NGUYEN TU NGHIEM

1922

Dance

Born 1921 in Nam Dan district, Nghe An.
Hanoi.
He lives alone in one small room a short walk from the Hanoi Museum of Fine Arts. His drawings of rams for Tet 1991 hang on the wall. Nghiem is an artist who draws inspiration from a deep well, but his art is deceptively simple, its refinement hidden under a veil of child-like innocence. Many early modernists saw the kinship between the naive immediacy and two-dimensionality of childre's art. His Dog (1960) bares his teeth and snarls, but we kniw better : this is a child's view of ferociousness. Even his tigers and the lioness proctecting her cub are more cuddly than trightening. In Ancient Dance (1984) some dancers' heads tilt at right angles to their bodies in a child's view of the world. Anatomically impossible, the spirit is absolutely correct.
Nghiem has captured this spirit so well that the danger is that non-Vietnamese might dismiss his work as too simple, too quaint. Nghiem's simplicit is no easy feat, it took years of study and work. Flatness, ilke linear perspective, has to be created by an artisit. Supreme simplicity is, like the "supreme clumsiness" Rudolph Arnheim writes about, "a privilege of the masters".
Works are in the collections of the Hanoi Fine Arts Exhibition Museum and museums in the CEI, Poland, UK, Holland, Belgium, Sweden, Japan, Cuba, France and Germany.

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