By Lương Thu Hương
A collection of 2,022 tiger figurines handcrafted from jackfruit wood and laterite combined with lacquer is being completed to welcome 2022 or the year of the tiger in the Chinese zodiac.
The idea for the collection has been nurtured by lacquer artisan Nguyễn Tấn Phat over the past two years, following the success of his collection of 1,010 buffalo figurines launched on the occasion of the 1,010th anniversary of Ha Noi in 2021.
“Derived from a passion for Vietnamese fine arts and traditional culture, I aim to launch a collection with the number of works corresponding to the year 2022. Thousands of unique works that I have hand-crafted are expected to offer an interesting artistic experience,” Phat told Viet Nam News.
“As a creative artist myself, I want to honour the creativity of Vietnamese people in general and creators in particular in the context that contemporary markets have been lacking creative works and are full of industrialised ones. The core value of the traditional craft of ancient Thăng Long Citadel and now Ha Noi should be honoured and promoted,” he added.
The 39-year-old artisan has finished 500 items of the collection and plans to put the final touches on the rest in the next three months before officially introducing them to the public on the occasion of the National Reunification Day on April 30.
“Creating this huge collection is a big challenge that requires dedication and effort. The hardest thing for me is to retain the mightiness of the tigers but also to make them close to life and their images possible be integrated into household furniture,” he said.
In this collection, Phat also wishes to change the perception of the tiger as a ferocious animal by creating figurines with adorable shapes and expressions that could be used as various household items like boxes, flower vases, tables or chairs.
Another special feature of the tiger collection is the uniqueness of each item, meticulously crafted from the indigenous materials of Sơn Tay Town – jackfruit wood and laterite – in combination with Vietnamese traditional lacquer art.
Vietnamese folk stories, songs and traditional architecture have also been richly integrated into the unique collection “to enhance national pride”, he added.
The most impressive work, which also took the most time and effort, is the set of five chairs with five colours – yellow, red, green, black and white. Each colour represents a natural element – yellow for earth, red for fire, green for wood, black for water and white for steel.
The tiger chairs, each of which weighs up to 60kg, are meticulously carved from large pieces of wood and inlaid with eggshell. The current value of this set of chairs is up to hundreds of millions of đồng, revealed the artisan.
“The image of the Five Tigers not only symbolises the five elements of the universe but also demonstrates the power of five tiger deities, among which General Tiger is placed in the centre, having many powers and controlling all directions. He is the highest lord, possessing all authority and deciding the yin and yang to humans,” Phat explained.
Compared to the previous collection of 1,010 wooden buffalo figurines, those in the tiger collection have more functions and diverse sizes, ranging from 10x10cm to as large as 50x200cm. The materials are also more complicated, including laterite, copper and iron as well.
The unique collection is being completed and displayed at his creativity space – Phat studio – located in ancient Đường Lam Village. Visitors can either observe the artisan performing each stage from sculpting to lacquering or even join in the process.
Painter and artisan Nguyễn Tấn Phat was born in 1983 in Ha Noi’s Sơn Tay Town. Graduating from Hanoi University of Fine Arts, he has won many awards such as first prizes in the Ha Noi handicraft design competitions in 2014 and 2019; and the top prize in the Vietnam Handicraft Design Contest 2020 with the “1010 Lacquered Buffalo Statues” project.
In 2017, he was one of the youngest artists honoured as a typical “Hanoi Artisan” by the Ha Noi People's Committee.
As the only lacquer artisan in Sơn Tay Town, Phat has also contributed to passing down the craft to the next generation and inspiring young artists in his homeland as well as creating jobs for dozens of local people. VNS
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