At the age of 78, Tran Mai is about to complete a major milestone in his career with the opening of an art exhibition named 79 Mua Xuan (79 Springs), which includes 79 posters about of late president Ho Chi Minh.
Persuasive: One of 79 posters about portraits of late president Ho Chi Minh by Tran Mai.
The exhibition, which aims to celebrate the 64th anniversary of the August Revolution and National Day, will open on September 12 at 16 Ngo Quyen Street, Ha Noi.
"The 79 springs are 79 paintings about Ho Chi Minh’s life since he left Viet Nam to find a way to save the country," Mai said. "Then he found a revolutionary ideal and guided the country to victory. This is a big collection with my special feelings for Uncle Ho, a talented leader and a world cultural celebrity who is a source of endless creative inspiration to me."
Mai said it took more than two years to complete the pictures, adding that he nearly forgets time when he draws. In the past two years, the images of President Ho occupied all his thoughts and sentiments.
"I have gathered up my mind to draw these 79 pictures," Mai said. "Drawing Uncle Ho is very difficult. Each work has to show his appearance and personality. In every work I tried to express Uncle Ho’s image from his face, smile, bearing and hands."
Mai softens these pictures with poetic language. He often uses the verses of poet To Huu to express a theme or thought for panel posters about Presdient Ho. To Huu was a great poet and an important politician of Viet Nam in last century.
"Vang Bac noi chung con nghe ro
Moi tieng Nguoi mang nang nui song"
(We hear Uncle Ho’s voice very clearly.
His words were like the voice of mountain and river)
"Uncle Ho was a simple and noble person so I often use yellow and brown colours to draw him," Mai said.
"Uncle Ho – who is very simple with a brown shirt, haversack and rubber sandals – leans against a stick before setting off to control a campaign. When the country was free and he returned to Ha Noi he continue to live simply, staying in a house on stilts with a single bed. He wore wooden shoes, had a wooden chair and table and ate a plain meal.
Mai’s ancestors’ land is the northern province of Thai Binh but he was born and grew up in Ha Noi.
Mai began painting as a hobby when he was young, though he never had formal training. It wasn’t until he worked for the Ha Noi Post Office that his hobby was promoted.
Former cadres of the post office industry often talk about the posters Mai painted during the American War. They were large pictures that expressed hatred for the enemy and during that time he had to work continuously.
It was not only a poster but also a noticeboard on the victory of the northern army and the people.
At that time Mai set a record, finishing the poster within a night to raise support for the anti-America War.
Mai cannot remember how many posters he drew and how many provinces and cities used his works during the war. But he is the only Vietnamese painter to have drawn panel posters for seven consecutive National Party Congresses since the fourth Congress.
"Poster mainly aim to persuade people to implement the policies and guidelines of the Sate in any period. So it’s content must be obvious and general."
Thus Mai often uses bright and strong colours with succinct and filtered sentences in his works in order to create a persuasive and strong impression for viewers.
Mai said "A poster is like an article: it only has value in a fixed time. It is the news. Accordingly I always work and create ceaselessly to suit life’s flow."
With more than 40 years of drawing posters, Mai has won many international prizes, such as third prize for poster to celebrate Cuba’s Moncada Victory in 1978 and first prize at the World Youth Festival in North Korea in 1989, plus many domestic prizes. Mai’s pictures are also displayed at many museums at home and abroad. (VNS)