Story: CHI MAI

In 1964, at the age of 11, Vincent Monluc left his homeland in Vietnam to move to France with his family. There, he pursued an education in visual arts and later worked as an animation director, winning major awards at the 1983 French National Animation Film Festival.

Ben Thanh Market - Vincent Monluc

Perhaps his career success was a key factor in his decision to return to live in Vietnam. In 1994, an animation producer in France proposed that Mr. Vincent open an animation studio in Ho Chi Minh City and train Vietnamese employees in this promising field. Mr. Vincent did this, living in Vietnam until 2002 and returning frequently until he moved back here in 2019. Little did he expect that this eye-opening experience would reveal an entirely new world full of spectacular landscapes and friendly people. He felt this soulful vibe most prominently in Ho Chi Minh City, where he spent most of his time.

Unlike Mr. Vincent, Daniel Tingcungco does not trace his roots back to Vietnam. He is a young Filipino man, who, like many of his peers, lives in a globalized world and was seeking the perfect place to find good work and settle down.

Vietnamese crab noodle soup - Daniel Tingcungco

Mr. Daniel graduated with a degree in visual communications in the Philippines, and is a member of Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan, a reputable association for children’s book illustrators. Whether or not they have Vietnamese roots and have been in Ho Chi Minh City for a long or a short time, many young foreigners like Mr. Daniel are enchanted by the city’s vibrant vibe and wish to praise this land and its people. Their primary medium for conveying their passion is painting. They produce works full of romantic and emotional details.

During the peak of the pandemic, Mr. Daniel was confined to his home. He spent his days looking through photos he had taken of the city, chatting with friends, studying images shared on social media, and reminiscing about his time in this corner of the world. It felt like a time gone by: Men and women in a sea of motorbikes; a roadside coffee shop; the crimson hue of new chairs mixed with motorbikes and odds and ends; and the shaded groves that offer respite from the scorching heat of summer.

Saigon at night - Daniel Tingcungco

Blue is the most prominent element in Vincent Monluc’s painting, but it is expertly blended with serene touches of sunshine that fall on the kindly faces of good-hearted locals. His slender and adept brushstrokes allow the artist to depict vast landscapes in larger compositions, as well as more focused and detailed work in portrait paintings. Mr. Vincent’s watercolors are full of personal and emotional elements that help to elevate the watchers’ senses, taking them to a dreamscape that feels so close yet far away. There are still realistic elements in these paintings, juxtaposing the real and the unreal to create a vibrant symphony that lets the minds wander.

“I am an outdoor landscape artist, and moments of daily life, as well as lights, have always fascinated me. Vietnam is an endless source of inspiration, and it is my wish to get even closer to this culture so that I can paint a better picture of the Vietnamese soul,” said Vincent Monluc. As a closing remark, he revealed that he might create large versions of these watercolor sketches in oil.

Saigon River - Vincent Monluc

As for Mr. Daniel, being young, he has applied new technologies to his painting process. That said, even with these technologies, the heart and the eyes remain the decisive factors that create his works’ soul. Mr. Daniel has chosen backgrounds that brim with light, whether sunlight or artificial light from street lamps. There are always human silhouettes in his paintings, and they are almost always in motion, shown working, eating, or relaxing. There are some cases in which no clear human figures are seen, replaced instead by their shadows dancing in the light next to blooming flowers and lush greenery. Life is a chain of days filled with different emotions, such as sadness, happiness, bitterness, and fatigue. Only joie de vivre and love for our fellow humans can make us welcome the sunrise with a refreshed soul and a mind that’s at ease.

In Ho Chi Minh City, and Vietnam in general, there are many who, like Vincent Monluc and Daniel Tingcungco, share a passionate love for this city. Many have turned this love into artworks that are simple yet rich in emotions. Mr. Daniel is currently pursuing a project to draw 100 uniquely Saigonese dishes, and Mr. Vincent will not stop painting slices of life in this city. He has plenty of plans to branch out to the other corners of his beloved Vietnam.