Ngo Van Sac

My artworks are about desires: the tension between real life and fantasy and the intricate relationships between humans. To show this intensity, I like strong renderings of figure, the effect of different surface textures and the strong contrast between black and white.

Born in 1980 in Hanoi, Ngo Van Sac’s wood burn portraits represent a pivotal point in his artistic path. He discovered this powerful technique when he started painting on wood panels 10 years ago. Unhappy with the paintings he created, he burned them all. In the flames, he observed the natural colours and patterns created by the heat. His perspective shifted and he saw fire as more than a destructive element; it evoked powerful feelings and emotions tied to the ebb and flow of life itself. By combining fire and natural pinewood, Ngo Van Sac truly found himself.

Honouring Vietnam’s long and varied history, Sac utilises pages from historical publications written in “Chữ Nôm”, the ancient Vietnamese logographic script as the background for his portraits. “Chữ Nôm” was used from the 10th century onwards, when the Vietnamese adapted Chinese script to write their language. It was eventually displaced by “Chữ Quốc Ngữ”, the romanised writing system based on the Vietnamese alphabet from the 17th century onwards.

Sac creates his portraits by burnishing the wood first and then glues pages of poetry written in “Chữ Nôm” script onto the wood. He applies varnish to protect the paper and completes his portraits by applying acrylic paint on the coloured elements of his piece.

The “Chữ Nôm” poetry Sac chooses is notable; conveying a prayer for peace and prosperity in the family.

Ngo Van Sac has gained recognition in Vietnam and internationally for his unique technique. He has held solo exhibitions in Canada, Japan, Hungary, South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore.

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