Over the years John has visited Café Lam, in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, on a number of occasions. Initially he was drawn to the café as it has a rich collection of paintings by Vietnamese artists hung on the walls and was once a place for artists to gather.
Since he began his business back in the 1950’s, the owner of Café Lam, Nguyen Van Lam, built up a collection of artwork from impoverished clients who exchanged their paintings for coffee and conversation. The paintings on the café’s walls add to the café’s sense of nostalgia.
On Café Lam’s website, it is mentioned that Nguyen Van Lam regrets the destruction of the old buildings in Hanoi to make way for new developments. And suggests that the devastation caused by the American bombs in the Vietnam (American) War was not as great as the destruction of old Hanoi by the wrecking ball of redevelopment.
Hanoi has changed dramatically in recent years. Things rarely stay the same, even Café Lam has changed. But the recent change in Hanoi has been quite amazing. Building has gone on at a staggering pace, and mostly upwards! And the painting Construction, Ha Noi, which was partly inspired by the writings of Nguyen Van Lam and his café, reflects on this. The woman on the bicycle represents the past and behind her the vast overpowering dominance of the construction of a tower block. In the distance you can see cranes and a skyline of old Hanoi, with tower blocks further behind.
Oil on canvas, 25 x 35cm