TRACING ANOTHER HISTORICAL ITINERARY THROUGH A GENEOLOGY OF SURFACE TEXTURES AND AESTHETIC QUALITIES OF ARTIFACTS

History is necessarily tied to a temporary order, progress, and the relationships among them.  In this sense, lacquer objects are not a type of historical record but rather an image of a type of memory or a physical gesture. As memory, particular characteristics of lacquer - its textures, colors, brightness, shine- allow us to trace relations of similarities to artifacts and vestiges outside of its cultural territory.  For example, to suggest that the lacquer is the aesthetic origin of the first oil paintings on wood opens up a space to re-imagine another past, one more diverse and connected through images and sensations. This allows us to be aware of the vestiges of acculturation and socio-cultural exchanges lost between continents and territories when defined only by their military and ideological history.  These objects are material evidence of a similarity of the small and minor art lost in exchange and unwritten into the grand historical narratives that still persist today... 

The end of the century 19th and early 20th century occur marked changes in Vietnamese society that have left its imprint on the use of lacquer Sơn Ta to the present. In a fact that could be considered paradoxical, because it would have meant a reverse adaptation or even a territorialization of the entire history and content of oil painting to Vietnamese lacquer. In Viet Nam, under the direction of the L’Ecole Supérieure des Beaux Arts of L'Indochine formed under the colonial government, the first generation of students began using lacquer as a pictorial medium of self-expression, serving this time as a conductor of the modernist styles from Europe towards the Vietnamese society. The Vietnamese painters of this school pioneered pictorial techniques of lacquer merging ancient techniques of village crafts with the expressive ideals of French romanticism and modernism to create a truly hybrid art for its time constituting a deterritorialization of son ta lacquer but also a reterritorialization of oil painting.   In this same period the name "Son Mai" or "sanding painting" from Son Ta (our painting) was also introduced to distinguish the new pictorial Vietnamese natural lacquer technique from the other oil paintings that came from abroad.