KVT – More Adventures in Plein Air

KVT – More Adventures in Plein Air

Posted on

KVT 2013KVT-IMG_5760

KVT and a plein air artist

Recently at the Nguyen Gallery in Van Mieu there was an exhibition of plein air painting by a group of young Vietnamese artists that was hugely popular and that generated an interesting online dialogue. Since December I’ve frequently  had  my eyes  glued to an excellent book that details a plein air painting journey through Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Burma by an outstanding artist who surrenders himself to the seduction of landscapes he travels through. Throughout my text about the artist are images of pages of Vietnamese landscapes from the book, images that stretch from Cat Ba at night, the mountains at SaPa, the natural park and caves at Ninh Binh and down to Hue. Naturally, images of images can hardly do justice to the originals.


The artist could be said to following the precepts of Van Gogh who said that his surroundings should be recorded in paintings. Unlike Van Gogh who was confined by time and circumstance to certain locales, this artist is a modern being who can travel far and wide and all he needs with him is a backpack that is his traveling studio. The artist, like Van Gogh, seems to live and breathe painting and, if like me, you’ve met the artist you immediately come under the spell of his passion for the landscapes and peoples whose lives and spaces he’s sharing.


At this stage I have to admit that I’m madly plagiarizing the preface to the book and written by  Francisco Castro Lenero, with whom I completely agree and also agree that the Van Gogh statement that Lenero uses to preface his preface, suits my good friend, the artist of our SE Asian landscapes to a T….. ‘The theme is a hard one! But that is exactly why I want to conquer it. Because it is fantastic, these yellow houses in the sun and also the incomparable freshness of the blue.’ (letter from Vincent to his brother Theo, Arles, Sept 28, 1886)


The artist, Fernando Aceves Humana, is Mexican and from my favorite Mexican locale Oaxaca (which is one of those places that should be on every determined travelers’ itineraries). He’s been a fairly frequent visitor to Hanoi and Vietnam since 2008 when he was on his way to help establish a printing press in Phnom Penh which, despite its huge creative potential had no graphic printing press…but more on that later.


On his first visit to Hanoi, Fernando (born 1969) had a small exhibition of small but luminous landscapes on canvas board at the Bookworm art space. These were portable pieces that he was carrying back from an exhibition he’d had in London. I’m the extremely proud owner of one of these. Fernando couldn’t help but be involved in print making. In Mexico the printing press due to its method of reproduction was an essential tool in the creation and dissemination of images that Mexico needed to begin to understand itself during its reconstruction after its revolution in which more than10% of the population died. During that period Mexican graphics were internationally recognized. Print making was already an established art form throughout the country and Oaxaca itself now has over 40 professional printing workshops and others that teach the craft.


The parallels between the reasons for Mexico and Cambodia to have a strong print making ability can easily be guessed at and is why  a group of Mexican artists and print makers voluntarily collaborated with the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh to establish a workshop with printing press…….more about that plus info about Cambodian artists and print makers who are using the facilities plus plates showing their prints is excellently outlined in a section  at the back of Fernando’s book. Fernando has had many exhibitions of his own paintings and prints (both solo and group) in  Mexico, Paris, Madrid, Berlin, Santiago, Bangkok…and of course Hanoi…to name a few.


When he passed through Hanoi a couple of years ago I managed to snare a print from a series he’d done on endangered animals using stone lithography. Next time Fernando visits Hanoi it will be about time for him to have an exhibition from his portable backpack studio. We’ll ensure that he has free accommodation and studio space so we hope he can’t refuse the offer…free because he’s one of those people you just can’t help but be in love with…his work and his generous personality


The book…….SURESTE ASIATICO by Fernando Aceves Humana is on sale at a select bookshop and art space and is one that all plein air painters and enthusiasts and print makers should browse through even if they can’t afford to buy one. My complimentary copy is freely available on request because that’s what Fernando would approve. OK, OK, I know that some philistines will be saying …why waste your time painting landscapes when all you need to do is point your camera in the general direction and click away?.  Silly them!


For certain travelers of South East Asia, Fernando’s book would be the perfect and treasured souvenir. Last time I looked there were about three copies left in Hanoi, so you connoisseurs need to be quick. A quick look through will show you that I’ve lifted bits holas bolas (sounds Spanish enough to excuse me) from the printing section of the book with a teeny bit of paraphrasing to make the lifting look more like its mine!





Kiem Van Tim is a keen observer of life in general and the Hanoi cultural scene in particular and offers some of these observations to the Grapevine. KVT insists that these observations and opinion pieces are not critical reviews. Please see our Comment Guidelines / Moderation Policy and add your thoughts in the comment field below.

Similar Articles


  1. Do you know of an art gallery that has Vietnamese Plein Aire paintings around 40s to 60s? Possibly modern plein aire as well?

Leave a Reply