In conversation with

In Conversation With Viet Ha Tran

For our last “In Conversation with” column of 2020, we are honoured to present an exclusive interview with Viet Ha Tran, the internationally renowned photographer and top 200 Influential Vietnam Global Leaders nominee of 2019.

The Vietnamese multimedia artist talks to us about her paintings of feelings and the journey behind her emotionally charged fine art photographs.
Viet Ha leads us through her beautiful world of fashion photography, acrylic paintings, and Asian myths while sharing invaluable advice for artists embarking on a professional career in the arts.
18th December 2020 | Image Curators Advisory
Pearls On The River, Fine Art Photography. Courtesy: The Artist
Viet Ha, You Define Yourself As A Painter Of Feelings. Could You Please Tell Us About The Journey That Brought You To Decide To Focus Your Research On Women’s Emotional Sphere?
Emotions have an essential part in my photographic work and, through the eye of my camera, I try to draw pictures of my inner dreams, feelings, and intimacy or reflect these emotions onto my photographs of landscapes and nature. I have created the best works during my career and the most intense emotional moments. I like to photograph mostly women.

There are several reasons behind this, but I think the most important reason is that I am a woman, and I feel my soul skin to theirs: it is just easy for me to pick up their emotional states. From a very young age, I felt the need to express my emotions in some way. I used to write short stories and kept a diary for many years. Now, I feel that photography has allowed me to paint my world of feelings as many of my photographs originate from my sensations. I want to capture the ephemeral moment of feminine emotions flowing through the river of time. As reality plays hide-and-seek with fantasy, it’s a reflection of those volatile moods etched in the permanent state of change.

Mermaid in Ibiza IV, Fine Art Photography. Courtesy: The Artist.
Is There A Particular Emotional State That You Relate To And Like To Convey In Your Work More Often Than Others?
I am intrigued and haunted by sadness, melancholy, and emotions; I guess that comes from deep within my Asian soul. Many Asian countries follow Buddhism, and my home country Vietnam is one of them. Buddhism teaches that suffering is beautiful and pleasurable. There are much depth and beauty in sadness. To put it easy to understand: when we are happy, we never stop a moment and think about life; but when you are sad, you think, you reflect and you dig deep within our soul to see what you want in life.

My favorite philosopher Osho said: “Sadness gives depth. Happiness gives height. Sadness gives roots. Happiness gives branches. Happiness is like a tree going into the sky, and sadness is like the roots going down into the womb of the earth. Both are needed, and the higher a tree goes, the deeper it goes, simultaneously. The bigger the tree, the bigger will be its roots. In fact, it is always in proportion. That's its balance.”

"I feel that photography has allowed me to paint my world of feelings”

You Are Both A Fine Art Photographer And An Abstract Painter. In Which Of These Two Art Fields You Have Faced The Most Difficult Career Challenges In Terms Of Self-Promotion And Showcasing Your Work?
I find that being a photographer is more challenging. It is still difficult to sell art prints and convince art buyers that limited edition art prints are as valid in terms of authenticity and rarity as paintings (it depends though how many copies of a photograph the artist issues). Most collectors still think that a painting is much more unique and difficult to produce than a photograph, which may not be true in many cases.
Zoom-in of Easter Egg printing eggsplosion of Spring colour by Eldest Sonshine, age 12. Courtesy: The Artists
For me, creating a good photograph can take more time than creating a painting. For several fashion shootings such as The Soul of Vietnam, The Golden Imprint, I Femme, Myths of the Beauties, it took me months to gather the fashion team: models, fashion designers, makeup artists, hairstylists, and location designers. During the shooting day, it's like producing a small movie: I direct the whole team, who goes where, who does what, who makes up whom, who dresses whom, etc. After the shootings, it took me several other months to create the artworks. Some artworks of Myths of the Beauties took me up to six months to come up with ideas of how to create them and studied the stories behind the ancient Chinese legends in order to create artworks that resemble the historical legends of beauties.

