String portraits depict prominent global artists

By Diep Phan   April 14, 2021 | 10:51 pm PT
Le Van Manh, a 25-year-old Saigon artist, uses nails and thread to create portraits of prominent local and foreign figures.

The artist from Tan Phu District said he discovered string art during the Covid-19 outbreak last year.
"This type of art entails a web of yarn wrapped around a nail system fastened onto the plane surface. Lines are created when the yarn is wound around two nails. Multiple lines intersect and vary in angle to make the image come alive," he said.


Manh applies math algorithms to determine the correct wrapping order.


For a 40-centimeter-in-diameter picture, Manh will have to hammer 200 nails into the canvas, each corresponding to a number from 1 to 200.


"The more threads that pass through an area, the darker it will be, creating contrast in the portrait."


He said an artwork with a diameter of 40 centimeters will need about 3,000 wrappings.


In addition to the wooden frame, the remaining materials for making string art include nails, thread, pliers to fix the nail into position and a hammer. This material set costs about VND300,000 ($13.08).


Manh said viewers should not stand too close to the picture to get a better perspective, advising a distance of about two meters.


He has made portraits of wellknown figures, including General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong, local comedian Tran Thanh and fictional character Harry Potter.
For other types of frames such as hearts, squares or a variety of thread colors, Manh has to use more complex algorithms.
"Even though the computer determines the wrapping order, winding the thread is still done by hand, requiring patience and focus. For someone with no talent like me, this type of art is even more special since it is a way for me to surpass my limits."


On April 2, Manh was invited to take part in a tutorial for autistic children to mark World Autism Awareness Day at a special education school in Binh Thanh District.
"Initially, I learned how to make string art simply because I found it strange and wanted to conquer it myself. Since I want to help popularize this art, I will work on more sample paintings, algorithms and diverse materials."

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