Nguyen Dinh Dang
Speech delivered at the opening reception of “East and West in Me”
H.A.C. Gallery, October 26, 2007
Distinguished visitors and guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It’s a great pleasure and honor for me to welcome all of you to this vernissage. I would like to thank you for coming here tonight.
I’m thankful to my friend Benjamin Lee, who introduced me to the H.A.C. Gallery at the opening of his show here in September last year. On that occasion I had the honor to meet Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado. On the complain by Benjamin that he never saw all three panels of “Autobiography” together, Her Highness said this gallery would be the right place to show the whole triptych. Very much inspired by this comment, I realized only after printing the postcards of this show that the stairs here are too narrow for a painting of F130 size to get through. As a result, the whole afternoon of yesterday we were working hard to remove the two paintings, “The Exit” and “The Winter Ocean”, from the stretchers, roll them up, bring them down into the gallery, and re-stretch them to hang them here.
I’m very much pleased that the model for “The Exit”, Mrs. Reiko Sato, who is the piano teacher of my son and myself, is also present today. I have no doubt that it was thanks to her charms that this painting has won the Sompo-Japan Art Foundation’s Prize in September this year.
I’m very grateful to Mari, Miki, and the Heart Art Communication for their kind offer of the venue, their kindness and help in organizing this show. I thank my friend, Mr Michihiro Hatake for his assistance in arranging the show.
Finally I thank my wife for her support, her love to me and to my art.
With the title “East and West in Me” I want to tell you how different cultures, which I experienced in my life, helped me to cultivate my painting style. Over there you can see the “The firefly”. Its motivation came after I read a story about a kamikaze pilot, who said before his last mission that he would come back as a firefly. This story reminds me of a beautiful Russian song, “Zhuravli” (“The cranes”). Only very recently I learned that it was Japan that gave the motivation to this song. When its author, poet Rasul Gamzatov, visited the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima, a little Japanese girl handed him a paper crane. The memory of the paper cranes haunted the poet for months and inspired him to write a poem starting with the now famous lines:
I sometimes think that warriors brave,
Who met their death in bloody fight,
Were never buried in a grave
But rose as cranes with plumage white.
I learned this song as a student in Moscow some 30 years ago. Tonight I would like to sing it here for you to show my gratitude to the cultures that have influenced me in my evolution as an artist. Among them, of course, is the Japanese culture, which has inspired not only Rasul Gamzatov, but also many great artists including the French impressionists, our generation, and many generations to come.