Written by ART Driven Tokyo

Le Thiet Cuong
gouache on cheesecloth
Courtesy the artist and TomuraLee

Asia-loving TomuraLee and Ho Chi Minh City art fans celebrate their friendship and growth

TomuraLee Gallery, owned by a Korean-Japanese couple, opened the branch in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in October 2023.The opening show “Communication With…” on October 6 featured the works of four artists who have long been leaders in the Vietnamese contemporary art world. Vietnam, like China in the past, is experiencing rapid growth, and its people are smartphone-enabled and information-savvy. At the opening of Asia-loving TomuraLee, over 100 art fans in Ho Chi Minh City came to celebrate their friendship and growth. The show is until October 29. (The exhibition ended.)


TomuraLee, Ho Chi Minh City
Courtesy TomuraLee

Le Thiet Cuong: Minimalist painting inspired by natural aesthetics. Quiet, no words…

Le Thiet Cuong, Alms 2023-A very popular and well-known Hanoi painter in Vietnam, his simple choice and placement of colors is clear and beautiful.

Le Thiet Cuong attended the gallery exhibition with 6 works of powder paint on canvas covered with Do paper – a material the artist has been working with for more than 30 years from 1990 to the present and 2 oil paintings, he shared about his concept. His art: “The minimalist aesthetic is an avenue, with many branches. Starting from the first exhibition (1991) until now, I have found minimalism in other branches. From 1995 to 2000, find minimalism in genre (still life, portrait, landscape). Next is the search for minimalism in light and dark (black, white) with three exhibitions Rice Grains (2005), Drafts (2006), Trees (2007); find minimalism in monochrome (Lan’s Story, 2008)…”

Le Thiet Cuong also says: “My concept of minimalist painting is inspired by natural aesthetics. Few images, little mystery, many large empty spaces, quiet, “no words”, drawing as if drawing nothing or it can be understood as drawing without painting, drawing without possession, without gain. If you are going to say something, you should say it silently. To give a quiet space for viewers to feel and think.”

There was a lot of war-themed art. Now it is different. The market is domestic, it’s a business opportunity

Lee Seungwon, Co-owner, TomuraLee
Courtesy TomuraLee

TomuraLee is located in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City’s quiet office district. On opening day, ART Driven Tokyo interviewed co-owner Lee Seungwon online. She said, “This place is growing like China used to. It is a socialist state, but relatively free. Every person has access to a smartphone, is familiar with social media, and communicates information quickly. Everyone is busy, with a purpose. I love this vibrant country. I am determined to make Vietnamese contemporary art known to the world.”

Lee also says, “High income Vietnamese families have been purchasing Vietnamese contemporary art for generations, and for now, the market is domestic. The four artists in this exhibition are leaders in the Vietnamese art world, with their skillful use of traditional colors. I first saw Master Le Thiet Cuong’s paintings at an exhibition and was so fascinated that I bought one and became interested in Vietnamese art.”

Because of the Vietnam War, which lasted 20 years until 1975, there used to be a lot of war-themed art. There was also a lot of art expressing the suffering of people who emigrated to France not of their own volition.

But now it is different. Many well-known Western companies have opened branches in Ho Chi Minh City, and Lee plans to actively introduce works by young artists as well. In this elegant three-story gallery, visitors will encounter works selected by Lee, who has been pursuing Asian beauty and healing.

Growing Vietnam suits active Korean woman!

Lee originally started her career as an antique dealer in Korea. Not satisfied with just old pieces, she gained experience at a Japanese auction house and opened her own gallery in 2009. Lee also has experience in Shanghai and Beijing. Married to a Japanese gallery owner, Rikiya Tomura, she has overcome difficult times in maintaining their gallery, including child rearing, and Corona, and with her open and humble personality, she is active across Asia.

The lively Lee and the Vietnamese seem to be a good match. She says, “Ordinary Vietnamese travel by motorcycle because it is faster than a car.” she smiles.

 Tao Linh
Oil on canvas
Courtesy the artist and TomuraLee

Tao Linh, untitled 2023- Self taught painter, he shared his concept: “To me, each painting is an emotional state when painted and is only an emotion for the viewer. I prefer to use expressive and metaphorical language rather than descriptive language. I prefer to use psychological accents rather than images. I want my paintings to only evoke emotions for viewers, so they can create new creativity when faced with the work.”

Hoang Phuong Lien
Sapa love Market
Courtesy the artist and TomuraLee

Hoang Phuong Lien, Sapa love Market 2023-Tear colored paper and collage it without using a brush.

Hoang Phuong Lien studied graphic design at the University of Industrial Fine Arts. She has created many forms of printmaking including silk screen printing, woodcut, and oil painting. However, it seems that she did not find her true calling until the day she discovered paper collage.

Finding the right materials, finding harmony, finding someone who understands her, seems easy but incredibly difficult. Finding someone who is compatible means finding oneself. With the advantage of vibrant colors from handmade colored paper, Hoang Phuong Lien chooses still life of fresh flowers and ripe fruits, rural landscapes in four seasons, and mountain market as her good subjects, choosing the right paper to use.

Collage is not only about following the shape, but also about discarding it, intentionally and unintentionally. Collage is more free, spontaneous, and accidental than cutting. Lien’s style of collage is slanted, revealing the white color of the back of the colored paper, creating a blurry, soft, and carefree border, soft and tightly tied.

Flowers are not just flowers anymore, Canvas is not just canvas anymore

Pham Tran Quan
Spring Symphony
Acrylic on canvas
Courtesy the artist and TomuraLee

Pham Tran Quan, Spring Symphony 2021- Very pretty pink. He is an artist who uses the seasons as a motif. The artist is from Hanoi in the north and there are seasons there.

Pham Tran Quan participated in the show with 4 works on the theme of large-sized flowers, using abstract acrylic material. His concept: ”Flowers come in any season, go to with flowers, show flowers, face to flowers. Wear flowers. Just one material, acrylic on canvas, facing canvas every day. Wear canvas. Flowers are not just flowers anymore, Canvas is not just canvas anymore. Flowers are the wall, canvas is the wall. Wear Flowers and canvas also wear jade. It’s all about finding me and coming back to me.”

The show maximizes the appeal of Vietnam, a country that is rapidly growing not only in its economy but also in its contemporary art.

Exibition Oveview

Venue: TomuraLee, 24 Street No.1, Luong Dinh Cua, Binh Khanh Ward, District 2 , Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Title: Communication With…

Period: October 6- October 29, 2023

Open: 10:00 – 19:00 from Tuesday to Sunday
Closed on Monday

Admission: Free

Gallery Website: https://tomuralee.vn/

Contact: Tel +84 9 69 121 006
Email: tomuraleevn@gmail.com