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Artist wants to preserve poonah paper

An exhibition entitled Chuoi Rung (Wild Banana) featuring nearly 40 artworks by painter Tran Ngoc Hung is opened to public in Hanoi.

Wild Banana showcases a new series of paintings made by Hung over more than 10 years, featuring powder colours on Vietnamese traditional do (poonah) paper. This is the first time the artist has debuted his do paintings.

"I was inspired by wild banana a long time ago when I was a student having field trips to the northern mountainous provinces of Hoa Binh and Son La La," said Hung. "I focus on expressing wild banana flowers which wither for fruit banana."

Hung studied lacquer at the Industrial Fine Arts University and works with both lacquer and poonah. The poonah paintings combine traditional materials of the paper and powered colours in a modern style.

Poonah paper is made from the bark of the poonah tree which can be found in Vietnam’s northern region. The paper has been used widely since the 18th century in Vietnamese folk art such as Dong Ho, Hang Trong and Kim Hoang paintings.

"I want to recover traditional poonah paper and draw in the medium of powder colours which were used by Vietnamese artists from 1990s and before," Hung said. "Nowadays, almost no artist wants to draw with powder colours because it is difficult to mix."

"Thanks to the paper’s unique characteristics -- durable and resilient, it has to go through a series of meticulous and complicated steps which are carried out manually," Hung said.

He buys the paper at the handicraft village of Dong Cao in Bac Ninh province, and he dyes the paper with bright and warm tones before he draws.

The wild banana flower theme is a way for Hung to reveal his findings on visual art language and inner feelings.

"I haven’t had chance to see wild banana flower in Vietnam but through the beautiful paintings by artist Hung I feel the beauty and charming of this flower," said Park-hyejin, the Korean Culture Centre’s director in Hanoi.

"I’m surprised that do paper is similar to Korean hanji paper which makes each painting more attractive. I hope the exhibition is a chance for Korean and Vietnamese people to discover the natural beauty made by a talented artist."

Hung currently works at Vietnam Fine Arts Museum. He has had many group exhibitions in Vietnam and abroad including in Italy in 2013 and China in 2012. His first solo was held at Vietnam Fine Arts Museum in 2015. 

The poonah painting exhibition will run until September 29 at the Korean Culture Centre.