Only a high school student, Nguyen Tuong Uyen already has a rather critical viewpoint. She spends more time painting rather than reading comic books, and playing the piano rather than being on Facebook.
Nguyen Tuong Uyen’s achivements: - Art exhibit “Hope for Tomorrow” at Hoan Kiem Cultural Center on November 15, 2015 - Excellent student awards for 11 years - 2nd prize in the Hanoi English Olympiad competition - EF Education First Scholarship - Silver prize in the Piano category at Asia Arts Festival 2015 in Singapore
‘The inner calling’
Nguyen Tuong Uyen, born in 1998, is enrolled in the English honors class of Hanoi Amsterdam High School.
Uyen is one of the few nonprofessional artists who gain exhibit licenses from the Hanoi Agency of Culture at only 17 years old.
The head of the Hanoi Fine Arts Association, Pham Kim Binh, was moved when writing the introduction to Uyen’s exhibit.
“Uyen paints with her intuition and a set of coherent ideas, which astounds the viewers. It is incredible that at such a young age of 17, she has shown deep concern with macroscopic societal problems: human trafficking and gender equality. What surprise the viewers are not her artistic techniques, which are actually not difficult to be polished in a professional environment at art institutions. Yet there are no institutions that can teach us ideas,” she said.
Uyen’s art exhibition is titled “Hope for Tomorrow,” including many striking works depicting the lives of Vietnamese women.
She addresses topics such as the rise for freedom, social norms and barriers, domestic violence, human trafficking and others. It is also notable that Uyen has never been professionally trained, and she creates art solely by instinct.
Many other experts highly value the topic Uyen chooses. Artist-writer Do Phan, who has witnessed Uyen’s growth and maturity, praises her for her insights and expressing a sensitive social issue naturally. “Because Uyen is young, she can feel and ache for things the adults disregard,” Phan said.
Moved by the 17-year-old girl’s paintings, Dr. Khuat Thu Hong, founder and director of the Institute for Social Development Studies, asked for Uyen’s permission to use the student’s paintings in her latest book on gender equality research.
Nguyen Tuong Uyen introduces her paintings to the Hanoian audience.
“These paintings are the callings from my heart, and the ways I express the sufferings and unfairness that women face. These injustices can be found everywhere around us. Yet along with it, I want to convey their dreams towards a brighter future,” the young artist Uyen herself confessed.
Moreover, Uyen also actively participates in community projects such as HOPE, which is fundraising for autistic children; Rainbows and Buttons, an LGBTQA awareness exhibition; or Imperfections, an art auction by disabled children.
‘Drawing is the way I ‘communicate’ with the world’
Although Uyen is a student from an English honors class, spoken words and writings are not how she expresses herself. Uyen confesses that she carries a sketchbook with her everywhere.
“Many friends think that it is strange to do so, but those who are close to me understand that art is the way I ‘communicate’ with the world. Through art, I speak,” she confided.
“However, I am like any teenager who likes reading short stories or comics, spending time on social media, or hanging out with friends.”
With her great English skills, Nguyen Tuong Uyen confidently talks to foreigners attracted by the exhibition.
Thanks to her passion for art, Uyen has met friends with this same interest at school. She is the president of the club “Draft & Graph,” where 25 young artists share their love for art.
Every week, D&G club members meet up to draw about a topic, learn about world-famous artists, or visit art exhibits in Hanoi.
Uyen has hoped to open an exhibit about women protection and gender equality for a long time. Since two years ago, she has unceasingly painted and prepared for the exhibit. After two months of researching, she submitted the forms and artwork to the Hanoi Agency of Culture, and received the license.
Uyen’s mother, Mrs. Doan Thu Nga, says, “I’m very proud of Uyen. Even when she was small, she has already been mature and thoughtful. I just know that she likes drawing, and only later did I find out about her intention to open this exhibit. Looking at her paintings, I’m extremely touched and I will support the path Uyen is heading towards.”
For now, Uyen intends to study aboard. She wants to learn and work in the fields where she can help and protect minority communities such as children, women, or people with disabilities. She can continue to pursue her artistic interest, or become a lawyer, a volunteer, or a journalist.
The 17-year-old Uyen has not made up her decision about the future yet, but her caring heart will not stop beating and keep on acting for the under-privileged.
Some of Nguyen Tuong Uyen’s artworks displayed in the exhibition “Hope for Tomorrow”:
"Nightmare," a painting in the series “Domestic Violence”
Uyen’s paintings also depict women’s desire for freedom. “Lotus” is one of them.