Hanoi Art House
VIETNAMESE SILK PAINTINGS
Article in Velvet Magazine, October 2017, featuring our artist, Mel Fraser MRBS
VIETNAMESE LACQUER PAINTING
Silk painting first appeared in Vietnam in the third century AD. In the old days artists used natural colours and a silk painting could last a thousand year. The golden age of silk painting in Vietnam was in the early 20th century when those of the first generation of students at the Indochine Fine Art College in Hanoi -École des Beaux-Arts d’indochina, rose to fame (artists Tran Van Can and Nguyen Tuong Lan were well recognised not just at home but internationally). In the modern day Vietnamese silk artists use watercolour and acrylics and also different techniques. They follow the career not just because of their love for silk painting, but also for their determination to preserve and develop the fine art form that plays an important part of Vietnam’s cultural heritage.
A silk artist normally has intimate knowledge about his medium as choosing the right silk reflects the aesthetic of the artwork. Quality of silk comes from the quality of cocoons and weaving process. This knowledge helps the artist to exploit the finesse and elegance of the silk to get a desired effect when creating his work of art. Our silk paintings were created through the steps described below.
Preparation: Our artist carefully choses the material - raw silk, and stretches it on wooden bars. The artist then uses a broad base brush to moisten the silk with water. This helps the canvas to attain a brilliant smooth and flat surface once dry.
The artist now scans the sketch over using pencil, and starts creating the artwork with several layers of colours. During the whole process the artist keeps the silk moist by brushing water to the canvas and waits for it to dry before creating another layer. This step is the most time-consuming, requires skill and patience.
Once satisfied with the colours, the artist starts his line creation. He may also takes this time to consider the effect of the colours created. Silk art has its own stylised characteristics, so this step requires special expertise and experience. This is when the artist creates the artwork to be unique and distinctively his own. It is also the most important step.
Painting on silk is like dyeing silk - many layers of colours must absorb into the fibre of the silk. The artist normally uses watercolour. The painting’s expressiveness is revealed by the finesse and smoothness of silk. The artist’s delicate strokes and block colours lively mingle together to bring out the vibration and vitality of the painting. The final step sees the artist put the silk artwork on canvas using rice paste. Some artists may prefer leaving silk on stretcher bars as a finished artwork.