Vietnam’s traditional lacquer paintings discussed

(November 23, 2006)

Winter Coming’ by Tran Van Can.

VietNamNet Bridge – A seminar on Vietnam’s traditional lacquer paintings was held on November 22 at the Hanoi Fine Arts University with the participation of many artists, fine art critics, lecturers and art connoisseurs. This is an effort to preserve and develop the unique art of Vietnam lacquer paintings. The seminar was held following an ever-largest Vietnam’s traditional lacquer painting exhibition, with a display of 96 lacquers by artists nationwide, to celebrate the recently held APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting. Addressing at the seminar, Deputy Minister of Culture and Information Le Tien Tho said: “Vietnam’s lacquer paintings have made an important contribution to enriching the Vietnam contemporary fine arts since 1930. Over the past years, Vietnam’s traditional lacquer art has been preserved and developed with creativity by generations of artists. Lacquer painting has become an unique art of Vietnam fine arts which has received high appreciation from foreign friends.” Many fine art lecturers, critics as well as veteran and young artists specialising in lacquer raised their voice on Vietnamese lacquer art from tradition to modernity, technique of making a lacquer painting, special medium for this kind of art and the preservation and development of Vietnam’s traditional lacquer paintings. Defining on what’s a Vietnam’s traditional lacquer painting, Head of Fine Arts and Photography Department of the Ministry of Culture and Information, Hoang Duc Toan said “Vietnamese lacquer is obtained from the lacquer tree grown in the midland province of Phu Tho. With its shiny, durable black hue, it has for a long time been exploited largely to make fine art products or decorate religious architectural works.

‘Wrestling’ by Doan Van Nguyen.

In the 1930s, some Vietnamese artisans and painters started using lacquer as a new medium for Vietnamese modern painting. The pioneers included Dinh Van Thanh, Pham Hau, Tran Quang Tran, Nguyen Gia Tri, To Ngoc Van, Tran Van Can, Nguyen Khang, etc., who laid the foundation for Vietnamese lacquer painting to record splendid achievements later.” Discussing on Vietnamese traditional lacquer art in the past and at present, some of the delegates held conflicting ideas. Lecturer Do Huu Hue held that the contemporary artists nowadays did not follow the strict technique of making a lacquer. Instead of totally using paint from lacquer tree, some of them sometimes use Japanese industrial paint which help the paintings take less time for drying and therefore, they can create many paintings in a short time. So he held that the quality of the paintings by young artists now are as not good as those made by veteran painters in the past. Meanwhile, fine art critic Nguyen Do Bao raised his voice on the young artists’ side. He said young artists now preserve the traditional lacquer art not by imitating that the elders did but inheriting and developing the original art. Their paintings, according to fine art critic Do Bao, are varied and suitable with the breath of the current life.

‘Sunlight in the Garden’ by Nguyen Quoc Huy.

Sharing opinion on the issue young artist Nguyen Quoc Huy, who pursues the art of traditional lacquer for dozens of years and has won many high prizes at home and abroad in the category said “Though there’s a small number of artists who do not follow the strict technique of traditional lacquer art, most of young artists now have been active in creating paintings in a new and better manner.” He also said ” as it’s difficult and takes time, just a few artists follow the traditional lacquer art. However, it’s hard to master the art, so it always attracts me and I will surely pursue the art to the end.” He also expressed his wish that one day, an institute on Vietnam’s traditional lacquer art would be set up. The institute, he said, would help classify real and “not real’ traditional lacquer paintings, find out more medium for the art so that the painting would look more beautiful and also honour the art and encourage real lacquer painters.” Despite different ideas, Vietnam’s traditional lacquer art has seen positive chances, as said by Deputy Head of the Fine Arts and Photography Department Hoang Duc Toan “Over the past century, many generations of Vietnamese painters have made great efforts inheriting and developing this original art. The lacquer palette has been increasingly enriched, from the traditional colours of vermilion, black, yellow, egg-shell white, to modern hues of green, blue, lotus, purple, etc. Lacquer painting is capable of producing patches of delicate colour, magical contours, conventionalised spaces, profound, sparking, strong and contrast lights, imbued with both the realistic and the symbolic. Obviously lacquer painting constitutes a valuable part of the heritage of Vietnam’s modern fine arts.”

Reprinted from VietNamNet

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