The Saigon Post
August 2, 1971
The young Vietnamese painter took off his dark glasses and spoke softly in English.
"Like the general mood of this Vietnamese generation, I go from day to day. We are not sure of our destiny. To tell the truth, I am pessimistic most of the time. But I hope I can go on painting. Everything is so ephemeral---friendship, money....The only thing that stays with you is your art. Art does not betray...."
LUCIEN TRONG is currently exhibiting his work in a one-man show at 105 Tu Do Street, Many of his still lifes and human subjects are painted in a manner so direct that it seems at first too facile, too uncomplicated. This intial impression, in my case, gave way to a growing interest during the second or third viewings, just as certain people become more interesting when meeting them later. His approach to composition and esthetics confirms TRONG in his metier as a painter of moods.
To paraphrase Somerset Maugham, an artist makes virtues out of his defects,
LUCIEN TRONG is in a position to exploit the advantage-disadvantage of never having been to art school.
"Technique comes with time," he said. "I think many untalented people go to art school. Art schools don't always produce painters."
LUCIEN TRONG was born 27 years ago in Ben Tre, a Mekong Delta town. Today he is a painter and a teacher, being Assistant Professor of Agriculture at Saigon University. He has attended the Sorbonne and received a License en Science from the Ecole Forestiere in Paris. He also did six months research in Vietnamese botany at Oxford in England.
He started to paint in 1963 in Paris because "I was homesick." He was associated with the Galerie des Jeunes, a group of young Left Bank artistes, mostly French.
He speaks proudly of his older brother, also a painter, who attends Tokyo University. This brother recently gave an exhibition sponsored by the Vietnamese Ambassador in Japan.
"My brother was the first Vietnamese to exhibit Vietnamese subjects in Tokyo."
LUCIEN TRONG has exhibited many times in Saigon and Paris. Slender and smooth-skinned, he looks like he could be a well-groomd poet who carries a carefully preserved Rimbaud with him into a small cafe off the boulevard St Michel.
His canvases at this exhibit recall Gaugin, He admits the Gaugin influence but lists others too, Renoir, Boufet and the contemporary American portrait artist Aymer. The Vietnamese he mentions are Tu Duyen (a traditional painter of silk) and Dinh Guong (modern Vietnamese subjects.) He considers himself a highly subjective painter,
"I think of doing what I like at the moment and being sincere instead of what people want to buy."
This column asked for his impression on la condition artistique au Vietnam today,
"I think Vietnamesre art has improved a lot. The large amount of American money coming into the country has helped but it has also over-commercialized some painters."
LUCIEN TRONG'S rainy season exhibit continues at 161 Tu Do Street (across from the Hotel Caravelle) until August 8.