The Process Of Making Lacquer Paintings in Vietnam Fine Art_P1

Vietnamese art reflects a mixture of influences: Vietnamese traditional art, influences from China and influence from the French during the colonial period. Over a decade ago Vietnam opened up to the world. The international art market started to see the talents of Vietnamese artists and the variety of styles in Vietnamese paintings.

The Materials Used in Vietnamese Lacquer Paintings

The Board

The artists buy the boards ready-made from suppliers. They come in a variety of sizes. The core of the board is made from plywood. One layer of lacquer is applied to the plywood which is left to dry. Next, the thin cotton cloth soaked in clay is attached to both sides of the plywood. After the cotton/ clay mixture dry, the board will be smooth.

The process is performed five times. Layers of black lacquer are then applied, polished. Thus, the final product appears as a piece of blackboard, very smooth, and durable. It consists of several layers, is very resistant, and will not crack due to fluctuation in temperature or humid. It may be wrap slightly due to changes but it is quite easy to straighten it again, as it remains flexible.

The Lacquer & Colors

Lacquer is a clear sap coming from any of six species of trees growing in Viet Nam. Lacquer is harvested in the same way as rubber, by making an incision and letting the sap flow. Fresh lacquer is whitish and turns brown upon exposure to air. It should be noted that lacquer is not a harmless substance. It is a common skin irritant and a cause of contact dermatitis, as well as being potentially carcinogenic. Black lacquer stems from a chemical reaction between lacquer and iron and results from stirring the lacquer with the iron rod for a few days. Lacquer will be mixed with various natural or artificial dyes to produce the colors the artists want.

Several shades of red are extracted from a naturally occurring red mineral, cinnabar (mercuric sulfide). White produces from the eggshell. Eggs from ducks are used because they have a better structure than hen’s egg. The eggshells are cleaned and sometimes even burned to obtain a brownish tinge. Most bright colors come from artificial dyes.

Other Materials

Several other materials may be used to make lacquer paintings, some of the most common being gold leaf. Silver is used below the layers of colors to create an effect of immense luster. Gold leaf, on the other hand, is often applied as the final layer. Interesting use of gold leaf appears as bright light flowing through the window. A range of other materials may also be used such as shells, sand, epoxy, and clay.

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