Contemporary artist uses gold to reinvent folk art


New take on old art: People viewing a large painting on display at the exhibition. — Vietnam News/ANN

Contemporary artist Bui Thanh Tam is displaying his collection of paintings inspired by folk paintings of the Kim Hoang, Dong Ho and Hang Trong movements, as well as religious works created by ethnic groups.

Kim Hoang, Dong Ho and Hang Trong are the most famous folk painting genres in northern Vietnam.

While Kim Hoang paintings originated from Kim Hoang Village, Hoai Duc district, Hanoi, in the 18th century, Hang Trong paintings are part of Hanoi’s Old Quarter heritage and Dong Ho paintings come from Bac Ninh province. They all used printing on do (poohnah) paper but artisans employed different techniques, themes and patterns.

The exhibition Nothing Behind kicked off on Wednesday displaying 20 artworks created using collage.

Some pieces are combinations of two or three 1.2m by 1.8m paintings. The exhibition is divided into three subjects: War, Love and Belief.

Using folk paintings as his materials, Tam has created his works using contemporary methods and angles.

The pieces are inlaid with gold expressing holiness with an impressive effect.

Painter Le Huy Tiep remarked that the collection marked an improvement in Tam’s career and showed his breakthrough thinking.

“Tam has made an impression with his paintings on modern society and the lifestyle of people in urban areas, ” Tiep said.

“In the original paintings, people were the main subject matter, but in this series, people are hidden and mixed with numerous objects. In some pieces, people appear as shadows.”

The theme of the exhibition is inspired by Andy Warhol’s statement: “If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it.”

“Warhol is not the only one who has this opinion, it’s an ideological trend and I am a follower.

“Life is everything on the surface, you don’t need to find anything behind, ” said Tam.

Before this collection, he used folk paintings to encourage artists to preserve and draw attention to traditional art.

Now Tam said he wanted to combine the quintessence of traditional art in his contemporary artworks, giving old things new form and a new position in the flow of Vietnamese modern art.Tam developed the artworks by combining pieces and patterns from folk paintings then painting his own works over that base.

Cultural researcher Nguyen Thu Hoa, co-author of the book on Kim Hoang folk paintings, highly appreciated the effort and creativity that went into the paintings.

“Tam has sophisticatedly cut and glued folk paintings together in an inventive and artistic way. Traditional values are raised to a new height thanks to this collection by Tam, ” she said.

The exhibition will run until tomorrow at the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum in Hanoi. — Vietnam News/ANN

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