Artist Cuong Tran Nguyen
Cuong studied Tradition Lacquer at the Hanoi University of Industrial Fine Arts, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree. He currently resides in Hanoi, Vietnam. Since 2004, Cuong’s works have been exhibited extensively across Asia, the US and Europe. In 2003, he was awarded for his work at the Philip Morris ASEAN Fine Arts Competition.
Cuong's practice spans across various media, from natural pastel toned pigments on Do paper, to acrylic and rich, traditional lacquers. Drawing inspiration from Chagall and Dali, Cuong richly depicts his Vietnamese culture through representations of mythical and folk stories, superstitions and poems.
Cuong is a poetic artist deeply attached to his native culture and this is reflected consistently throughout his work, whether in the choice of subject matter, where he often references myths and legends or in the media he works with, such as pigments on handmade Do paper and traditional lacquer.
Lacquer from Vietnam differs from other countries, predominantly in its technique. Lacquer is laid in layers, up to thirty; each layer cures for three to four days in a humid environment before the next layer is applied. Once all layers are cured and hardened, the upper layers are sanded down carefully to reveal the underlying patterns. A highly demanding, lengthy and laborious method, of which is only practiced by a few artists. With the selective addition of metallic powders, duck egg shells, silver and gold leaves, Vietnamese lacquer produces works with a rich tonal range with intriguing gradients, textures, glimmers and a surprising degree of visual depth defying the absolutely smooth and polished surface. One of the final steps in this long process is the polishing of the work in circular motion using charcoal and the palm of the hand to bring out the natural sheen. A highly tactile material, and contrary to other media, lacquer welcomes touch and the occasional palm polish.
“Lacquer can transmit the emotions on my mind through its mystical colours and tones that no other media can achieve” he says.