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From a child’s perspective
Son Nguyen
Friday,  Sep 1, 2017,18:36 (GMT+7)

From a child’s perspective

Son Nguyen

The aim is quite beautiful, but the outcome – as generally perceived – looks ugly when noisy colors take to the street in HCMC these days. Enthusiasm is more than enough among many young people who are trying hard to give new coatings to public places, from the covers of water drains to electric poles, with the purpose of arousing public awareness on environmental protection, but what is regrettably lacking is the professional skill of craftsmen or artists. And, says local media, such efforts are spoiling the cityscape rather than beautifying it.

As seen in the city these days, numerous students are painting electric poles along several major streets in District 11, creating images of so-called flowers using mainly three noisy colors of red, green and yellow. The movement, launched by the district’s Communist Youth League, has seen scores of electric poles covered with such eye-sore flowers, and the students have plans to paint all 500 poles with such childish patterns in the coming time.

In fact, the district’s youth league has aped a similar movement from districts 1 and 5, where students have earlier been sent to the street to pain hundreds of covers of water drains with pictures that are also meant to call on the public to protect the environment.

Such a campaign has prompted outcries, as many onlookers see the pictures as silly and rubbish in terms of aesthetic value.

Vo Kim Cuong, former deputy director of the HCMC Department of Zoning and Architecture, objects to the movement, saying such pictures are unnecessary. “In my opinion, city streets are already stuffed with signboards and advertisements. What the city needs is a spacious and simple landscape,” he is quoted as saying in Phap Luat.

In Tuoi Tre, painter Luong Luu Bien echoes the point, saying public places should be reserved for traffic signs or signs and advertising billboards, while electric poles should only be kept blank. The painter, downplaying the aesthetic value of the images, ponders why such a decorative work can be assigned to amateurs.

“Fine arts in public places must be suitable to many people. Naïve pictures like in a kindergarten cannot be accepted in such places,” he is quoted in Tuoi Tre.

Painter Do Xuan Tinh endorses the point, saying in the same paper that fine-arts decorations in public places must be undertaken by professionals. “I think that any movement in the city should require professional skills, since the city has a strong pool of professionals,” he asserts.

In Thanh Nien newspaper, Vi Kien Thanh, a senior official at the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, says such a movement in HCMC fails to ensure fine-art effects and also affects traffic safety. “Good intention is not enough, as such (paintings) can become fine-art garbage.”

Nhan Dan in a commentary likens images on water drain covers and electric poles in the city to those patterns drawn by toddlers in preschool and kindergarten. The so-called flowers are also similar to those drawn by little kids to offer to their parents, says the paper.

“If there is enthusiasm in fine arts, it must be undertaken by professionals. When women wear make-up, for example, such make-up must be done by skillful hands, not by children no matter how the women are fond of their children,” says the paper.

Nguoi Lao Dong says the flowers on electric poles remind viewers of little flowers conferred by babysitters at kindergartens on well-performing kids. Citing urban landscape expert Nguyen Huu Nguyen, the paper says that before painting such flowers, people and experts should be consulted.

According to Nhan Dan, when wanting to showcase paintings in public places, authorities should invite professionals to do the job. These professionals should weigh how to choose artists, the contents to be conveyed, and the materials needed, since arts in public places will affect many people.

Street arts, according to experts, should only be organized in certain designated areas.

Expert Vo Kim Cuong says in Phap Luat that elsewhere in the world like France, England and Hong Kong, such decorative patterns are not showcased everywhere, but are limited to a few public places like recreational parks. “A good picture is only suitable to a specific area,” he is quoted as saying.

Artist Luong Luu Bien, meanwhile, asserts that even masterpieces by Van Gogh cannot be displayed anywhere in the street, but need a special space. “The art in public places is not just about being beautiful. It requires the right place,” says the painter.

Thanh Nien refers to the case of public paintings in Quang Nam Province’s Tam Thanh Village and Quang Ngai Province’s Ly Son. “Paintings on the wall on these two islands have conveyed very good visual effects and have become a particular tourism attraction. Authorities there have made careful plans before painters of Vietnam and South Korea started their works there,” says the paper.

Vi Kien Thanh, who also serves as head of the Department for Fine Arts, Photography and Exhibition under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, says grassroots authorities in the city are to blame for the careless planning.

“Voluntary students when wanting to make any drawings or paintings in public places only need to ask for permission from authorities of districts or wards. Such grassroots authorities also want public places in their precincts to be clean and beautiful, but they do not have the professional capacity to appraise the aesthetic values of such pictures,” he says in Thanh Nien.

According to Painter Luong Luu Bien, pictures like those on electric poles can be used for short-term purposes, such as in a movement or a campaign, and the cityscape must be restored after that.

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