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Nguyen Minh Thanh  
NGUYEN Minh Thanh Vietnam b.1971
Portrait of mother 1998
Chinese ink and watercolour on 'do' paper
240 x 160cm (8 pieces, 66 x 85cm each)
Purchased 1999.
Queensland Art Gallery Foundation
Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Reproduced by permission of the artist

About the work
Portrait of mother is a fragmented yet monumental portrait of the artist's mother. It exemplifies Nguyen Minh Thanh's artistic practice in terms of technique, materials and iconography. The artist works mainly in Chinese ink and watercolour on handmade Vietnamese 'do' paper. His themes are inspired by rural Vietnamese life and the role of Vietnamese women in society throughout the country's history. The figure of the mother holds a central part in his work and carries strong autobiographical references. In Portrait of mother, the subtle calligraphic strokes, subdued palette and use of 'do' paper complement the sense of intimacy conveyed by the subject matter of the work.

The common thread that runs through Minh Thanh's statements about his mother and portraiture is that they are prompted by memories of his childhood. This is a consistent theme and inspiration in Minh Thanh's practice. In Portrait of mother, Minh Thanh paints an image of his mother from his childhood memories of her youthful face.

About the artist
Nguyen Portrait Nguyen Minh Thanh is the youngest artist in this exhibition. Born in a village outside Vietnam's capital, Hanoi, Minh Thanh's experience of life is deeply coloured by the fortunes of his childhood rural life. These early years were marked by hardships, yet his family was sustained by the attention and enterprise shown by his mother in her efforts to feed and educate her five children.
Nguyen Minh Thanh

Minh Thanh decided on a career as an artist and graduated from the Vietnam College of Fine Arts in Hanoi in 1996.He has exhibited work in many local and international exhibitions and the work Portrait of mother was included in the 'Third Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art' in Brisbane in 1999.

Other lines to follow for Nguyen Minh Thanh
Nguyen & Mother

The artist and his mother.
Photograph courtesy of the artist.

'In the evening my mother came home from market, she usually counted money, there was little money and I helped her to do that. That small humble money was always nearly enough for our narrow family expenses. And it was enough for us, five children growing up . . . I became an artist. My mother and me, we are content that I am an artist. My mother does not know and does not understand what I'm doing in art . . . A painter, for her that's a good career and honourable, rather than having to work hard in the fields.'

'I wanted to draw her, and I do, but to draw like her is really difficult; I drew a woman who doesn't look like my mother or like anyone else. Now my mother is happy but her smile still keeps somehow the sadness of the hard times before, the time that seems long long ago. She is still there, she will always be there, she won't change, she doesn't need to change. But our generation, we change and change a lot.'

Nguyen Minh Thanh quoted in Beyond the Future: The Third Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 1999, p.164.

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