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Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Foreign artist impressed by Vietnam's charm


Jeffrey Wandly is a Singaporean painter who likes to explore the local culture and daily life in Vietnam. Wandly talked with VIR’s Hong Quang about his keenness to the unique culture on the occasion of the National Cultural Conference 2021, the second of its kind since 1946 held this week.

Wandly captures the essence of heritage and historical landmarks with ink and acrylic on canvas. His paintings stimulate the viewers' senses with varying intensities. Fondly called the building whisperer by his collectors, Wandly has hosted shows and exhibitions in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Vietnam. Wandly is also the co-founder of the Maya Gallery and serves now as the first deputy general director of the Hanoi-based BIDV Tower.

What are your first impressions of Vietnamese people and culture when arriving here?

My first impression was that Vietnam has a rich, colourful culture and a long history. Lunar New Year is probably the most significant event for the Vietnamese, with festivities stretching over a week. With lots of traditional Vietnamese food, my colleagues and friends like to spend time with their families and offer gifts and their respect to their ancestors. Many of them also visit shrines and pagodas.

Lunar New Year has also provided me with a great opportunity to experience and appreciate the culture and explore the landscape off the beaten track. In my opinion, the festival also helps to reinforce the Vietnamese culture, beliefs, and family ties. Their unique customs and traditions during this festival also express their national identity.

After Lunar New Year, most people resume their daily activities with a renewed spirit and positive mind, looking ahead towards good fortune, happiness, and positive values.

Which places do you prefer to visit in Vietnam?

My priority is always to visit my Vietnamese colleagues and friends’ homes in Hanoi. I often miss their home-cooked meals, their hospitality, and the chats when we’re catching up with our lives.

I would also like to visit Hoi An as I am drawn to places with lots of heritage. Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage, and the former port city has a unique mix of eras and styles from wooden Chinese shophouses and temples to French colonial buildings, ornated with Vietnamese decorations and even Japanese elements on houses and bridges.

For me, it is most enjoyable to walk through the ancient streets in Hoi An that are lined with a variety and wealth of shops, restaurants, and cafés.

Your paintings depict stunning landscapes and daily life in Hanoi and other localities, and many were displayed in exhibitions hosted by the Singapore Embassy in Hanoi and the Vietnam Embassy in Singapore, such as in 2018 to mark the 45th anniversary year of Vietnam-Singapore diplomatic ties. What inspired you to create such artworks?

Cultural events and art exhibitions will further strengthen people-to-people ties between Singapore and Vietnam. My paintings reflect my sensitivities to the connections between these people and their environment. The works express my feelings, thoughts, and sense of attachment to the uniqueness of these people, their cultures, and their heritage.

My work Hang Dau Water Tower (2018) depicts a heritage landmark located at the crossroads of six streets. The building, built by the French in 1894, symbolises the transformation of Hanoi into an urban centre, where previously water was drawn from wells, lakes, and ponds. The building was used until the 1960s.

Another work, the Hang Luoc Street Hanoi (2018), captures the traffic, buzz, and colour of the historic district of Hoan Kiem during Lunar New Year, where streets are full of vendors, lanterns, and motorcyclists. Hang Luoc street has one of the oldest flower markets in Hanoi, with peach blossoms being among the most sought-after items during the season.

Do you plan to host or join any similar art exhibitions in Vietnam or Singapore to further foster cultural exchange between the two countries or boost cultural and art links with local artists?

I was happy to collaborate with the Singaporean Embassy in Hanoi in organising the exhibition Perspectives: Commemorating 45 Years of Singapore-Vietnam Relations at the Cultural Exchange Centre in Hanoi in May 2018.

Later that year, I was also pleased to collaborate with the Vietnam Singapore Friendship Association and the Vietnam Embassy in Singapore. Together, we organised the event A Glance: The Vietnam-Singapore Art Exhibition at The Arts House in November 2018.

During both exhibitions, I was honoured to have exhibited with established Vietnamese artists, such as Pham Luan. As Singapore-Vietnam relations reach 50 years in 2023, I look forward to any opportunity to be part of art exhibitions to promote the strong relationship between the two countries.

By Hong Quang