In this age of Integration, Development and Globalization, the intersection of Western and Oriental cultures has generated a great number of artistic trends. Artists are constantly looking for new forms to convey their ideas and concepts. As a result, market economy has affected present - day artistic life. Yet Thế Duy does not let himself carried away by novel tendencies in art. He remains taciturnly faithful to the realist style inherited from European classical art. And his paintings evidently express the spirit, feelings and aesthetic conceptions of the Vietnamese and Asians. In other words, Thế Duy has created a new form of expression. By means of a very original style, he goes deeper into the social, human and spatial themes of ancient Hanoi more than a century ago. His works revive in our mind the image of an old Hanoi which was industrious, serene and peaceful. There was neither rush nor animation as in Western industrial cities. That was Vietnamís capital at the turn of the 20th century. Hanoi in those days with its ď36 artisan guilds and old streetsĒ is portrayed with its natural environment in perfect harmony and close relationship with its old quarters and streets on their way of urbanization. A semi - colonial and semi - feudal society. Western culture then was in the course of penetration and intersection with Vietnamís native civilization. But, from those pictures, what remains in the viewerís artistic mind is the beauty of traditional art and the nationís marked cultural identity.

   Here we can see legendary communal houses, Taoist and Buddhist temples with their Vietnamese and Oriental architectures, long processions in old streets with people bearing the standard of the Vietsí religious rites and beliefs, wooden gilded palanquins wooden elephants, horses and ancient weapons BŠt Bửu, the 8 ancient weapons), five element flags, a traditional musical company... All this is portrayed in gorgeous, splendid, full - of - vitality colours to express the solemn, majestic atmosphere of festivities with surrounding flat and grandiose sounds hosted by the local, farming population.

     From narrow, old streets spring up rows of small houses with spotted whitewashed walls, mossy roofs, tiny window frames and tunnel shaped stalls. Street traffic is portrayed as a chaotic combination of all kinds of transportation of handicraft and indigenous character: handcarts with wooden wheels, palanquins, rickshaws, pedicabs. Threading their way through this stream are pedestrians carrying umbrellas and wearing Gia Định shoes or walking barefooted, leaving their heads uncovered or protected by ox-head turbans or crow - beak scarfs... Truly a lively picture of a street in which there was no traffic regulations since the country was on the road of renovation.

     The beauty of a work of art should not be assessed on the basis of some peculiar or far fetched language since the latter is nothing but an artistís means of expression. Viewed from whatever angle and level, its value must be measured in terms of sincerity which stems from the throbbing of an artistís emotive heart that is burning with zeal before the beautiful and all this will eventually echo in the painterís mind. Thế Duy has embarked on a material world full of inner feelings: that of ancient Hanoi with the 36 artisan guilds and old streets much beloved to him. And he has successfully revealed the beauty of Hanoi through his well- balanced and heartfelt artistic style. Hence it might be said that his works meritoriously represent the spiritual son of art. And this is precisely the real size of the portrait delineated by the artist himself as a confession in his artworks.

Trần Thức

 Art Researcher and Art Critic