Bringing Kim Hoang folk paintings to the world
Following more than one year of revivification this type of folk paintings has received the attention of the people, especially enthusiasts of traditional cultural values. Recently, Kim Hoang folk paintings and a number of wood-blocks of Kim Hoang paintings have been on display at a festival and an international workshop on woodcut paintings, as well as an exhibition on folk paintings printed from woodblocks, in the Republic of Korea (RoK).
On the occasion, Director of the Hanoi Ceramics Museum Nguyen Thi Thu Hoa, who has invested many years on a project to revitalise Kim Hoang paintings, granted Thoi Nay (Today) publication of Nhan Dan (The People) Newspaper an interview to share this information.
Director of the Hanoi Ceramics Museum Nguyen Thi Thu Hoa.
Q: Can you tell us more about the Kim Hoang paintings that have been introduced in the RoK?
A: Every year, the RoK’s folk painting museum always organises a number of festivals and international workshops on woodcut paintings, as well as exhibitions on folk paintings printed from woodblocks, in Wonju city, Gangwon province. In mid-November of this year, the Kim Hoang folk paintings were invited to participate in the events.
During the three-day festival and workshop, Vietnam’s Kim Hoang paintings and folk paintings from the RoK, Japan and China were introduced to Korean visitors, especially over 200 Korean students in Seoul and the neighbouring provinces. Artist Pham Khac Quang and photographer Le Bich guided the students to print and paint replicas of the Kim Hoang pictures. Experts from other countries were also very interested to learn more about the Kim Hoang paintings. In particular, Koreans highly admired the Kim Hoang painting of the magic rooster, the meaning of the poem on the painting, and the spirituality of the picture.
All of the Kim Hoang paintings that were brought to the events and printed during the festival were presented to the RoK’s folk painting museum and international friends. Especially, two woodcuts of the Kim Hoang painting of the magic rooster were offered to the director of the RoK’s folk painting museum to display.
Q: Up to now, how many pictures have been restored by your project?
A: We have just restored 15 new samples, including nine print engraving samples describing (The Tale of Kieu), two hand painting samples Ong Phuc(God of Blessings) – Ong Tho (Longevity God), two other hand painting samples Huyen Dan – Tu Vi (door gods) and two samples on the other door gods.
We also coordinated with artists in Dong Ho village to create new samples of Kim Hoang painting. These two samples have been adapted from a Kim Hoang woodcut painting and are based on the image of ‘Nghe’ (a fictional creature of Vietnamese people, with lion-like head, long tail and dog-like body) to welcome the New Year - 2018 and to invite good luck.
Q: During the implementation of the project did you encounter any major obstacles?
A: The most difficult thing at present is that, although we have tried very hard to find other villagers to cooperate with, the project has featured the participation of just two Kim Hoang villagers. While it is not easy to recruit new picture-makers, as they must be trained at classes on graphic painting with folk orientation requirements and Han-Nom (ancient Vietnamese script), or undertake advanced painting classes with drawers in Ho Chi Minh City. I am thinking of using other human resources to meet the demands of the market on the occasion of the 2018 Lunar New Year.
Last year, with the Kim Hoang painting on the rooster, besides the traditional designs, we also introduced the "version" of various colours. Surprisingly, the paintings were selling very well in the market and there were even times when there wasn’t enough supply. The Kim Hoang villagers were very proud and even overseas Vietnamese and elderly people, such as Han-Nom Doctor Cung Khac Luoc, also visited the exhibition on Kim Hoang paintings in Hanoi.
Q: In the process of bringing folk painting back to contemporary life, what is your plan for the next Tet holiday?
A: I would like to publish a book soon on Kim Hoang paintings and at the same time I would like to establish a centre in Van Canh commune, Hoai Duc district, Hanoi.
At present we plan to ask for permission from the local authorities to start the construction of the centre for producing and exhibiting Kim Hoang paintings, where is expected to become a destination for visitors to learn about the Kim Hoang paintings. On the upcoming Tet holiday, we will introduce painting samples on the image of ‘Nghe’ - a fictional creature of Vietnamese people and complete a set of 12 animal designations. In addition, some samples of Kim Hoang paintings will be printed on the red envelopes to persify products and promote the painting.
Thank you so much for your sharing!
A Kim Hoang folk painting.
Kim Hoang folk painting in Kim Hoang Village, Van Canh Commune, Hoai Duc District, Hanoi used to be a famous painting genre in northern delta region in the 18th Century. With bright colours, the paintings’ main topics were drawn from the daily life of people in the northern region: buffaloes, pigs, roosters, the rural landscape and daily activities.
However, the beautiful genre has largely disappeared over the past seven decades. According to elders in Van Canh Commune, many engravings of Kim Hoang paintings were lost in 1915 when the village suffered from heavy flooding. The unique genre of painting officially fell into oblivion in 1945, when the villagers faced crop losses and famine. Since then, Kim Hoang paintings can only be seen in old books. Searches for typical paintings of the genres in the Internet only bring about results of stamp-sized images.
Kim Hoang painting will disappear forever if it doesn’t catch the attention of arts collector Nguyen Thi Thu Hoa, who has a deep passion for folk paintings. Stunned by the charm of the genre as well as its unique production technique, Hoa came up with the idea of reviving the folk painting.