Story of a portrait


Material : Self portrait photo took by Korean based in Seoul writer Kim Young Ha

Time & Venue : Stone & Water Gallery, Anyang, Korea – Oct 2006

The story :

Fall of 2003. Inside of a bar-restaurant, Roman’s – Bootlegger, somewhere in the suburbs of Iowa City, U.S.A. The dimlighted ambiance, enclosed in the four walls made of plain red bricks, domed by a low ceiling, gave the impression of being in a tunnel. Each narrow table was enlightened by frog-eyed lamps supported by iron frame set in nearby columns. The red light was only bright enough to engrave the faces of the guests, letting the other details fade in darkness. Here, the guests only whispered to each other, aware that any slightest sudden sound would startle all the others like an uninvited discourteous annoyance.

Impressed and moved by such an unreal, condensed and noiseless ambiance, a Vietnamese woman-poet and visual artist, made sign to a Korean man-writer to take a snapshot of her portrait, with a digital 3.5 MP camera.

Without any sophisticated technique such as flash and studio, the spontaneous snapshot was yet so perfect that both the artists were pleased and decided to keep and cherish it as a personal souvenir.

The portrait, apart from the unknown feelings of her Korean colleague relating to it, reminded the Vietnamese artist of a Vietnamese woman in the times of Vietnam War when the North of Vietnam was bombed by the American pilots (though she has known this only by memories told by those living during that time and by documentary films because she was born in a peaceful after-war period). She portraited herself in a shelter-tunnel enlighted by a manchon-lamp. Undisturbed by the violent bombing outside the tunnel, here, sheltered by the tunnel, she felt calm, self-confident, and safe. Wasn’t this a message of  PEACE IN WAR?

Nobody likes war. The whole world loves peace. But, it is in war that, more than ever, one can be clearly aware of the innocent and radiant beauty of peace. And from unconscious memories – directly or indirectly – war remains alive in our spirit though we live in a peaceful time.

Then, are PEACE and WAR the two components portraiting the spiritual world of a HUMAN-BEING in modern times? Would this portrait be complete if one of the these two factors is missing?

What would happen if conscience about both PEACE and WAR was erased from human spirit? What would human-beings become then?

NOTE: The Vietnamese woman-artist, pen-named LY HOÀNG LY, was born in Hanoi, Vietnam. The Korean man-writer, pen-named KIM YOUNG HA, lives in Seoul, South Korea.