18/03/2010 | 10:07:39

Copper Embossed Paintings

HTML clipboard It is difficult to make an ordinary folk painting, but just stop a moment and consider what it takes to make a copper embossed painting describing folk subjects. One such skilful artisan is Le Van Phu from Hanoi who has indulged in the craft for the last 30 years.
 
Everyday people see him working at a small table, meticulously taking steps to make a copper embossed work. First, he carefully duplicates a painting then adds some personal artistry that will convey his feelings and also enhance the copper additions, all the while preserving the original interpretation of the work.
 
The next step, and obviously the most difficult, is to turn rough pieces of copper into an embossed work. For example, to make an embossed painting from a Dong Ho folk painting titled "A herd of pigs", with the piglets accounting for 10cm2 in area, the most difficult undertaking is how to emboss a mother pig and her three piglets on a background of grass. Phu has to use a hammer to strike the copper in such a skilful way so that all the pigs get embossed. With normal paintings the artist paints in the objects. Here, a light strike can not emboss the animals, but a strong strike will tear the copper plate, hence damaging the entire painting. The procedure requires the artisan’s complete focus and practised swing of the hammer.
 
Phu's father, Le Van Tuy, was famous throughout the capital of Hanoi during the 1940s and 1950s for his skilful silver engravings. Since he was 11 years old Phu was interested in following in his father’s footsteps. He would stay awake long into the night watching his father making the engravings. Seeing his good quality and interest in the profession, Phu's father sent him to learn painting from two famous painters of that time, Manh Quynh and Pham Viet Song. Unfortunately Phu’s studies were interrupted by the US invasion of Vietnam and Phu joined the army.
 
In 1984 Phu retired after many years in the army. His half-done dream of practising the family's traditional craft was again floating in his mind and he decided to engage into the craft with tireless devotion. To this day, Phu is known nationwide as the originator of the copper embossed paintings craft.
 
At the Fine Arts Contest held in 1985, his first exhibit being a set of four panels depicting the four seasons and only as small as a notebook, was awarded Prize B (there was no Prize A). At the Third National Exhibition on Economic-Technical Achievements during 1986-1987, Phu won a gold medal for his set of two panels, 34cm x 84cm in size, which took him two months to make. In 1988, Phu was bestowed the title of "Artisan in Copper Embossing".
 
Copper embossed paintings by Le Van Phu are not only famous nationwide, but also available in the United States and some European countries. Being made in more than 100 designs, his copper embossed products reflect the creation of linking the conventionality with realism thus creating a controversial new palette of the fine arts, hence helping to enrich the Vietnamese traditional folklore treasure./.

 

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