑛 𝑡𝑜 𝐻𝑎𝑛𝑜𝑖 - 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑐𝑖𝑡𝑦 𝐼 ℎ𝑎𝑣𝑒 𝑙𝑜𝑣𝑒𝑑 𝑚𝑜𝑟𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑛 𝑜𝑛𝑐𝑒’ (excerpt from Trần Trung Tín’s telegram to Vietnam Feature Film Studio, after moving back to Saigon in 1975)



‘Birdsong’ also marks the first time his experimental series of abstraction has been introduced publicly. Unlike the figurative series with the idiomatic symbolism that made the artist well-known internationally: the metaphoric images of the girl, rifle, flower, bird,... unveiling an oppressed reality and post-war traumas in bleak gloomy palettes ; his abstract series in the 70s is likely to be in warmer shade and a more lighthearted spirit. In the tragic darkness of war (literally and metaphorically), Tín kept painting under the dim light of the oil lamp inside his small basement, while the air-raid siren was wailing. Through the energy of colors and freedom of lines, Tin's paintings with an idiosyncratic visual language (unprecedented in his generation, which had always been prevailed by French classical style and Soviet realistic  & propaganda art), silently yet powerfully shine with strange optimism and innocence, as if ‘meditative retreats’ to ‘a self-created visual sanctuary from the war raging outside.’

In addition to the abstract body of works, this exhibition also features some figurative paintings he drew in the years of 1972-1975. Here, with 'The little girl of Hanoi', 'My Cat', 'Orange Venus', 'Hanoi Communal House'... shades and strokes are applied in a completely primitive and pristine style (artist Bùi Xuân Phái appraised Trần Trung Tín as a natural - born master of colors). The sadness and solitude thus, effortlessly oozed out in a gentle yet haunting & powerful way.

Trần Trung Tín, with all of the choices of his life, and his art courageously embraced and preserved what people of his time had been forced to abandon to survive and adapt to the chaotic era. That strange audacious bird, an outsider of his land, an outcast of his time, amazingly is still singing by now, as " Truth cannot be executed / Beauty cannnot be buried…” (*), giving voice to the muted and recalling memories of what once denied, erased by the war and historical turbulence.


(*) From a poem Trần Trung Tín wrote in 1964


TRẦN TRUNG TÍN (b.1933, from Ben Tre), joined the Resistance against the French at the age of 12.  In 1954, he gathered in Hanoi and was directly recruited into the first course of the Vietnam Film School, then worked as an actor, a screenwriter for some propaganda films ; he was also an announcer for the Voice of Vietnam radio. In 1969 he started drawing. In 1975, he moved to Ho Chi Minh city and lived there until he died in 2008.

Trần Trung Tín had his first solo exhibition at the Singapore Art Museum in 2001. He was also the first Vietnamese artist invited to exhibit at the British Museum in London in 2002, then 2007. His works also participated in many international exhibitions in the US, France, England, Thailand, Singapore, Japan... and are included in many large art collections. In 2013, 5 years after his death, his wife - Mrs. Tran Thi Huynh Nga organized a solo exhibition for him at the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum.

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BLUE SPACE GALLERY was founded in 1996 by Mrs. Trần Thị Huỳnh Nga, first operated in collaboration with the Ho Chi Minh Museum of Fine Arts. Since 1997, with funding from the Ford Foundation, ‘Blue Space’ has continually propelled experimentation in the arts through monthly exhibitions for young artists from a variety of backgrounds, from the North to South and also from outside the country. Many of them today are honored in the art scene: Jun Nguyen Hatsushiba, Nguyễn Minh Thành, Nguyễn Văn Cường, Lê Thừa Tiến, Mai Anh Dũng, Bùi Công Khánh, Ly Hoàng Ly, Nguyễn Thị Châu Giang, Nguyễn Sơn, Nguyễn Thái Tuấn, Bùi Hải Sơn, to name a few.

‘Blue Space’ also promotes international exchanges through conferences, workshops, and art camps focusing on performing art and installation. Since 2007, ‘Blue Space’ has been halting the experimental side of their activities due to Huỳnh Nga’s health.


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