French artist finds inspiration across Southeast Asia

French painter Sophie Chardonnet displayed 24 acrylic paintings inspired by the diverse faces of Vietnam at an exhibition in the Art Vietnam Gallery in Hanoi.

Entitled, Beyond the Gaze, the exhibition is the aesthetic result of the creative energy that Sophie has been channeling o­nto canvas for the past three years.

Born in France, the artist travelled to Washington DC where she improved her skills with a culture study of America's capitol. But her true inspiration came after arriving in Southeast Asia.

Sophie immediately took note of the myriad Asian faces she encountered. She saw that each face bore sharp feature differences; some are placid, some beautiful, some passive, some active. These faces quickly became the sole inspiration behind all of her works.

"I was impressed by Vietnamese people, especially their heterogeneous faces, which urged me to find what is hidden behind them. I wanted to explore the thoughts and emotions behind those faces," the 49-year old painter said.

The search for what might exist behind the face became Sophie's journey of discovery. As she pondered the enigmatic faces, she began to express the hidden emotions o­n canvas.

Sophie has spent her first year living in Vietnam looking as well as learning about the Vietnamese culture, which is first-hand knowledge that supports her art works.

"Although I have travelled to many countries, Vietnam is the o­ne that has given me the power of creativity," she said.

According to Art Vietnam Gallery's art director, Suzanne Lecht, the first paintings in the 24-painting series was not particularly Asian in form, but gradually Sophie began merging the East into her structure.

In the middle of the series she used strong vertical lines-their dominance makes the structure of the face secondary. As she works through the series, the paintings become less structured and the colours soften as she works toward the twilight of the discovery.

"Sophie's paintings go deep into the roots of Far-East art, in its most classical form: Buddhist art. Thus the contemporary Western art migrates, bridges a gap and aims at abolishing space and time limits in order to meet the Southeast Asian art," Yves Oppenheim, a French artist commented.

"Succeeding in creating material transformed in Spirit — the unique purpose of art — Sophie fills her paintings with strong human presence which then become enchanted regions emerging from a living dream.

We are therefore invited to celebrate a silent rite, between Buddhist philosophy and vision of contemporary Western art," he said.

Viet Nam News