Artist wants to preserve poonah paper

September 24, 2018 - 07:00

A painting exhibition entitled Chuối Rừng (Wild Banana) featuring nearly 40 artworks by artist Trần Ngọc Hưng opened yesterday in Hà Nội.

Wild Banana series by artist Trần Ngọc Hưng.
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI — An exhibition entitled Chuối Rừng (Wild Banana) featuring nearly 40 artworks by painter Trần Ngọc Hưng is opened to public in Hà Nội. 

Wild Banana showcases a new series of paintings made by Hưng over more than 10 years, featuring powder colours on Vietnamese traditional (poonah) paper. This is the first time the artist has debuted his paintings.

"I was inspired by wild banana a long time ago when I was a student having field trips to the northern mountainous provinces of Hòa Bình and Sơn La," said Hưng. "I focus on expressing wild banana flowers which wither for fruit banana."

Hưng studied lacquer at the Industrial Fine Arts University and works with both lacquer and poonah. The poonah paintings combine traditional materials of the paper and powered colours in a modern style.

Poonah paper is made from the bark of the poonah tree which can be found in Việt Nam’s northern region. The paper has been used widely since the 18th century in Vietnamese folk art such as Đông Hồ, Hàng Trống and Kim Hoàng paintings.

"I want to recover traditional poonah paper and draw in the medium of powder colours which were used by Vietnamese artists from 1990s and before," Hưng said. "Nowadays, almost no artist wants to draw with powder colours because it is difficult to mix."

"Thanks to the paper’s unique characteristics -- durable and resilient, it has to go through a series of meticulous and complicated steps which are carried out manually," Hưng said.

Hưng buys the paper at the handicraft village of Đống Cao in Bắc Ninh Province, and he dyes the paper with bright and warm tones before he draws.

The wild banana flower theme is a way for Hưng to reveal his findings on visual art language and inner feelings.

"I haven’t had chance to see wild banana flower in Việt Nam but through the beautiful paintings by artist Hưng I feel the beauty and charming of this flower," said Park-hyejin, the South Korean Culture Centre’s director in Hà Nội.

"I’m surprised that paper is similar to Korean hanji paper which makes each painting more attractive. I hope the exhibition is a chance for Korean and Vietnamese people to discover the natural beauty made by a talented artist."

Hưng currently works at Việt Nam Fine Arts Museum. He has had many group exhibitions in Việt Nam and abroad including in Italy in 2013 and China in 2012. His first solo was held at Việt Nam Fine Arts Museum in 2015.  

The poonah painting exhibition will run until September 29 at the Korean Culture Centre, 49 Nguyễn Du Street. — VNS

Wild Banana series by artist Trần Ngọc Hưng.