Postcards from Vietnam: Phan Thu Trang

The power of a painting is to teleport you instantly to a different place and a different time, without stepping into a time machine. So the person you are when you look at the painting and the person you are when you look away could literally be worlds apart.


Phan’s version of Vietnam is indeed worlds away. It is tucked away in the endless loop of childhood, like a record playing a loving tune that you wish would never stop. Her paintings resemble a train of thought- with similar markings of dominating tress exploding with colour, delicate human figures always fleeting to get somewhere and a déjà vu of a giggling childhood. 


Born in Hanoi in 1981, Phan Thu Trang seemed to be so filled with life and light inspired by the cities and Northern villages of Vietnam that she had to tip it all on to a canvas right from the age of 5. Her abilities as an artists grew as she did to evolve into a body work that is unmistakably Vietnam and unmistakably Phan. Her style has a strong individuality, without ever seeming like that was the intention. Her vision is sweet and her work is a labour of love- and it shines with grace like a lighthouse in a world of overwhelming cynicism and negativity.


Phan’s style reinterprets the rules of landscape paintings with decorative interpretations. She breaks down complexities of nature into their bare essentials, not unlike the nuanced work of a child. With a limited range of colours, she uses texture and thick strokes of paint to define her subjects. Her paintings are characterized by large trees which she paints with thick delicious strokes of paint at the bottom and works to blend as she reaches the top and closes them off with a spindly bark.


The painting titled Young Yellow is a poem in paint dedicated to childhood friendships and the promise of youth with a massive canopy of a yellow tree which is painted with flat and controlled brush strokes using purposeful thick strokes. To balance the overbearing and unmoving structure of the tree is the figure of two Vietnamese girls racing off on bicycles- as if in a casual moment of haste to get somewhere. The painting captures routine as a memory- to coax out a much loved memory of the viewer’s routine from their own childhood.


Raw Red paints the the rhythm of a moment with the immense profile of the large red tree bleeding colour with a field of abundant florals at it’s feet. The impasto of paint applied like layers of cake meets the still nature of the water. Phan creates a moment of perfect balance where the agility and restlessness on land meets the tranquility and stillness of water. The tiny canoes and the form of the houses in backdrop lend the context of Vietnam to this painting.  


Phan uses colour as a verb. In her paintings, the colour speaks and evokes and dictates the mood of the painting, with everything else only working to support it. And with every burst of childlike love of colour, she creates a cloud of memory for the viewer to sink into. And so while Vietnam maybe an unfamiliar territory, there is still something very familiar and warm about Phan’s palette.


Phan Thu Trang – Exhibitions and Shows 

Phan Thu Trang, a Vietnamese artist, is an alumnus of Hanoi Theatre and Cinema University. She’s a Member of The Vietnam Young Painter Association and has exhibited her work in a number of solo and group exhibitions in Bali, Singapore, Belgium, New York and Hong Kong amongst many others.


1999 Students’ Exhibition in Hanoi
2000 Students’ Exhibition in Hanoi
2001 Students’ Exhibition in Hanoi
2003 Group Exhibition of Younger Painter Association in Hanoi
2004 Group Show in Hanoi
2005 International Art Fair in Singapore in September
2006 Solo show in HK FINEART GALLERY
2007 International Art Fair in New York
2008 Solo show in HK FINEART GALLERY
2009 Group Show in Singapore in October
2010 Group show in Hongkong
2011 Solo show in Intercontinental Hanoi
2012 Solo show in Singapore
2013 Group show with Hoang Tuan
2014 Group show in Bali
2015 Solo show at Belgium Art Gallery

Categories: Artist

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