Second Thoughts

Saeko Ando artist revisits her early works

A Japanese artist based in Vietnam since 1995, Saeko studied Son Mai lacquer painting under artist Trinh Tuan, lacquer master Doan Chi Trung and lacquer craftsman Lam Huu Chinh. She has continued to use natural lacquer in the face of competition from artificial lacquer, ensuring the continuous of this ancient craft in the modern era by integrating tradition with innovation.

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Vietnamese lacquer is harvested in the lacquer plantations of Phu Tho province, northwest of Hanoi. Each tree gives only a small amount of lacquer each day, which is collected in mussel shells strapped to the narrow tree trunks. It is a mysterious substance that breathes and matures like good wine. The glow, hardness and clarity of Vietnamese lacquer improve with the passing years and this is part of its fascination.

These days, most of the lacquer paintings we see in shops and galleries are made with synthetic lacquers. Some even use household paints. Saeko, however, has persevered with this ancient medium and made it into something very modern and exquisite through innovative techniques and her signature style.

When asked where she finds her inspiration, she quoted an old Japanese saying: “Even a dog will come up with a stick when they walk around.” Saeko explains that she always has her eyes wide open and inspiration comes in layers, in sudden explosions and in dawning realizations depending on the day. 

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For this exhibition, Saeko has chosen some works that she has revisited. The original works were completed some years ago, but following a gift of some rare Cambodian lacquer, she has reworked some paintings. She sees this as a collaboration with her former self. This is an interesting development considering that these older paintings still live and breath as she, herself, does and the pieces that she once thought were finished are, now, not finished. It is a reminder that a lacquer painting is never finished because it changes in color, clarity and hardness even if you never touch it again.

Exhibition on from April 24 – May 25 at March Gallery (25 Phan Boi Chau, Hoi An; marchgallery-hoian.com), and April 14 – May 19th at Anantara art space (1 Pham Hong Thai, Hoi An;
artspacehoian.com)
 

Text and Images Provided by March Gallery 

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