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At first glance, the walls at the delightfully miniscule art gallery, Dong Phong, appear to be the happiest in town



The paintings are by a 40ish artist Luu Vu Long who has been a resident in Germany for a fair while.

He goes under the ‘brush’ name BEO which is one nomenclature for a Tiger and which was once his nick name within his family – and thus his exhibition with its obvious childhood references is:


A bit of a digression:

Once upon a time (and please correct me if I’m too far off the mark!) it was the Vietnamese custom to give newborns an ugly or ferocious fake name so that the ever present and persistent evil spirits would not grab hold of the child’s real identity and carry it off to be part of their world. (I guess that this is one of the spiritual/shamanistic practice had its genesis in the not so distant times when infant mortality rates were very high)

Just to be on the safe side – just in case there really are evil spirits lurking under the bed – a lot of modern day Vietnamese families carry on the practice and a new born child will be known by a pet name until it is old enough to assume its own identity (such as when it goes to school). Though the fake name has become more agreeable and less scary. Thus in one of my friend’s extended family there is a Bong – cotton wool flower – a Du Du, a Su Su, a Chom Chom and a Bi – paw paw, a choko or chayote, a rambutan, and a marble.

Some will have the nick name follow them into adulthood, and some, like our artist, will use it as a nom de pinceau

Back to the broad brushstrokes:


The artist known as Beo has presented us with a series of paintings that can’t help but make you feel somewhat happy but that some viewers will immediately dismiss as being bits of froth and bubble.


And here I disagree.

Underneath or amongst all of that vivid color and energetic brush work lurk those evil spirits with teeth and claws ready to gobble up or maim the tardy, the timid and also the most adventurously aggressive








In fact the paintings by the artist called Beo are very effective and evocatively lurid echoes of traditional tales that abound in every culture- whether they be cautionary stories, satirical evocations of contemporary events, tales to explain creation beliefs, or just plain around the camp fire horror scapes designed to raise goose bumps and make kids cling to mother.

The figures in the paintings could be seen as representative of the Freudian id http://www.simplypsychology.org/psyche.html -the impulsive (and unconcious) part of our psyche which responds directly and immediately to the instincts.




In some contemporary middle class cultures where life is safe and relatively easy and not overshadowed by disease, famine, war, slavery, abuse etc etc, adults tend to gentrify and pretty up those tales that Bao implicates in his work. They erase or soften the hard bits.

Hence we get what I call ‘Disneyfication’- where once upon a time always ends up happily ever after minus the fangs and goose-bumps and nightmares and even the monsters under every bed.

Instead of art works like Beo’s spreading around their walls, a plethora of kindergartens and pre-schools have cute Disney characters prancing endlessly, or, in the case of the very new and very large kid-school in my neighborhood, there are murals of happy little, wide eyed tots snuggling carelessly up to cuddly wild animals or playing deliriously under psychedelic toadstools.

Every morning for an hour or two this pre-school even compounds their insult to their charges’ intelligences by loudly broadcasting songs sung by chubby little precocious, yelling starlets on those TV and online programs that seem, to me, to be aimed at a particular pedophilic demographic.

But I think that most kids have got the adults suitably sized up and go along with the charade until they can escape into the wilder stuff on unsupervised cartoon channels and iphones that seem to be more on their wave and appeal to their primordial desire for a bit of harmless gut wrenching horror.

So If I was in charge of a place for young kids I’d get my place dizzied up by an artist who was a bit of a tiger and let the kids use their imaginations to grab the stories crouching within them.


Then, of course, I’d be fired, the pictures destroyed and cute and pretty would be restored.

I wonder if the wonderful Vietnamese version of the Cinderella story, TAM CAM, will remain intact and if in 20 years time the wicked stepmother will still receive a huge vat of delicious fish sauce from the heroine who has been restored to her rightful place in hierarchy by a handsome young male.

At the bottom of the huge jar rests the preserved heads of her two selfish, cruel daughters which step mum only discovers as she ladles out the last drops of the aromatic liquid onto her meal.

Now that’s a cautionary tale all kids should be able to enjoy in its unadulterated beauty!

I think that a trip to see the TIGER’S paintings at DONG PHONG will definitely refresh your Freudian souls….if not a crepe from the brand new crepery next door will do a tummy treat for the id


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.


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