Sculp­tors hone their skills

The area around the Mar­ble Moun­tains near Ñaø Naüng is famed for stone stat­ues and sculp­tures, but un­til re­cently, pro­duc­tion of high-qual­ity work that takes the craft to the level of an art has been held back by a lack of skills among lo­cal stone carvers

Outlook - - LIFE - By Hoaøi Nam

Nguyeãn Thaønh Töïu has al­ways had an in­ter­est in stone sculp­ture as he grew up in a stone­ma­sons fam­ily in Nguõ Haønh Sôn Dis­trict, 5km east of Ñaø Naüng City.

Töïu, 31, is a third gen­er­a­tion of tra­di­tional ma­sons from Non Nöôùc Vil­lage, at the foot of the Nguõ Haønh (Five Mar­ble) Moun­tains, which is home to 5,000 peo­ple in­volved in the art.

The Ñaø Naüng-born artist, who at­tended a four-year sculp­ture course at the Hueá Fine Arts Col­lege, cre­ates sculp­tures from plas­ter casts at Ñaø Naüng Sculp­ture Foun­da­tion, a non-profit and non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion founded in 2002.

Töïu and a team of five sculp­tors make 10 stone works of art for in­ter­na­tional exhibitions and ex­ter­nal fea­tures each year, for pub­lic parks in Nor­way and other Euro­pean coun­tries.

"We re­ceive or­ders from over­seas, mainly from Nor­way, for var­i­ous de­signs, in­clud­ing por­traits, gar­dens, park dec­o­ra­tions and mon­u­ments from var­i­ous ma­te­rial such as mar­ble, gran­ite and sand­stone. Sculp­tors bring mock-ups of the works for us to cre­ate plas­ter casts be­fore carv­ing the gran­ite or mar­ble," said Töïu.

"How­ever, carvers at the foun­da­tion need more time and more ed­u­ca­tion be­fore they can be­come sculp­tors. We still en­grave stone to the orig­i­nal copies they give us."

The foun­da­tion was started up by Nor­we­gian sculp­tor Oyvin Stor­baekken, af­ter vis­it­ing Non Nöôùc Vil­lage in 2001, and the Ñaø Naüng sculp­ture pro­ject was funded by the Nor­we­gian govern­ment two years later. The pro­ject has helped to train 13 lo­cal carvers in mod­ern tech­niques to in­ter­na­tional stan­dards and to fa­cil­i­tate cul­tural and tech­ni­cal ex­changes in sculp­ture be­tween Vieät Nam and many other coun­tries be­tween 2003-09.

Phan Quyønh Höông, di­rec­tor of the foun­da­tion, said that Nor­we­gian sculp­tors had opened the door for lo­cal carvers to ac­quire more knowl­edge about mod­ern tech­niques.

"Crafts­men from Non Nöôùc Vil­lage cre­ate stone works us­ing their an­ces­tors' ex­pe­ri­ence and skills. The vil­lage's stone craft and art in­cludes mainly sim­ple re­li­gious sculp­tures, stat­ues and gar­den dec­o­ra­tions, but the crafts­men still lack ba­sic knowl­edge. That's the dif­fer­ence be­tween a ma­son and a sculp­tor," said Höông.

"The six-year pro­ject ba­si­cally gives lo­cal ma­sons the fun­da­men­tals of mod­ern sculp­ture. It means that they get closer to the sculp­tors' as­pi­ra­tion and ideal. The foun­da­tion hosts around 50 sculp­tors from Euro­pean coun­tries, who come to pro­duce work and then place or­ders for full size repli­cas."

Traàn Höõu Sôn, who was awarded a six-year train­ing course to study at the foun­da­tion, said most of the works are full size and can take the carvers months to fin­ish.

"The Ñaø Naüng-Tolga Friend­ship stone bridge, 40m long and 10m wide, which was built in Tolga vil­lage, 340km north of Oslo, Nor­way, was the big­gest job we have done so far. We had to en­grave big blocks of gran­ite at Ñaø Naüng's foun­da­tion in two months and the fi­nal de­tails and in­stal­la­tion took us two more months in Tolga," Sôn re­called.

"The bridge, which marks friend­ship and co-op­er­a­tion be­tween Ñaø Naüng and Tolga, is ac­ces­si­ble to cars and mo­tor­bikes. A lot of our stone works are for Euro­pean parks, but most are in Nor­way," Sôn said, adding that Nor­we­gian sculp­tors pro­vided lo­cal ma­sons with a feel­ing for and ba­sic knowl­edge about sculp­ture.

Sôn, 30, who be­gun study­ing the craft in Non Nöôùc craft vil­lage at the age of 19, had a long ex­pe­ri­ence of carv­ing mar­ble blocks into pieces for stat­ues or sou­venirs for sale at the vil­lage.

"I in­her­ited the trade from my fa­ther and grand-fa­ther, but I just did sim­ple carv­ing mak­ing an­i­mals, Bud­dhist stat­ues or bracelets year af­ter year. My knowl­edge of sculp­ture has in­creased since I took the course, so now I can work along­side for­eign sculp­tors and cre­ate huge works of art," he con­fided.

Nguyeãn Vaên Kim, who has been work­ing with the foun­da­tion since 2003, said that tak­ing part in the sculp­tor’s train­ing course showed him how to cre­ate more soul­ful art­work.

"I have been a skilled worker for 10 years. My fam­ily lived from stone en­grav­ing trade for decades,

Sin­ga­porean sculp­tor Chong Fahcheong cre­ates a clay model at the Ñaø Naüng

Sculp­ture Foun­da­tion.

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