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Use of lacquer in contemporary art practice

(by artist Dao Minh Tri at the Art Forum in Singapore in May 2008)

‘Lacquer’ is an olden material of Vietnam. It was then first used in the making of handcrafted ornaments, as well as in the decorating and finishing of temples and pagodas. Blending natural colours such as brown, rouge, gold, silver, white (the colour of egg shell), red-brown and black.

Through the years, the use of this material within Vietnam was ‘discovered’ by the French and they prompted wider research and application, bringing ‘lacquer’ into use in the area of plastic arts in Vietnam, and has been used by Vietnamese painters. The colours used in Vietnamese ‘lacquer’ paints as a medium has shown its versatility, its diversified applications withstanding the very modern factors, individual painter making full use of it’s profoundly elegant luminosity to create masterpieces.

Existing in different forms, it is applied to different themes and trends in plastic arts. Having existed for thousands of years, it still remains relevant in modern society, as the colours are derived from objects found in the artists’ natural surroundings. For example, gold is from real gold, brown from earth, green from tree leaves and stones, red from rouge and white from egg shells.

In my works with lacquer paints, human happiness and sufferings, and the obsessions about environmental destruction are represented by the image of a fish. Compared to other painting materials, lacquer has produced diversified effects and holds its own distinct history.