By Hoàng Hồ
The increasing number of coronavirus cases in Việt Nam in the past months means fighting the pandemic with all available resources has become the top priority.
Millions of lives are affected with countless plans having to be delayed until everything gets back to the “new normal”.
And among them, there are many young artists who have had to temporarily put their dreams aside for the better good of the nation.
For Lê Viết Thi, the past few months should have been a vivid moment in the young writer’s career after publishing his debut poetry collection on June 29, which received positive reviews from critics.
Unfortunately, the pandemic again hitting hard has hindered the talented young poet’s promising start.
“My poetry collection was released at the same time that this pandemic kicked-in again, so the book publishing activities had to stop,” Thi said.
“As a young artist, I understand that the most difficult moment for people like me is how to find a balance between ‘art’ and ‘reality’.
“Today’s artists are very different from the past, we can’t be stubborn and just drown ourselves in literature or poetry without any awareness about difficult circumstances. We young people have many other responsibilities to ourselves, our family and society, and the economy is a very important factor.
“Fortunately, besides being a poet, I also work in journalism. Although my income is decreasing, it’s still enough to nurture my inspiration.”
Lê Viết Thi, whose pseudonym is Nam Thi, works next to one of his poems printed on the wall at a tea shop in HCM City. Photo courtesy of Nam Thi
Life these days isn’t only hard for poets like Thi but also for many young painters.
Stuck in a 40-square-metre workshop, Vũ Văn Dũng is using this outbreak to finish another of his lacquer paintings.
Since graduating last year, the career of the 26-year-old-painter so far has been put on hold due to the pandemic.
“My career has been intimately connected with the pandemic since its early days,” he said.
“During this pandemic, there are certainly many difficulties. From buying materials to moving outside to shoot sample photos. I have to take these photos myself without taking them from the internet.
“Fortunately, I also have more income from painting on ceramic vases.”
Vũ Văn Dũng paints on ceramic vases. Behind is one of his best lacquer artworks, which he calls “A countryside lane”. Photo courtesy of Vũ Văn Dũng
Having been teaching future artists at the Hà Nội University of Architecture for 14 years, painter Nguyễn Đức Hùng sympathises with the difficulties faced by the younger artist generation more than anyone.
“It’s already difficult for young artists to make a living through drawing, even without the pandemic,” Hùng said.
“At this time, they don’t have stable income and will face financial difficulties, therefore losing many learning opportunities as all art projects have stalled and collectors are also paying less attention to art at the moment.
“So young people have to live on their savings to get through this difficult period.”
However, in this artist’s view, the glass is always half full. During every online class, Hùng always tells his students to improvise and turn any difficulty into an advantage.
“I really hope that they can keep their passion with will and determination no matter what the circumstances,” said the 40-year-old artist.
“Actually, I think we can totally express our creativity and feelings about the pandemic through art. Hardships only slow us down, but they can never stop an artist.”
Besides teaching, Nguyễn Đức Hùng is a well-known artist with many national art awards including Second Prize in the “Vietnamese young professional painter Viet Art Today 2016” contest. Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Đức Hùng
And the younger generation takes this advice seriously.
According to Thi, despite many struggles, there will always be opportunities for artists in any circumstances.
“I consider myself luckier than many others,” he said. “During this outbreak in Hà Nội, I’m staying at home, and I think it is also a good opportunity for me to improve my expertise.”
“Now, people’s only means of communication is the internet. So, this is also a good opportunity for young artists like me to assert ourselves.
“Although art does not fill everyone’s stomach, I still believe it has the ability to brighten up the spirit of readers in a significantly positive way.
“When I was still a student, I used to write ‘in difficult times I take refuge in poetry’ in my notebook to remind myself to never give up.”
And for Dũng, staying at home means that he can now fully focus on his biggest passion – painting.
“Composing a lacquer painting takes a lot of time and effort (30 days or more) and working at home or in a workshop with little communication with others has turned out to be a good thing,” he laughed.
“I believe that if you don’t let your passion down by working hard every day, your passion will also not let you down. I don’t know what the future holds, but what I definitely know is that I will follow this passion for the rest of my life.” VNS