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Vietnamese silk paintings

 Vietnamese plastic arts shown to the world in the mid-XX century bore their own stamp that neither modelled itself on the Chinese style, nor did it on the Western one. That can be seen,in silk-paintings with discreet charms that are neither far-away nor boisterous.

On the strength of the achievements recorded since the third decade of our century, Vietnam silk-paintings have been created by independent minded artists who knew' how to naturally Combine accidental art with Oriental one so as to describe the soul of a civilized nation. The length of time already permits us to think that, our pictorial works in former times are scarcely to be found - apart from a portrait of Nguyen Trai, a cultural celebrity of the XV century, and a few silk - paintings - beside an abundant sculptural legacy left us by our forefathers. Those old-time pictorial Works, due to the fact that they were created from un durable materials, cannot survive the inclement weather and social events. The "cultural discontinuity"that cropped up in the late XIX century, including the abandonment of Chinese studies in favour of the French language and the' Romanized Vietnamese language, has impacted on the knowledge of our national past. It should be borne in mind that every old-time intellectual must be proficient in "music, chess-playing, poetry and painting", yet only "poets" were crowned with success whereas the other three arts have given no well-known "author". The words "sculptor" and painter" are hardly to be found in ancient books.

What is aforementioned shows that contemporary silk-paintings are on no account a continuation of the tradition from former times. The firm stuff of each artist enables him not to be dizzied by foreign accomplishments. He seizes the soul of the nation exuding from the whole people's life. Some people seize this soul with their own intuition, some others by their scientific research, yet both these methods, associated with each other, allow them to embark upon a new road.

Until the 1930s of this century, Vietnamese plastic arts had known no creators, aside from the silk-painter Nguyen Phan Chanh whose name was spoken of in Europe. Since this period, Vietnamese silk-paintings were often present at various painting exhibitions, in Vietnamas well as abroad. Some contemporary artists of Nguyen Phan Chanh, such as Mai Thu and Le Pho living in France, were also famous for their silk-paintings imbued with Vietnamese fragrancy. Other well-known artists such as To Ngoc Van, Tran Van Can, Tran Binh Loc, Luong Xuan Nhi, Nguyen Tuong Lan, Nguyen Tien Chung, Le Van De... also contributed, each in his manner, to the richness of Vietnamsilk pictorial art. All of them were educated in the Indochinese Fine Arts school that was established in 1925 in Hanoi. Its founder and director was Mr.VictorTardieu, a class-fellow of Matisse, Rouault.Mr Tardieu never compelled his students to comply with European aesthetic canons. On the contrary, he always encouraged them to return to their national source.

Over 60 years, Vietnamese silk-paintings have gone through two stages of development: prior to 1945, they used to look for the beauty in the quietness of a closed world. Since 1945, they found it in the ebullient contrast of a new forming world, both exteriorly and interiorly.

Tran Van Can initiated a new period of silk-painting by his "I read to mamma" with an angular plasticity, with unveiled sentiments and a feeling intercourse between personages. "The march in the rain" of Phan Thong becomes stirring and subtle due to his brushwork and his asymmetrical composition. Ta Thuc Binh describes a merry -- making party organized to congratulate the successful land reform, with an innocent and ardent look. Linh Chi shows the rustic and self-respecting upland girls with his interpenetrant colours. Tran Dong Luong is partial to young female city-dwellers full of charms and elegance in their robe that gives relief to their youthful bodies. Each of Nguyen Thu's works of art is a poem, a melodious quatrain. while Thanh Chau expresses in his own paintings the strength and tensity.

Women artists Giang Huong, Thanh Ngoc, Mong Bich, Minh My... find in silk a material suitable to, their suave and fervid throbbing. Kim Bach, on the contrary, makes use of her strong brushwork.

Since the late 1980s, there are more and more silk-painters, and a sign of renewal begins to reveal itself. Silk-paintings conform to no norm. Formerly, painters used to appeal to deep shades, but present-day silk-paintings are created with vivid and contrasting colours. While canvas and wood are used as background for oil or lacquer paintings, which can be covered with paint, the background for silk-paintings are often not covered throughout. Even if they are covered throughout, the expressiveness of paintings is revealed by the fineness and glossiness of silk. Silk fibers are nearly intact, as if each fiber is tinctured to be woven into a picture. The, silk itself constitutes a source of inspiration for the artist. So silk is not simply a background for the picture, and we have a specific painting genre: silk-painting.

It is known that in China E.C., colours or Chinese ink have been applied by painters on silk, before the discovery of paper. So Chinese pictures are often accompanied with an inscription "Chinese ink on silk" or "Chinese ink on paper". In Europe likewise, we may read the inscription "Oil on wood" or "Oil on canvas".

Silk-paintings, together with lacquer paintings, constitute the creations that give rise to the present day Vietnamese plastic arts. Deeply rooted in the people, the silk-painting is frequently renewed, and time is an impartial judge.

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