Tín Trần Dragon Fly Boy
Tín Trần is a Vietnamese illustrator and painter whose command of color and composition magically reveals a world of animal hybrids and folkloric fantasy. Tín draws on vernacular visual culture, incorporating animal symbolism of animals, as well as a number of Vietnamese visual and literary references such as folklore and fairy tales.
“I like to use these sources to recreate my own story with a little twist. I also love the use of symbol. I personally find this is a perfect visual way of telling a story without “saying” too much. Some of my main references from Vietnamese culture include the symbolic pattern on the bronze drum from the Dong Son culture, or the makeup of actors of Tuong, a Vietnamese traditional theatrical performance.”
Tín Trần Noah
The theatrical luxuriousness of black line, intertwined with a dance like movement creates intricate mosaics of form, recalling the gesture of a paint brush, and the expressiveness of Jugendstil, reminding me immediately of the Robinsonade of Oskar Kokoschka and the division of the picture in early modern Vietnamese silk painting.
And indeed Tín is a silk painter, having studied the genre at university. He notes he responds to Gustav Klimt’s rendering of women and the fine lines of Egon Schiele, and in terms of tone, he looks to the melancholic work of Edward Hopper, and Bui Xuan Phai and Tran Trung Tin for their way with color. The affection for the work of Klimt is a common one among silk painters, perhaps in part because of the impression of effortless curvilinear grace.
Silk painting requires a contemplative process, and as a long time admirer of this classic genre particularly that of Nguyen Phan Chanh, I hold a treasured fondness for the studied lyric quality.
The imperfect beauty of the everyday is so tenderly expressed in blocks of deep color as well as translucent wash. While Tín Trần’s work is quite contemporary, he also employs a similar sort of lyricism, while punctuating the scene with elements of fantasy and curiosities from the natural world. The bright color combined with aqueous effect is a hallmark of modern Vietnamese painting.
Tín Trần Drown Girl, detail
Tín was able to tell me more about his work in a lovely conversation, for which I am most grateful.
To be able to ask so many questions, some very pointed, and difficult to answer, others deeply personal is a real privilege, and I am grateful to every artist who agrees to trust me with their answers and for the way my learning about the world continues through this very special series.
Rosa: You are an illustration artist, but you also studied silk painting?
Tín Trần: Yes, I majored in silk painting. Truly, although it is more time-consuming and labor intensive, I enjoy painting as much as illustration, and I am currently working on a new series of silk paintings. I honestly try not to really adhere to any boundaries when it comes to medium. However, I do think that my work will always involve drawing as this is one of my favorite forms of expression.
Tín Trần Drowning Boy
Rosa: One group I keep coming back to is your series Drowning, please tell me more…..the images are like the 19th century fairy tales from my father’s collection of antique children’s story books, and yet, you add prosaic details like the tennis shoes on the girl, and in the same picture frame, a timeless sense of feeling of being deeply and profoundly overwhelmed.
Tín Trần: I created this two-part work in late 2014, when I was still in university. As you may notice in all my work, I love the idea of combining unlikely elements to build an unreal object, and a fantasy world of my own. Water is an important symbolic form for me, as it stands for purity. When I first started to create these works, I was inspired by a song called Never Let Me Go. I was pretty lost and a little stressed back then, so I wanted to achieve the romantic feel of a purifying moment, that perfect instant of letting go. I also love the idea of putting the western classical style and the far east together.
Tín Trần Drowning Girl
Tín Trần Drowning Boy, Detail
Tín Trần Allergy, Illustration for Barcode Magazine
In our digital age, it can often be difficult to commit fully to quiet thought, writing, sketching, drawing, making up concept drafts whether for critical text or art. This surely does not escape Tín’s attention, after all his work Allergy made for Barcode Magazine responds to this influx of information, too often cobbled together to form some type of admixture of the inaccurate, made up, and if we are lucky, on occasion truly inspiring.
Nevertheless, echoed in the grace of many of Tín’s illustrative works, we are called back to these important creative moments, beautiful instances of myth, and theatre, and everyday wonders.