Vietnamese lacquer work first contemporary Southeast Asian art piece in French museum

By Minh Nga   July 13, 2019 | 08:14 pm PT
Vietnamese lacquer work first contemporary Southeast Asian art piece in French museum
The making of "Borderline," a lacquer craft product that is the first and only Southeast Asian modern art item displayed at the Guimet Museum of Asian Art in Paris. Photo courtesy of Hanoia.
A lacquer interpretation of a conical hat by Vietnamese artists and craftspeople is on display at France’s Guimet Museum.

Named ‘Borderline,’ it is the first Southeast Asian contemporary craft item to be displayed by the museum. The Guimet Museum of Asian Art in Paris is one of the largest Asian art museums outside Asia, with more than 50,000 works of art on display in a space of 55,000 square meters (66,000 square yards).

A collaborative work by Vietnamese artist Tran Nu Yen Khe and Hanoi-based Hanoia haute lacquer house, the product is based on the conical hat or non la, a Vietnamese icon, though it has been used in several countries.

On the spire of the hat runs a floral motif layered over golden leaves threaded by a barbed wire fence. The bright red and orange colors used reflect those found in traditional pagodas in Vietnam, a predominantly Buddhist nation.

Actor and artist Khe, now based in Paris, and Hanoia, a leading haute-lacquer house in Vietnam, found "Borderline" a challenging project.

From Khe’s original hand-drawn sketches, the design team at Hanoia developed 3D images. When the image met Khe’s satisfaction, it was printed on paper on actual size and sent to Paris for Khe to hand-draw each floral pattern.

Then the drawings were sent back to Hanoi for Hanoia craftspersons to copy and assemble each flower’s detail on the real model. The colors were tested on lacquered pieces and adjusted several times.

The most difficult, according to the team, was figuring out how to connect and balance the reverse cone shape and the base so that two lacquer blocks would be in harmony with each other.

Designer Khe is also an actress, best known for her role in the film "The Scent of Green Papaya". She has combined her experience in filming with her passion for design to produce a series of creative works.

For over 100 years, Guimet Museum has constantly developed its collection to bring to visitors a comprehensive view of the Asian art history and civilizations in this continent. Among a wide range of artworks there, Vietnam has several craft items on display, including a Buddha statue from the 6th century and a Dong Son bronze drum.

A video on the making of "Borderline" by Hanoia.

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