This exceptional cabinet showcases Pham Hau’s mastery of lacquer as a medium of poetic expression. The maestro was one of the first amongst Vietnamese artists to incorporate lacquer painting onto furniture - including panels for folding screens, wooden box covers or doors for cabinets. He was known to display these works in his workshop in Dong Ngac village, this body of work would inspire other artists such as Alix Aymé and younger Vietnamese artists to follow in his footsteps. This magnificent cabinet is at once romantic and visually mesmerizing. Pham Hau’s fully functional doors open up and seem to invite the viewer to step into another world.
Like draping curtains, banana leaves frame the scenery, and part to unveil a faraway landscape cradled with quiet mystique. Thin wisps of cloud diffuse from above, which make way to distant mountains and a rippling river. The sky revels in a warm, luminous glow as gold encompasses nearly the entire top half of the panel; Pham Hau does so as to give birth to a picturesque scene so ethereal that it tiptoes on the borders of perfect fantasy. Pham Hau’s meticulous artistry is brought to light upon closer inspection, as golden palm trees stand out amongst the muted creamy browns of the village, while the rippling rivers edges into the base of the mountains.
Pham Hau’s devotion to navigating Western artistic techniques in tandem with Vietnamese artistic principles is evident here, as a myriad of shade variations are used to craft the characters, animals and foliage of this dynamic narrative. A farmer appears to be riding behind his ox, as they travel across the pasture – note how Pham Hau’s delicate cross hatching techniques create the tiny details of the bridge on which they are about to cross. Pham Hau weaves an incredible sense of depth and spatiality within the landscape as he lends from varying shades of brown, gold, maroon and black to provide the viewers with an unparalleled perspective none other than his own. It is with Pham Hau’s exquisite attention to detail and technicality that we are invited to indulge in a moment of solitude, as the bucolic countryside of Vietnam basks in its beauty.
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