Electric skill with wool makes an artist

Published: 05/12/2008 05:00



VietNamNet Bridge - Electrician Tran Ngoc Tuan is a self-taught artist who specialises in creating portraits and landscapes from wool fragments.

Tuan helps two students, Vo Thi Son (left) and Luong Ngoc Hue city (right) create a piece of wool art featuring flowers.

VietNamNet Bridge - Electrician Tran Ngoc Tuan is a self-taught artist who specialises in creating portraits and landscapes from wool fragments.

In a room of only 12sq.m, amid the serenity of the Central Highlands’ city of Da Lat, 54-year-old Tran Ngoc Tuan spends most of his days creating works of beauty.

In the last 10 years, he has produced hundreds of works from leftover pieces he receives from wool knitting factories around town, including impressive portraits of famous people such Albert Einstein.

As a boy, Tuan was passionate about art but he needed to work as a household electrician to support his family. After several years, he was able to devote his time to his artwork.

Working with wooden pieces in the beginning, he began using wool by accident.

In 1998, when he was an electrician, he met Pham Thi Loc, a teacher at a local kindergarten .

Knowing Tuan’s talent as an artist, Loc asked him to make teaching tools for her class.

He worked day and night, using wool pieces to create landscapes, still lifes and portraits of pets for Loc’s classes.

She was amazed at how Tuan was able to bring to life the Da Lat Railway Station, Xuan Huong Lake and Cu Hill, among other sites.

The collaboration was a fruitful one in many ways: he and Loc later married.

Tuan pursued his artwork as a hobby until 2004, when he stopped working as an electrician and Loc quit teaching and began to knit wool for her husband’s work.

At the time, he also received money from a benefactor, Nguyen Thuy Dai, to create 100 artworks to exhibit during the Da Lat Flower Festival in 2005.

Before assembling his pieces, Tuan says he sketches with a pencil on a thin board and then chooses wool of different colours for the piece.

“It depends on the characteristics of each painting, but around 15 colours are used. The most challenging job for the artist is to use the right colour for the right detail of the painting,” Tuan says.

“It is similar to a painter who usually composes with oil colour on canvas. I compose paintings without a paintbrush, but with wool fragments.”

The most difficult part of the job is deciding how to present facial expressions and emotions of characters using wool fibre, he says.

Luong Ngoc Hue, one of his two students, says the sophisticated wrinkles on the faces of Uncle Ho, an ethnic minority K’Ho woman, Albert Einstein and others, are difficult to execute.

Tuan uses tiny threads of wool spun by hand to make the wrinkles.

“We must temporarily stop our breath for a moment before we put the thread in position, as it is like a feather and may easily fly away before it gets stuck on a wooden board,” Hue says.

At a recent exhibition of works in Ha Noi and HCM City, many visitors were shocked to discover that the works were made of wool.

“They were impressed,” said one of Tuan’s students, Vo Thi Son, who has been working in the wool industry for years.

A special kind of glue, made by Tuan himself, is used to make the artwork.

His tools are a pair of tailor’s scissors, surgeon’s pincers, a hair dryer and a round plastic disc to flatten the woollen pieces.

“In 2004, some people asked me to make wool paintings in bulk but it was impossible. My wife and I do not have enough hands and time for the job. Also, it’s about creativity, not production,” says Tuan.

Teaching students isn’t easy, he says, adding that technical skills are required, as well as passion.

Tuan says he has made portraits from photographs of his friend, photographer Duong Quang Tin, including photos of an ethnic minority K’Ho woman from Lam Dong Province.

He has sold more than 20 copies of the portrait, he says. With such talent, his work is in great demand from amateur and professional photographers.

(Source: VNS)

Update from: http://english.vietnamnet.vn//profiles/2008/12/817231/

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