July 20, 2024


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The Impact of War on Vietnamese Art

The Impact of War on Vietnamese Art

Wars have been depicted through art not only to bring out its horror but also to emphasize the insignificance of man- the Man, who creates weapons of destruction and aspires to reach the status of God! War depiction through art was not merely propaganda to unite people for a common cause but to protest against the hostile forces whose political hypocrisy triggered off the scenes of inhumanity. The two World Wars led to the emergence of the new genre of war paintings, portraying the futile efforts of man to become the absolute superpower.

War paintings have played a decisive role towards creating a stir in the political world. Works of art mirror thoughts, beliefs, discourses or doctrines- that can move the society to act in a particular manner. The two World Wars, along with a number of other armed conflicts gave rise to a number of art creations, much of which was focused towards uniting people for a common cause. Amongst the modern art creations based on war themes, the Vietnamese art speaks volumes of the war, its causes and effects on society, and the destruction that was brought in its fold.

Almost all the recognized Vietnamese artists have spared their energies towards depiction of the Vietnamese war at some or other point of time. Nguyen Nghia Duyen presents a unique combination of futuristic socialist realism with the government’s affinity for placid war scenes in his painting, Uncle Ho at the Border Campaign 1950. The artists, in their works, also showcased the role of women in the Vietnamese war. Women oriented paintings chiefly centered on depicting women as a unifying character- a symbol of community as well as an acceptable ‘national’ figure. Mai Van Hien, in her paintings, portrays a peasant woman with a yoke in her hand interacting with a soldier. The painting serves to express not only the community to which she belongs but also her whole-hearted support for the army. The cheerful expression on both the faces emphasize on the harmonious relationship that the two of them share, indirectly highlighting the support of the common people for the army.

However, there seems to be a little discrepancy on the way the government has eyed some of the depictions in Vietnamese art. While the Vietnamese government instantly recognized Mai Han Hein’s painting, another painting called, The Enemy Burned My Village by Nguyen Sang, received a cold response. The reason for the contradictory responses from the government lies in the message sent by the artworks. The importance of war above the miseries of mankind as emphasized by the latter was chiefly the reason behind the government’s attitude towards the painting. Vietnam artists did not invest much effort in portraying the cruelties of the war. Rather, they concentrated their energy towards the day-to-day toll for running a war campaign.

Nonetheless, the Vietnamese war made possible the creation of innovative art works both by the American and the Vietnamese artists. The Vietnamese paintings, as well as those created by American artists, clearly testify to the changing attitudes of people in both the countries. It’s good to see that Vietnamese art has initiated a movement of cultural unification with America in spite of ideological differences between the two.