Artist shows Vietnamese spirit in marquetry pictures

Nguyen Trung Ky from Ho Chi Minh City has spent his life promoting marquetry, which is the art of using wood veneers to form pictures. The artist has used this foreign art style to create gorgeous pictures about Vietnam.
In the 1980s, Nguyen Trung Ky made carved wood pictures and exported them to Europe. His art was seen by a US company in Vietnam, which then asked him to make products for them. The company was where Ky learnt about marquetry. The art of creating original pictures from veneer with natural wood grains impressed Ky very much. After four years of working for the US company, Ky quit his job to pursue his great interest in wood grains.

In those early days, Ky had numerous difficulties creating a marquetry picture because both information about the art, and wood veneer, the material to make the pictures, were not available in Vietnam. Ky had to find foreign books and articles about marquetry himself and bought wood veneer from abroad.

Artist Nguyen Trung Ky at his workshop in Ho Chi Minh City.

Ky has been working for over 40 years with marquetry pictures.

Ky has to collect books and articles about the art from abroad and online.

After the picture is sketched, its details are cut out with a knife.

Framing a picture.

Ky’s favorite picture is of a leopard which has thousands of details.

In 1987, Ky displayed six marquetry pictures at a national economic and technical exhibition,
which all won prizes with three gold medals, two silver and one bronze.

With a strong love for marquetry plus his patience and tireless efforts, Ky has finally mastered the art and become an important marquetry artist in Vietnam.

To create a marquetry picture involves many stages, including sketching the picture; selecting a suitable veneer; cutting the veneer into details of the picture and applying them to the sketch.

“The work requires deftness, meticulousness and carefulness because a piece of work will be discarded if even a minor error is made,” Ky said. “The time to create a picture may last from a couple of days to several years, depending on its detail,” Ky said, adding that he once spent three years to complete a picture which had thousands of details.

“The toughest challenge for a marquetry artist is to find veneers with wood grains suitable for his picture,” Ky said. He also said that the beauty of a marquetry picture largely depends on the wood grain because the picture does not have many colors, except for the color of the natural wood. This makes marquetry pictures unique because no wood grain resembles another.

The themes of Ky’s marquetry pictures are diverse, but a large part of them is about the natural scenery and people of Vietnam.

Ky’s pieces of art are now popular in tourist sites nationwide. They are also exported to Europe with the intent of “showing the beauty of Vietnam to the world.”

Some of Ky’s works of art.

By Son Nghia 

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