Anna Belleforte

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art society membership

Posted by Anna Belleforte on March 25, 2019 at 11:15 AM Comments comments (0)

I am excited to announce that I’ve been accepted into the prestigious De Ploegh Society of Artists, established in 1934. New member artists will be exhibiting in the summer. Details to come.

I’ve also been asked to submit for Diepenheim’s Kunstmoment again for the their anniversary exhibition, after reviewing all the artists they’ve hosted over the past 15 years.


final thoughts in Vietnam

Posted by Anna Belleforte on February 14, 2019 at 4:45 AM Comments comments (0)

This trip was an opportunity to observe a country in development towards urbanism and a culture rich in symbolism and artistic expression. And one that celebrates this. I saw turtles (symbolic of longevity) everywhere in sculpture form, often as feet to support important things. In Hue I witnessed amazing technical skill in ‘painting’ with silk threads. In an exhibition in HCMC the sale of an artwork is celebrated with a big red bow (instead of a tiny red dot) – how lovely is that? I also loved the stylistic simplicity of the ‘cloud’ sculptures on the roof ridges of many temples, and the dogs that roamed and slept freely there to find the peace they needed. At night when there’s a full moon, burning candles in paper lanterns floated on the Perfume River towards the sea. These are prayers set out by individuals and monks at the pagodas. It creates a beautiful line of orange dots in slow procession. Though the chaotic urbanism can be hard to take at times, there are always moments of respite. This is what I take with me.

pious places

Posted by Anna Belleforte on February 12, 2019 at 7:40 AM Comments comments (0)

The one place to find peace and calm in the cities is in the religious structures dotted throughout the country. The temples, pagodas, churches, Buddha shrines and Imperial tombs all have clear and symbolic shapes. I think it’s also a deliberate feature of the Vietnamese places of worship to have very high steps up: by having to make an effort to reach them, you are showing respect. What I’ve been most impressed with is the decoration. The temples and, south of Hue, the tombs of past Emperors are full of mosaic walls built not from tesserae as we know it in Europe, but smashed glass and ceramics. Brown and green beer bottle necks form images of bamboo, soup spoons are great for forming petals, broken blue and white porcelain give lovely patterns. And an amazing sense of realism is achieved. Why shards? I asked. Because these materials provide quality suitable for temple use. They contain strong colours that will last without ever needing repainting, and there is a reciprocal honour at play: every day utensils are imbued with honour by being used in a temple, and the temple is being honoured by the use of handmade things humans need for life. It’s just beautiful work!

no mud, no lotus

Posted by Anna Belleforte on February 10, 2019 at 5:45 AM Comments comments (0)

The lotus plays a big part in urban decorative features in all the places I’ve visited in Vietnam – in particular as light sculptures. HCMC has a whole variety of lotus lanterns, Can Tho has the pedestrian bridge with a huge lotus defined in pink neon, serving as kind of pavilion on the bridge, and Hue has simple yellow lotus shapes on a (beer-sponsored) arch over the main street (Le Loi). It’s interesting to me that ornamental lights, most often linear in nature, seem important to urban beautification here. It all has a certain ‘cartoon’ or graphic quality to it, using lights to outline a shape or symbol that as local significance. The lotus (or water lily) is particularly important because it’s seen as representing triumph over adversity: the beautiful, classy lotus rises above its muddy roots, it’s able to flourish despite its ‘dirty’ surroundings, be odourless in spite of a smelly environment. And yet, as the Vietnamese say, without mud, there’s no lotus.

Hue Vietnam, Imperial city

Posted by Anna Belleforte on February 8, 2019 at 4:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Hue has a nice balance. The imperial city, on the Perfume River – so named because of the smell of sweet grasses from upriver – has a citadel/city on one bank and an urbanized core on the other. Buildings on the citadel side are regulated to not exceed the heights of the citadel walls (originally by a French building ordinance, I believe), while modern high-rises are permitted on the other side. What typifies both sides is a kind of civilized feel and spacious planning I’ve not yet seen in other Vietnamese cities. There’s a riverside park with lovely landscaping, stone sculptural art throughout (thanks to an art biennial), and a floating boardwalk away from traffic.
Building a citadel in central Vietnam was attempted on two earlier sites, but the ground was too soft. In the end – at the beginning of the 19th century – they opted for fortuitous Feng Shui building principles: facing a river (which brings prosperity) and backed by high grounds (serving as protection).

