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Nguyen Tuan Khanh (Rung) - Interview

Source: As Seen by Both Sides – William Joiner Foundation and the Indochima Arts Project - 1990 – page 88 – 89


For the first time since the end of the Second Indochina War, works of the war and its aftermath by both Vietnamese and American artists have been brought together in an exhibition that will travel in both countries. As Seen by Both Sides, which takes its name from the exhibition, is both a catalog and explication of this deeply moving collection of art. Included are orks by twenty Vietnamese and twenty American artists, most of whom are veterans of the war and all of whom testify to the irrevocable impact of that experience on their works. The images these men and women have created range from searing depictions of the realities of war to quiet sketches of those caught in its turmoil.

The Vietnamese pieces never been exhibited in the United States. Many were created in the field by soldier who used whatever materials were at hand and who carried their works around with them for years. This catalog may be the best record we will ever have of this exceptional collection.

In addition to reproductions of the works – 68 in color and 14 in black and white – As Seen by Both Sides offers interpretive essays by American and Vietnamese scholars and critics, who explore the social, political, and aesthetic contexts of the work.

This book also includes a photograph of and interview with each artist.


Nguyen Tuan Khanh is an outgoing and generous man who insisted on giving each of us a painting of our own choosing. The gift to me is a gesture and experimental painting of a head in which the forms are scratched through the paint to the supporting paper. It is an imaginative and poetic interpretation and is signed, as is all of Tuan Khanh’s works, with the name Rung, a nickname meaning “Forest”

LT: You have such an ease with oil paint. When did you start painting?

NTK: when I was seven or eight years old. From 1960 to 1964 I went to School of Fine Arts in Hue.

LT: Were you in the army as a military artist?

NTK: Yes, for five years from 1970 to 1975. I was a soldier of the former regime in the South. After the revolution, from 1975 to 1980, I was put in a reeducation camp. When I was released, I took up painting again.

LT: Do you have another jof as well?

NTK: I just paint. It is my job. Sometimes I sell my paintings and sometimes I can’t.

LT: Are you able to support your three children with your paintings?

NTK: No, I can’t. My wife is a worker.

LT: I like the freedom in your paintings. The direction seems to be different from the other works we’ve seen. Your works has some feeling of French painting – Picasso, Chagall – especially in Candle of Peace. Have you been inspired by any other artists?

NTK: If I am influenced, it is not conciously

LT: It appears these works are painted over photographs or posters. A I right?

NTK: Yes, I paint over posters or pictures from magazines. The subject doesn’t matter because I use them only as a ground on which to paint. Sometimes some of the original colors show through.

LT: Do you have much chance to exhibit your work here or in other countries?

NTK: Yes, I have opportunities to exhibit here in the Art Association. And my work was shown in Washington DC in 1965. I wish to say that it is a honor to be selected for this exhibition.

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