D'après le Vietnamnews du 23.10.2009


Divine work: This ceremonial painting of Dao ethnic group is on display. — VNS Photo Viet Thanh

Ceremonial paintings exhibited in full glory

HA NOI — An incomparable carpenter, opened an exhibition yesterday in Ha Noi displaying his valuable collection of Vietnamese Ceremonial Paintings, the result of nearly 20 years of labour.

Pham Van Si began collecting ceremonial paintings since 1990. When some aspects of cultural heritage were on the verge of being lost, Si and his friends Nguyen Linh and Tran Hanh made a commitment to preserve vital cultural artefacts.

Linh collected pottery from the Ly (1010-1225) and Tran (1225-1400) dynasties and the brilliant works of painter Nguyen Tu Nghiem. Hanh focused on enamelled ceramics and Si collected ceremonial paintings of people in mountainous regions. To compile their collections, they have had to work hard to earn money.

Si worked as a carpenter framing paintings at The Ha Noi University of Fine Arts. He became known as the most famous framer thanks to his creativity and meticulous work. His products were of high standard and pleasant aesthetic appeal.

Now Si has 400 ceremonial paintings collected from a variety of ethnic groups. The exhibition displays only 120 of his collection. He said he want to publish a book illustrating the paintings. He hoped that the collection will make it easier to study the aesthetics, customs, culture, history and beliefs of different ethnic groups.

"I didn’t learn fine arts and develop knowledge on ceremonial paintings from any school," he says, "I’ve learnt everything I know through my trips."

Thinking back, Si cannot explain why he chose to collect ceremonial paintings. "Everything comes to me through karma."

Ceremonial paintings are not only beautiful, he said, they are spiritual and seem contain invisible power thanks to painters’ talent. As a normal carpenter, opening an artistic exhibition wasn’t easy for Si, but after spending years collecting, his dream has been to share his collection of artistic treasures with others.

"Si’s exhibition is meaningful while traditional characters and value are concerned," says art critic Phan Cam Thuong. "Developing mutual cultural understanding can help Vietnam’s ethnic groups become closer."

Thuong praised Si as standing among the masters of ceremonial paintings.

Ethnic groups such as the Kinh, Dao, Tay, Cao Lan and Nung have ceremonial paintings in different styles expressing their own belief and customs, according to painter Do Duc.

They were used for ceremonies and worshipping in the past. Serving spiritual activities, they were considered superstitious and disappeared from circulation. Many were hoarded by herbalists and sorceress. When they passed away, the paintings were often buried together with them. That’s reasons why many ceremonial paintings have been lost.

No one dares admit their knowledge of the spiritual world. The world outlook of ancestors is expressed through ceremonial paintings and should be explored, says painter Duc.

"Ceremonial paintings still preserve their cultural, traditional and artistic value expressing inner soul of people," he says.

It’s time to erase the prejudice against the art, and recognise its cultural and artistic value, Duc says.

The exhibition will run until this Sunday at Viet Art Centre, 42 Yet Kieu Street, Ha Noi. — VNS