Sculptor Ta Quang Bao: I can assert myself only through art

Saturday, 2017-06-10 18:04:12
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Veteran sculptor Ta Quang Bao
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NDO – Veteran sculptor Ta Quang Bao was recently honoured at the 2016 Ho Chi Minh Awards for Literature and the Arts for his endless contributions to the country’s development of the arts. On this occasion, Bao granted an interview to Nhan Dan Monthly Newspaper to share about the awards as well as his arts career.

Congratulations for the Ho Chi Minh Awards. How to you feel about receiving the accolade?

Sculptor Ta Quang Bao: Anyone who follows art as a career wants certain acknowledgement for their devotion, and I am happy that my devotion was recognised by the State. However, I have worked my entire life not out of desire for any accolade.

I have always held that you can produce an excellent artwork which can touch people’s hearts only by working with all of your heart and love for nature and the fatherland. If you merely aims for awards while doing art, the awards will never come to you.

Your two artworks which helped you earn the 2016 Ho Chi Minh Awards are ‘Que Son Statue’ and ‘Lo River Victory Statue’. Can you share with us about the two statues?

The two artworks were produced during a tough time in our country’s history. Que Son was a fierce base during the anti-US resistance war. Many Vietnamese soldiers lost their lives at that base. In 1975, the authorities of Quang Ngai province’s Que Son district commissioned me to produce a commemoration statue at the same cost of an ox. I spent one year on end at the Cham museum to create the sculpture.

I made the ‘Lo River Victory Statue’ in Phu Tho province a few years later. I worked day and night to compete the statue despite a small budget and shortage of materials. I was 30, young and eager to work with outdoor statues, which were quite new in Vietnam at that time.

Your statues have been installed in many cities and provinces, many of them have become symbols of trust and hope such as the ‘Nha Trang victory’, ‘Ban Me Cemetery’ and ‘Dien Bien Phu Victory’. What is the key to your success?

Although these statues were produced in the 1970s, the thoughts and ideas featured in my works are not old today at all, they are still fresh and suitable with today’s life. I don’t believe everyone can do the same. I have completed my job with all of my available energy, strength and devotion. I know how to create a true space for outdoor statues. You have to understand the space where the statue is placed as it helps works to be easily understood for viewers and prevents them from becoming out-fashioned in changing times.

Statue installation is popular in Vietnam today, but not many of the sculptures are imbued with the sculptor’s personal characteristics. What do you do to leave your personal signature in your artworks?

Without leaving his personal signature in his works, an artist can never become great. Many sculptors make huge sculptures but their works didn’t meet the aesthetic requirement. It is because the artists didn’t put their heart into their work.

If you only want to earn money while working in the arts, you will be sure to fail. Reality has showed that many sculptures are sketched by directors of fine arts company, who have not received a thorough education in the arts but they have strong financial resources to win the bid for statue biddings. Meanwhile, many sculptors now just act as “craftsmen” who make sculptures based on available and fixed moulds without any creativity or devotion.

Can you share with us about your arts career?

My father is the owner of a pottery kiln, so I was interested in sand and clay from a very young age. I found sculpture as a way to represent my feelings, that’s why I chose the sculpture faculty of the Hanoi Industrial Fine Arts University, where I was a student from 1959 to 1963. After graduating, I worked at the Fine Arts Institute.

By working in the arts, you have to be thirsty to learn, establish your own trademark in your work, and more importantly, nurture a love and passion for the arts.

I keep telling youngsters that learning at school and from friends provides you with a tool to explore yourself and unlock your potential and capacity.

Not only succeeding in producing outdoor sculptures, you are also acknowledged by indoor sculptures, which honour your talent while revealing your thoughts and feelings about life. Can you share with us about your most favourite indoor statues?

I have produced many indoor statues, many of which marked a significant landmark in my arts career. One of them is the ‘Outpost Island’, which is on display at the Museum of Fine Arts. I came up with the idea of producing a sculpture on the theme of the country’s sea and islands in 1975 but it wasn’t until 1980 that I put the idea into action. While sculptors at that time preferred simple and basic layouts, I decided to push the limits by breaking the old order towards boundless freedom and creativity. The ‘Outpost Island’ statue helped me win the first prize of the National Fine Arts Exhibition.

Another indoor sculpture of mine is “Waiting for Husband’, which was produced in 1990s. The work features a woman standing in the rain with teary eyes waiting for her husband. I wanted to capture the loss and fierceness of the war from the view of the rear, where many wives waited for their husbands to return home from war after many years and even decades.

Despite your age, you are still devoted to the arts. How important is the role of the arts in your life?

There is no me today without the arts. The arts themselves have nurtured me and my love for the arts help me overcome all, including physical pain and aging. Without art, I would have been desperately lonely after experiencing a recent heart attack.

I’m no better than anyone else. I have to make just as much effort as the others and I must admit, I faced many failures while trying to find out the language of the arts. I don’t think that I’m talented, but I’m happy to do what I love. There is nothing more glorious than working, and only through working in the arts, I can assert myself and establish who I am.

Thank you so much for your sharing!

Selected sculptures by sculptor Ta Quang Bao:

Lo River Victory (1982)

Outpost Island (1980)

Waiting for Husband (1993)