Vietnamese Artist Hoang Hong Cam

HOANG HONG CAM offers no detailed accounts of specific domestic scenes. Instead, he creates highly charged poetic images in which human relationships and feelings are implied rather than expressed. Having never left Vietnam, he has a deep interest in indigenous folk art and a strong affinity with the unspoilt countryside. Unsophisticated peasants with their simple joys are the subject of his painting. He wants to express the feeling they have for life, not by facial expression or violent gesture but by the arrangement of forms and colours, leaving out all superfluous details. Cam's fine balance of intellectual discipline and emotional charge is evident in The Lamp I, a wonderfully textured painting on a luminous, green ground against which floats the figure of a woman in a hammock, illuminated by the oil lamp below. Lost in thought, she stares out with a vacant look in her eyes. A bunch of persimmons rests on her chest. By means of extraordinary virtuosity of palette knife in combination with brush, Cam conveys the effect of light on objects and its diffusion outwards from the lamp into the darkness beyond. Color and texture are used to create a new kind of space and light. The lamp may be the symbol of evil and darkness for Van Gogh, but for Cam it merely indicates night-time and is a friendly presence during periods of solitude. It is a common item in rural districts where electricity is generally unavailable. The Lamp II is about being solitary even when in the company of others. The distance separating the woman from the man in the background, and the lamp in between, signifies their isolation from each other. Colors are symbolic, arbitrarily chosen, and the painting exudes a sense of waiting, a feeling of timelessness. Woman Sitting in Silence and Two Women are large compositions which exude quiet introspection and resignation. They are based on deeply-felt personal experience and can be interpreted from many angles and viewpoints - mythical, psychological and social. In painting such as Sitting Woman in Green and Grazing at the tree, Cam combines an expressionist freedom of colour with an unerring sense for color harmonies. He makes clever use of complementary as well as unexpected colour juxtaposition to create visually vibrant pictures. Brilliant and vigorous colours saturate the canvas in large blocks to create emotional intensity. Paintings like White Cat and White Vase are remarkable for their freshness of colour, variations in texture and expressiveness of line. A sense of the comic can sometimes be found in Cam's work, as in Abnormal Sentiment which depicts two women, one holding a lamp which reflects a red light on her face. The other, her features indistinct, laugh with her hand covering her mouth, as though at a private joke. Boldly outlined and vigorously painted, it illustrates the way Cam is able to use painting for deeply personal and poetic expression.