I took a picture of this road last winter while driving around the countryside and this place stuck out to me in my mind because it’s a road that felt familiar to me even though I’d only been on it a couple of times. On my first visit to my wife’s countryside in 2008, Hang took me around her house and the surrounding area to sight-see. Her hometown is something a westerner would imagine in a fairytale book resembling a hamlet in which much of the original farming community hasn’t changed in the past century including roads with high brick walls resembling corridors, a picturesque lake, a central fairground area, the marketplace and the surrounding rice fields. I clearly remember stopping on this road with Hang taking turns to snap pictures of each other. Hang was so happy to be back after several years away in Saigon and I felt like I just landed on another planet, off the radar where nobody could ever find me.
This past autumn, Hang’s grandmother passed away and it was the first time I took part in a Vietnamese funeral as a family member. Droves of people from all over the village and far away came to pay respects for what seemed like a statesman’s procession with family members standing dutifully for three sleepless days, people lining up to place incense on the coffin and endless twangy melancholy notes in the background played by the funeral band. It was on day three that we did the final march to bury Hang’s grandmother slowly and somberly marching the casket from her house, through the narrow village corridors and finally down this same road. Hundreds of us walking in the drizzling rain feeling tired yet strong amongst the support of hundreds of friends and family.
To locals this road is called ‘cánh đồng’ meaning the rice fields referring to the general area and it leads east to the secondary school Hang attended in the neighboring bigger town, to the factories of modern day Ha Tay, and further to Hanoi where I live nowadays. More importantly this road leads to the cemetery where the bodies of past generations go to as their final resting place before their spirits leave this world. It’s not just any road, but a road I ventured on with my once to be wife and later lead her grandmother to rest. It’s a place I often like to drive to when I go to visit the in-laws that gives me a feeling of peace. It is the rice fields in Ha Tay.
Acrylic on Canvas 90 X 120 cm. The idea for this painting was from the pictures I took mentioned earlier, but the idea of the style came from my wife mentioning another painting we saw at our apartment complex. To her dismay, my painting isn’t as eye catching with bright fiery colors, but it does capture the spirit of using a palette knife to create texture with the paint. The background sky is actually from another picture of my daughter behind our apartment building. After picking her up from school she was saying to me how beautiful the scenery behind our place was so I stopped and took a picture of her sitting on the motorbike remembering the luminous sky in the background. Lastly, another inspiration was the idea to make this a centerpiece for our new living room. Since there is already a theme of purple and violet in the decor, I decided to use just 4 colors in the entire painting using blue, red, black and white to blend and create various shades.
[photos of Ha Tay from February 2014]