Chinese Culture >> Vietnamese Art
Vietnam is a vibrant, tropical country located in the heart of
Southeast Asia. This small strip of land shaped like "S" and lying on the
eastern part of the Indo-Chinese peninsula, has been a witness to decades of
wars and political isolation. Apart from widespread destruction of agriculture,
urban and rural infrastructure as well as industries, erstwhile wars and their
aftermath have also affected the art and cultural activities of the Vietnamese
people to a very large extent. Until recently, Vietnamese artists were virtually
unknown outside the country. A majority of Vietnam's artists were unknown within
Vietnam as well.
Vietnamese art has had a rather long history. The Vietnamese people have their origin in the Mongoloid race, which is scattered throughout northern and eastern Asia. Since ancient times, the Vietnamese have had a strong inclination for arts and culture. Painting and sculpture in Vietnam were under the influence of French Modernism and Soviet Socialist Realism for almost a hundred years. Historical influences came from Chinese painting and printmaking along with the Vietnamese painter-poet tradition of landscape and figurative genre painting. Vietnam has longstanding folk traditions. Techniques and styles are often handed down within families from generation to generation in this country.
The first flourishing of Vietnamese art occurred with the emergence of the Dongson culture on the coast of Annam and Tonkin between 500 and 200 BC. The form of bronze architecture and art prevalent at that time was inspired by contemporary Chinese bronze art. The decorative motifs have clear affinities with earlier Chinese bronzes. The exceptional skill of production and decoration in Vietnamese art argues that these pieces represent among the first and finest of Southeast Asian works of art. This is most evident in the huge and glorious bronze drums that can be seen in museums in both Hanoi and Saigon. If there was ever a 'golden' period of the Vietnamese art and architecture, it was that of the former central Vietnamese kingdom of Champa, centered on the Annamite coast. It flowered in the 10th and 11th centuries.
The strong theme of heroism and the long struggle for freedom and independence has invariably crept into Vietnamese art and culture. Moreover, the Vietnam War and its experience in general have helped forge a link among the general mass, soldiers and art and history. The War and its impact on those who participated on either side are brought to the immediate grasp of the public, as they become true first-hand witnesses to the war experience. The artwork and artifacts that a make-up perfect exhibit that provides the opportunity for the mass to physically and personally experience the past.
Artists in Vietnam have had more restricted opportunities for showing new aesthetic tendencies or socially critical art than in most other countries. Re-emerging after decades of turmoil, the country has been busy rebuilding the damage from decades of war, surviving on aid from foreign nations. The Renovation literary movement in Vietnam, which began in 1986, has reached its peak and has not concluded yet. Lacquer practice has held a major role throughout the history of Vietnamese Art and particularly so, in 20th Century Vietnam, when a new approach, through color and form, was employed to develop this ancestral technique in order to promote it as an aesthete that is unique to Vietnam.
The new culture of Contemporary art has seen tremendous growth in recent years, and continues to thrill with bold, intriguing works of art. Dazzling in fluorescent hues of citrus, ruby, azure and violet, some of the renditions of beauty are characterized by nuances of spring, the season of love. Women, as the artist's favored theme, often become the central focus. Contemporary Vietnam artists have thus succeeded in breathing a new lease of life to Vietnamese art that will go a long way in keeping the interests of art connoisseurs alive.
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