In the case of abstract paintings, I normally sit in my studio, imagine the colours and paint, just me and the canvas; the art creation logistics is much simpler.
What Keeps You Inspired?
Visiting an art museum and historical places, listening to world music (specifically Indian, Turkish, Greek, and Arabic music), and being in nature greatly inspire me. Also, reading books (travel, art/photography books) inspires me. Ideas just come flowing when I am doing one of these things.
Do You Have Any New Project You Are Working On At The Moment?
I am concentrating on creating some large abstract paintings that are inspired by Vietnamese lacquer techniques. I am experimenting with new ways to use the golden color, which is a very important color in Asian art in general and Vietnamese art in particular. Also, during many years I traveled to many different parts of the world that I infinitely love, such as India, Nepal, Bhutan, Israel, Egypt, Iran, Morocco, and I took thousands of photographs. I want to be able to dedicate quality time to create a beautiful art photography collection of those magnificent places full of cultures and histories.
Take Me to Your Dreams Ophelia, Fine Art Photography. Courtesy: The Artist.
Art should be sincere and honest.
What Is The Best Advice That You’ve Received About Your Artistic Career?

When I first started, a very good artist friend told me that it's very important to be equipped with a lot of patience and perseverance and understand that an artist’s life is full of ups and downs, no success is long-lasting and no failure is permanent. Also, do not create something just for the sake of the public that wants to buy that type of art because this will not be sustainable. An artist has to be authentic and create his/her "signature" art that distinguishes him/her from other artists. Art should be sincere and honest.
Where Can We Buy Your Work?
You can buy them at different online art galleries, for example Saatchi Art.

Viet Ha Tran

The Artist at the 2018 Solo Exhibition "I FEMME" at La Real Casa de la Moneda (Royal Mint Palace), Segovia, Spain.
Madrid-based Vietnamese artist, Viet Ha Tran is a multi-disciplinary artist whose name is officially listed in the art market since 2015 and published in over 120 newspapers and magazines around the world.
Her works have made a presence on Expansión, El Economista, Vogue Italia, Vanity Fair France, The Times of India, The Hindu, Vietnam News, at Saatchi Gallery London, and were auctioned by Christie’s Hong Kong for charity. She is listed as a global artist by Artprice, the world leader in art market information, and represented by Art+Commerce / Vogue Italia – the joint project of the largest global photo agency based in New York and the prestigious Vogue Italia.

Viet Ha started her artistic career in 2013 with fine art photography then in 2018 with abstract paintings. She is represented by a number of galleries from Madrid, Barcelona, Paris to Tel Aviv, Cape Town, Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, Beijing, Bangkok, New Delhi. Her works have appeared in public auctions in Spain alongside works by Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, Banky, and Andy Warhol. Her photos have been exhibited on the fleet of eight premium vessels of the Holland America Line that travel around the world, represented by her gallery Artlink based in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Viet Ha is especially well known for her emotionally dense and endlessly compelling photographs of women. Her art emphasizes fantasy and imagination as a source of aesthetic experience. Instead of taking photos, she tries to paint women’s emotions, inner dreams, intimacy, poetry, and philosophy with her camera. As a result, her photos, apart from having an air of classic paintings, capture an ephemeral moment of feminine emotions flowing through the river of time. As reality plays hide-and-seek with fantasy, it’s a reflection of those volatile moods etched in the permanent state of change.
Former Director of Admissions for Finance Master Programs at prestigious IE University (Madrid, Spain) during 2009-2020, Viet Ha also worked as Exhibition Manager at IE and Jury Member of IE Foundation Prizes in the Humanities IE University from 2016-2020. She has given lectures on art and the art market at various conferences in Spain such as IE University and The Art Market Agency. In 2020 she left the corporate world to start a full-time career as an artist.

Viet Ha was nominated 200 Influential Vietnam Global Leaders in 2019 by the Vietnam Embassy in Spain and Vietnam Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Instagram: @viethatranart