Lives and Works: Vietnam
Bui Huu Hung was born in Vietnam’s northern capital city of Hanoi in 1957. Since the age of 18, Hung has been fascinated with lacquer. As a teenager, he traveled to small villages where the ancient Vietnamese technique of lacquer painting was still being used in an attempt to preserve the age-old art form. Following a stint of combat duty in 1978, he attended the Indochina Fine Arts University where he continued his study of traditional lacquer art. Hung has been a member of the Vietnam Artists Association since 1986 and the International Lacquer Artists Association since 1996.
Lacquer painting, unique to Vietnam, involves applying various layers of carefully chosen pigments embellished with shiny gold and silver leaf and white crushed duck eggshells onto multiple layers of translucent lacquer.
The creation of lacquer painting is a particularly time consuming one, with each layer taking one week to dry before the application of the next layer. Each masterpiece has at least six to seven layers of lacquer. After each layer and pigment is applied, the artist then intuitively burnishes the painting, which gradually reveals the desired end result. As the painting is polished, some colours simply vanish while others are transformed. The labour of polishing the layers of lacquer is how the artist draws the figures and objects of his artworks. This renders complex paintings with dramatic lustre and a captivating three dimensional effect.
Bui Huu Hung rejuvenates this ancient art of Lacquer painting with a distinctively original approach. His paintings are grand in setting but intimate in likeness. His central theme is regal women, adorned in richly decorated colourful gowns with their eyes set forward, as if sizing up and contemplating. Their expressions are delicate and reveal a range of emotions, from confidence to languor.
Ornamental designs fill the background and his choice of colour and design influences the personality of the paintings, adding depth and heightening the colour contrast. His figures exist in an illusory space, unanchored by earth and sky. The addition of rich gold leaf creates beautiful nuances of light that shines through the lacquer.
Through his work, he bestows upon the women an almost mystical grace.
Hung’s works have been featured in solo and group exhibitions throughout Asia, Europe and the United States. His works are in the permanent collections of the Orient Museum of Russia, the Singapore Art Museum and the Modern Art Museum in Melbourne.
The elegant figures that reside in Bui Huu Hung's paintings, the complex designs and objects that are placed in the background all culminate to bring forth a Timeless Beauty.
“If a picture is worth a thousand words, Bui Huu Hung’s nostalgic paintings tell a hundred stories.” - Heritage Magazine, August 1998
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