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Artist Spotlight: Thanh Xinh

With her bubbly personality and welcoming smile, one may assume that Saigon Artbook artist Thanh Xinh's journey as an artist has been nothing but smooth sailing. Like anything that is worth while, however, it has come with obstacles along the way.

“I could be considered the “ugly little duckling” of the children in my family, study-wise,” shared Thanh Xinh at the recent Saigon Artbook Art Talk. Growing up, her poor grades in school were a constant disappointment to her parents.

“I did poorly in all my classes except for Literature and Drawing.”

When Thanh Xinh decided to apply to Ho Chi Minh City’s University of Architecture, it wasn’t an easy decision.

“It was a very stressful time. My family didn’t believe and support my university choice because they doubted drawing as a career.”

It initially looked like her family’s trepidations were correct as it took her two years and two entrance exams to get into the university, but she proved otherwise and eventually found her stride. She graduated with a meaningful body of work, “Message from Nature,” as her final project where she focused on environmental issues.

“Global warming and environmental issues have always been depicted in a negative sorrowful way. I wanted to show the positive aspects of nature, hence, the call for protection.”

“I had always wanted to become a manga artist, and for a long time, my style was influenced by the cute South Korean cartoons and mangas. Many people still ask me to draw in that happy cartoon-ish style. It wasn’t until 2012 did I realize that it was just a childish dream, and I needed to let go.”

After graduation, she worked for a film and animation company and became acquainted her Tibetan co-worker, Tsering Tashi Gyalthang. “He is among the people who inspires me a lot,” said Thanh Xinh.

“Keep going and you will arrive,” Thanh Xinh quoted him as saying, “I’m a strong believer in chances. Keep experiencing. Keep doing new things, and what remains within you is yours at last. Then you’ll find yourself”. 

She began to find her calling when her animated short film, “Turtle Soup,” won third prize in the International 48 Hour Project and in 2014, when she was selected as one of the artists to be featured in the fourth edition of Saigon Artbook.

“I had never thought that I would be a true artist in a book. I draw, but not for publication and exhibition.”

Befriending Tsering also inspired her and provided insight into not only Tibetan culture, but also the patterns and symbols in Tibetan aesthetic heritage. Thanh Xinh’s wavy and eased motifs of drawing and coloring were conceived from her amusement of the enchanting details of the meditative culture.

When asked about the prolonged development of her style and the seemingly derivative nature of it from Tibetan culture, she responded, “I think before making it your own style, you have to be passionate and bewildered by it. And with art, it is not the matter of time, but of love, of being who you are. I am mature and I’m not afraid of as many things as I used to be.”

The 30-year-old artist, having quit her day job, is freely discovering her carefree self and style. “Quitting a job might seem reckless to many people, but I think we need to close a door first, then open another one.”

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