Nature Morte (Lot 6201) from 1970 is a very fine example of the artist’s interest in still-life painting, a genre steeped as much in European artistic traditions as it is in Sino-Vietnamese ones. In Chinese, jingwu or ‘quiet objects’ may be symbolic evocations of blessings, commemorations of events, or even auspicious wordplays. It is no different in Vietnam where still-life imagery appears on woodblock prints decorating the house. Flowers and fruits often hold specific meanings, which accord the picture both aesthetic and literary merit. In Nature Morte, Mai Trung Thu has chosen a few apples and an orange, the latter expressing the wish for posterity, as the fruit holds the promise of many seeds.

In a complementary way the cut-open apple invokes European vanitas with an emphasis on the inexorable flight of time, as the fruit would soon bruise and spoil. Brought together, those fruits articulate the artist’s reflection on life. I cannot resist to mention Mai Trung Thu painted Nature Morte as he was entering the last decade of his life, investing this silk painting with an even more touching perspective. A still-life as a legacy.

Catalog Note by Nicolas Henni-Trinh Duc

1970 年的 《靜物》(拍品編號 6201)是枚中栨的靜物畫傑作,從中可以看到他對這個畫種的興趣。靜物畫在歐洲和中越的藝術上皆由來已久。在越南,靜物畫也出現在裝飾房屋的木版畫上,鮮花和水果通常具有特定含義,既為美觀,亦具文學價值。在《靜物》當中,枚中栨選擇了幾個蘋果和一個橘子,而由於橘子多籽,故此代表榮華富貴;切開了的蘋果很快就會氧化變色,故此暗示時間的無情流逝。兩種水果並置,則表達了藝術家對生活的反思。枚氏創作此畫時,正進入生命的最後十年,而他投入此畫的情感亦更為深厚。這幅靜物畫是他留下給後世的紀念。

文/ Nicolas Henni-Trinh Duc