I wasn't going to bother with this, but I'm so glad I did. There was a special exhibition by the Vietnamese expression Tran Trung Tin who lived through great adversity and lifted himself into happiness through the practise of his art. The very definition of a suffering artist, he painted on old newspapers, and sack-cloth, and swapped food tokens for left over paints. Much of his work has been lost or destroyed, but what remains is rather haunting. Simple child-like strokes belie a complex emotional path. The faux-naive depiction of domestic and political conflict and resolution is really quite affecting. He had a solo show in London a few years ago, shame I hadn't heard of him then, but very happy I caught this now.
Upstairs over in the main museum building, was an even more remarkable collection of Vietnamese paintings from the last couple of hundred years. really opened my eyes.
These first four images show incredibly delicate use of paint to depict scenes of young women, a gentle landscape watercolour and a floral still life. Emphasising this feminine feel is the silk onwhich this is painted by Nguyen Thi Mong Bich.
This wonderful depiction of Bai Tu Long bay, painted by Ta Thuc Binh, also on silk.
'Young girl coming hair' by Nguyen Van Long
'Two young girls in front of the screen' by Tran Van Can
This is an example of lacquer in painting. The gold in the sky and of the trees is metallic and shines beautifully. There are two artists credited: Hoang Tich Chu & Nguyen Tien Chung.
Another room concentrated on artists' interpretations of the war. While the American's bombed in the day time, the VC fought in the jungles by night. This is simply titled 'La Vert', by Dang Chung, it's hues reminiscent of a Rousseau, but instead of tigers we see three soldiers deep in the rich nocturnal greens of the oil paint.
This one reminds me of the opening shot of Herzog's Aguirre in which a group of conquistadors and their supply chain of porters snakes up a precipitous pass in the Andes. It's called 'Uncle Ho on a Military Campaign' the artist is Nguyen Nghia Duyen, painted in '85.
Finally a simple cartoon of Uncle Ho by Nguyen Do Cung from 1944.
It's all well worth a visit if you get a chance. I would have spent much longer than the hour and a half I had there before being rapidly ushered out by the staff several minutes prior to listed closing time.