Internationally collected master artist Quang Ho made his first sojourn to Nashville in early November. Teaching a week-long workshop to local artists and lecturing at Montgomery Bell Academy, the confident yet unassuming Ho sought to impart his philosophical approach to painting to area artists who were enthusiastically appreciative of the opportunity to learn from him.

Art is a byproduct of my search for what is true as a painter, as a person,” Denver-based Ho says, describing his approach to his work. He says the first part of his career was about improving ability, but now he wants “to explore the concept of what it means to me, explore things on a whim. My painting is never about a message.”

“I’m not searching for a style. I’m searching for surprises.”

Born in Vietnam, where he was drawing by age 4, Ho immigrated to the United States with his mother and siblings in 1975. Now in his mid 40s, Ho says he’s having more fun painting than ever. He resists being restricted to painting in one particular style, preferring stylistic experimentation instead. “Style or technique is more about handwriting. Content or structure is much more interesting,” he explains. “I’m not searching for a style. I’m searching for surprises.”

He acknowledges that this stylistic exploration can be counterproductive, because most galleries want artists to paint in one consistent style. “There’s something disingenuous about that,” he insists. “The artists I talk to want to experiment and grow, and they can’t do that if they’re locked into a style.” Whether realism or abstract work, Ho says, the real essence of painting is the dialogue between shapes, tones, colors, textures, edges, and line.

Attracted to mystery, Ho prefers not to paint the Rocky Mountains or even ballet dancers, for example. Their beauty is too obvious, necessitating no need to search for it. Instead, he prefers painting a scene like the stand of trees and bushes at the edge of his Nashville host’s yard. Part of the mystery there, he explains, is in the question, “How do you selectively crop that so it becomes a good composition?”

Ho loves Nashville and appreciates the camaraderie he witnessed here among artists, something he says he doesn’t see anywhere else. He also observed that “the artists here that I’ve met are heavily influenced by the landscape, which I would be too. It’s beautiful here.” One of the week’s workshop sessions took Ho and his students to Radnor Lake, where Ho encouraged the artists to paint less-obvious images. They see the lake, he explains, while he sees the lake through the trees.

Ho enjoys sharing with fellow artists all the things he has learned along the way, including things he wishes he had known before he started painting. “I enjoy getting some of these ideas across and seeing students’ faces light up,” he smiles. “It’s liberating.”

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