'Do' Paper - A Lost TraditionJul 11, 2011 13:46 SGT
“Do” paper, also called Vietnamese bark paper, is made from the bark of Rhamnoneuron balansae tree (“cay do” in Vietnamese). It is used extensively in Vietnamese traditional paintings originating from Hang Trong, Kim Hoang, Nam Hoang villages
Compared to lacquer and silk painting, ‘Do’ paper painting is less popular in the current arts scene, despite all three of them are considered unique Vietnamese arts media.
Nevertheless, the trend has been in favor of ‘Do’ paper recently. Earlier this year, the first exhibition themed “Viet modern art technique – Painting on Do paper” celebrated the renewed interest in ‘Do’ paper. Mr Nguyen Quan - an artist and an arts critic added “In ‘Do’ paper we have a glimpse of rusticity, simplicity and warmth, while at the same time, we also find luxury and grace. With this exhibition, viewers will know there are absolutely no limits to ‘Do’ paper. All ideas, whether contemporary or traditional, shine on ‘Do’ paper”.
According to ‘Do’ paper manufacturers, ‘Do’ paper is made manually, dried by sunlight without using chemical pressure, which gives it durability and toughness, and according to some documents, accounts for its life span of up to 500 years.
Do paper is often linked to Hang Trong drawings. Hang Trong drawings traditionally feature daily occurrences in people’ lives. Past generations of Vietnamese have had their cultural and spiritual life depicted in those paintings, through which profound values and cultural wisdom are conveyed.
Diep paper used in Dong Ho paintings is also a version of Do paper.
Producers and artisans put a coat of Diep powder(made from crushed Diep shells) on each piece of Do paper to make it shiny. “The ethnic color sparkles on Diep paper,” the famous line from Poet Hoang Cam, depicts the beauty of Diep paper gracefully!
Hopefully, the determination to not let Do paper paintings stay in the past will make Vietnam arts scene more diverse, vibrant, and may even lead to more liberating creativity.