Life in Vietnam

Thursday, 06/09/2018 10:02

Japan woman loves VN lacquer art

Ando Saeko creates lacquer painting at her house in Hoi An City. Saeko is a rare Japanese woman learning the traditional art of Viet Nam. — VNS Photo Cong Thanh
Viet Nam News

by Hoai Nam

Having visited Viet Nam as a tourist, Ando Saeko, a Japanese woman spent a month in HCM City before travelling to Ha Noi to explore Vietnamese culture.

Saeko rented a flat on the second floor in the Old Quarter’s Hang Be Street – where she could learn Vietnamese from the owner, a Hanoian woman.

The Japanese had a reason to stay in Ha Noi longer when she voluntary looked after the ill owner, despite her lack of Vietnamese language skills.

An art lover, Saeko began studying lacquer painting in Ha Noi from a teacher from the Ha Noi Industrial Fine Arts school, Trinh Tuan, for a year, communicating with body language and her limited Vietnamese.

She then met another artist – Bui Tuan Thanh – at an art gallery on Trang Tien Street and learned from Thanh when Tuan was busy.

She also learnt from artisan Doan Chi Trung in Nghi Tam Street for next few years.

Saeko recalled her first lacquer painting was a green frog as she loves nature and animals.

“It’s very difficult for me when I made the first painting with lacquer here,” Saeko recalled, saying that the lacquer of the Viet Nam and Japan is very different.

“Lacquer doesn’t really dry, but hardens via a chemical process and Vietnamese lacquer needs a higher temperature and humidity to be active. In Japan it would dry too slowly,” she explains, adding that  lacquer in Viet Nam is a natural product made from the sap of an a Rhus Succedanea tree.

She said she gained experience and skills with lacquer by searching for information from Japan and practising in Viet Nam.

In 2001, she married an English engineer working for Shimizu Corporation in Ha Noi, and two boys were born in their second home country.

A lacquer painting of nature of Ando Saeko. — VNS Photo Cong Thanh

Saeko and her family then moved to HCM City in 2014 when her husband started to work on a project in the southern city, and the Japanese woman rented a shop in District 7 to continue her lacquer creations.

Saeko had another chance for changes as she found Thanh Dong Village in Cam Thanh Commune in suburban of Hoi An City – where she enjoyed a tranquil life rather than the bustling HCM City.

Saeko, who grew up in the rural area of Nagoya, Japan, said her lacquer paintings were a mixture of Zen philosophy and Haikus.

“Still-life, nature and animals are often my favourite topics for lacquer painting. You must embody yourself of what you want to paint. For example, a painting of a frog, a flower, a tree, you have to imagine and transform into it,” she shared.

“I really love lacquer of Viet Nam as well as traditional painting art. It helps me know more Vietnamese culture, people and beauty of handmade arts,” she said.

She said the best Rhus Succedanea tree and resin for lacquer in Viet Nam was in Tam Nong Commune of the northern Phu Tho Province.

“Japanese lacquer could be made into both art works and daily use stuff. We could make spoons, sticks or bows with lacquer, but it’s not so in Viet Nam. The Vietnamese Rhus Succedanea tree and its resin could only be used for lacquer. The material is too soft and not safe for lacquer-based household tools (bows, plate),” she said.

“Vietnamese Rhus Succedanea resin is quite clear and pure, and it could create bright colour for painting in mixture with colours.”

Saeko said she has yet to open an exhibition in Viet Nam, but her Vietnamese lacquer paintings are often sent to a gallery in London.

She said lacquer is her love of art and traditional Vietnamese culture, and she enjoys a quiet life in Hoi An, where she sometimes can meet Japanese expats. — VNS


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