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Missing Saigon? Live Vicariously Through These Tender Illustrations by a Filipino Artist.

Having lived and worked in Saigon for two and a half years, Daniel Ansel Tingcungco, a Filipino artist, created a collection of paintings illustrating 100 beloved views of the city. The project, titled "100 Views of Saigon," was completed after one year and four months and is available to the public on the artist’s Instagram page.

Tingcungco made the move from Manila to Saigon at the beginning of 2019. At the time, the 32-year-old artist was searching for new career opportunities. “I have friends who have been here for several years already and they’ve been my guide and support that has helped me decide to make the big leap,” he tells Saigoneer. “It instantly felt like home for me...The warmth of both the people and the climate, the vibrant and progressive feel of the city, yet still somehow laid back.”

"100 Views of Saigon" came to fruition after one year and four months.

Although Tingcungco hasn't stayed here too long, the time he spent here was filled with countless memorable events and adventures. The idea for "100 Views of Saigon" was then coined and actualized as an expression of the artist’s appreciation of the city.

Familiar sights of crisscrossed streets and alleyways.

Tingcungco depicts endearing scenes from all over the city, covering iconic tourist spots, old-time historical sites, Saigonese street artifacts — including a steamy wooden hủ tiếu cart - and modernist structures whose exteriors bear the marks of their enduring existence.

Left: Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts. Right: Tân Định Catholic Church, also dubbed the “Pink Church” by locals.

Tingcungco's works feel intimate because they captivate the details and atmosphere of Saigon’s scenes, be it a building, a green patch or a rowdy crowd. The artist employed the use of vibrant colors to characterize the city’s buoyant presence.

Thủ Thiêm Tunnel.

"100 Views of Saigon" is a continuation of Tingcungco’s previous series, "100 views of Manila," which was greatly inspired by Hiroshige’s "One-hundred Famous Views of Edo." “I was into learning about Japanese woodblock prints ukiyo-e at that time, and I also came across the style that came after, shin-hanga [new prints], which incorporated western-style perspectives and lighting, pioneered by Kawase Hasui and Yoshida Hiroshi. I also wanted to get over my fear of drawing places or backgrounds, so I thought this would be a great challenge to overcome,” he said of the inspirations and motivations for the project.

Evidently, landscape art is no longer an intimidating feat for Tingcungco, as he dwells into new compositions with ease and eagerness. Case in point, it took Tingcungco less than 500 days, from February 2020 to June 2021, to perfect the 100 paintings for the Saigon series. The artist admitted that he initially didn’t know a lot about Saigon and wanted to move on with another project, but had a change of heart after receiving encouragement from friends and discovering local gems: “With fresh eyes and a different perspective, I want to draw and paint Saigon not only on canvas, but also in my heart and memory.”

More than a leisure ride, 'No. 82 Driving around the Điện Biên Phủ Roundabout' is a surreal déjà vu experience.

Of course, no great art is ever without a context or story. Every one of Tingcungco’s views evokes a different memory or emotion. But the most memorable? “[It] would be ‘No. 082 Driving around the Điện Biên Phủ Roundabout.’ I wanted to show a rare moment on a Sunday afternoon when there aren’t many vehicles going around. When I was drawing this, I decided to feature my friend [@coffee.saigon], because I felt the scene needed a cool bike. So I finished the drawing, then a few days later we went cafe-hopping and I rode on his bike…then he unconsciously passed by the roundabout and it gave me a surreal feeling because we felt the artwork coming to life,” he fondly recalls.

Church of St. Joan of Arc.

When asked about his favorite piece from the series, Tingcungco shares: “They’re all my ‘babies’ so it’s difficult to choose! But if I must pick one, it would be ‘No. 050 Morning walk view of the Church of St. Joan of Arc’ because I encountered it when I almost got lost in Chợ Lớn. I suddenly passed by the exact view in the drawing and was moved by the light and composition at that time. It was very calming.”

As for his expectations for the project, he said: “I would like to share a whole new feeling for those who currently live here, those who have, and those who have never been, Saigon is more than just its misconceptions and its tragedies in the past, like a lotus, it blooms in this place of many dreams that thrive and grow so progressively. It’s not perfect, as with any other place, but the challenges and imperfections are also what makes it a place that so many people love so much and call home, wherever they may be from.”

Vietnam’s municipal beauties remain a muse for Tingcungco’s foreseeable future projects. And understandably, his biggest wish at the moment is to see the country beat the pandemic and to embark on more journeys where he can again “refresh [himself] with the spirit of Saigon” and celebrate its everyday wonders through his art.

[Images: Daniel Ansel Tingcungco via @cafedandy]

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