Vietnamese contemporary art and TVs

Posted by Anna Belleforte on February 6, 2019 at 9:45 AM Comments comments (0)

I’m happy to see that there are active studios and art training going on. Much of the art for sale is strongly based on a realistic portrayal of the Vietnamese environment: boat and sea scenes, jumbled towns, agrarian fields, local plants and flowers, culturally inspired portraits… And many have real painterly quality: lots of texture, expressive brushstrokes and palette-knife use, bold colour choices, calligraphic marks, etc. What I’m seeing is only the commercial end of things, probably producing what the tourist is likely to want to buy, but I expect the representational work is also a reflection of Vietnamese identity: this is their reality. It fits in with the ‘paint what you know’ mantra. On the road I also passed another form of creativity: someone using what they knew, or had collected. Bulky old computer monitors piled up into a fence at the perimeter of a property. Ingenious! Just like brick work: great patterns, unified colour and proportions, and maybe even something philosophical? Blank screens, leaving only your own reflection…

cable car views of island living

Posted by Anna Belleforte on February 5, 2019 at 5:45 AM Comments comments (0)

One minute I think I’m converted to art that represents natural architecture (or at least a new series), and then I view my photographs taken from the cable car and I’m back to aerial views! The rooftops, the floating boats, the angles and shapes, the light and shade, the colours… While I have a sense of discomfort about the opportunity this newly completed cable car ride has provided for ‘picturesque poverty’, as an artist I can’t help but focus on the appealing formal elements of a picture, and how these tell the story of how lives are lived here.

resort to resort, local becomes generic

Posted by Anna Belleforte on February 4, 2019 at 8:45 AM Comments comments (0)

PhuQuoc is ringed by white sandy beaches and endowed with lush green hills – features that make it an obvious vacation destination. Only 10 years ago it was still predominantly a fishing island, but property developers have moved in and built resorts next to resorts. Not necessarily a bad thing (it does provide employment and economic growth), though there’s the danger of overdevelopment. For a basically Communist country, there’s a lot of unbridled capitalism, from street vendors to property oligarchs. The biggest project underway on Phu Quoc right now is at the southern tip – the Kem Beach and Sun World resort developments. Stretching about 10 kilometers between the two is an already functioning cable car. From this vantage point you see the inhabited huts and fishing boats, the floating houses on the sea and the smaller islands on which the massive columns for the cable system stand. Ok, so the views are worth it and it’s a novel form of island-hopping. What’s odd is that once this whole thing is finished, you enter a sort of alternative world where you needn’t make any contact at all with the real Vietnam. You float above it and at both ends are cocooned in resort life. The resorts are being designed as self-sufficient towns: real streets with lovely paving and lanterns and plenty of retail therapy. But most striking is that the ‘new town’ is distinctly urban and doesn’t resemble or reflect anything remotely Vietnamese (unless it’s perhaps Vietnamese ambition?). The recently completed cable car entrance complex is built entirely in the European style: antique crumbling stone work, Roman columns and Greek music from the speakers. Why?

jungle walk

Posted by Anna Belleforte on February 3, 2019 at 7:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Though it wasn’t an unmarked trail through the wilderness, it was a proper walk in the jungle up to a nice waterfall and pool. Since it’s my habit to keep my eye out for interesting architecture and urban patterns and geometries, I found myself unexpectedly drawn to the irregular lines and wild shapes of the forest. Do the number of photographs I took attest to a turning point? Am I to move away from the straight rigid lines of defined structures to the more fluid and unexpected ones of nature? Naturally occurring architecture is something I’ve been interested in for some time. Things like canopy boulders, the shelter of leaves, cave-like spaces, a forest of columns. These attest to the beginnings of architecture. They are simple, textured things that have an inherent potential for providing shelter.

urban planning on a tropical island

Posted by Anna Belleforte on February 2, 2019 at 11:45 AM Comments comments (0)

From an urban design (and undoubtedly Western) perspective, my hands are itching to get started and plan some spaces for pedestrian ease. There’s little concept of public space here. Perhaps the spaces for public gathering are the temples, but outside of these, areas like sidewalks normally given to public use are almost always taken over by adjacent property owners for displaying of wares, café seating, parking, etc. and walkers are forced to diverge onto the busy road. (Why not require all property developers to reserve a narrow strip of land for a promenade into Duong Dong town?)

The waterways have more appeal: bursting with colours, worn woods, curvaceous shapes, open spaces and reflected skies. It’s especially the turquoises that pop. There’s a clear sense of pride in keeping these boats looking good and giving them character. And even giving them eyes – whether to ward off bad spirits or give the boat itself a spirit, I don’t know. What’s clear is that the boats clustered together form a city of their own.