Non Western Art: Vietnamese Silk Paintings

Silk paintings are down right incredible! I wanted to use the country of Vietnam in this blog and came across silk paintings; they caught my attention right away because the intricate beauty that these artists have created on silk amazes me. Over 80 years, Vietnamese silk paintings have gone through two developmental stages. Prior to 1945, the artists used the beauty of the quietness of a closed world and since 1945 they have changed to the new forming world and use more contemporary colors in their artwork. Silk paintings are one of the most popular forms of art in Vietnam. The Vietnamese silk paintings are usually of the countryside, landscapes, pagodas, historical events, or scenes of everyday life. The Vietnamese style of silk painting has evolved greatly over the years and now has its own unique character and transparency of colors that are different from those they came from in ancient Japan and China.


Tran Van Can

Tran Van Can (1910-1994) was a famous Vietnamese silk painter and he also co-wrote one of the first English language books on Vietnamese contemporary painters. Tran Van Can won first prize at the National Art Exhibitions in 1960, 1967, and 1980. Can spent a lot of time within the art community of Vietnam. He was the headmaster of the Vietnam college of Fine Arts (1955-64), the secretary of the Vietnamese Fine Arts Association (1958-83), and in 1983 became the President of the Vietnamese Association of Plastic Arts. In 1996 he was posthumously awarded the Ho Chi Minh Award, the most dignified decoration for Vietnamese artists. In 1944 Tran Van Can painted an unnamed silk painting in Vietnam of two young women lounging on a bench. It is a very intricate painting that shows just how talented Can was at silk painting. The white color of the silk is used as the light in the picture while the dark colors of paint bring the picture to life. The women seem to be sitting in the middle of a town; as you can see the background of the painting shows a town in motion. It is a beautiful painting and it is quite extraordinary how Can was able to form such an elaborate picture on silk.


unnamed silk painting, created in 1944 by Tran Van Can



Nguyen Phan Chanh

Nguyen Phan Chanh (1892-1984), a Vietnamese artist who specialized in silk painting was also famous in Vietnam for his beautiful artwork. He was born in a rural Vietnamese village, in Ha Tinh province. He received a normal Vietnamese education and went on to the University of Ecole des Beaux Arts de L’indochine in Vietnam from 1925-1930. He won a painting prize in 1931 and then started his career as a teacher. After his death he also received the Ho Chi Minh Award in Vietnam. Chanh painted, Crab Catcher, ink gouache on silk in 1938. It is a painting of 2 women and 2 children crossing a bridge at dawn. I say dawn because the picture is somewhat darker and there is mist coming off the water as if the sun is warming the water as it is rising in the sky. The bridge looks very weak; if the wind were to blow hard enough it would snap in pieces. I like this picture because I am getting a glimpse at everyday life of Vietnam culture.


Crab Catcher, created in 1938 by Nguyen Phan Chanh

La Marchande de Riz (The Rice Seller), is another silk painting by Nguyen Phan Chanh. He painted The Rice Seller in 1932, ink and gouache on silk, in Vietnam. This is a painting from the time before bright colors were used; the silk took on most of the light colors of the painting and the darker colors formed the picture in the painting. It is a simple picture, but one that opens the unique culture of Vietnam to the world. I like that it is an uncomplicated picture and just shows what is happening instead of bringing a lot of other images into the picture. It is a great painting to show the market of rice and how important it is to their country as well as how they dress with big hats and loose, light clothing to protect from long days in the sun. This is a perfect picture to capture Vietnamese culture.


Rice Seller, created in 1932 by Nguyen Phan Chanh

I really enjoyed researching and learning about the different silk paintings that have come from Vietnam. I know Vietnam is a sensitive topic within the United States, but understanding and learning about their culture and artwork has really opened my eyes. I always like to broaden my knowledge of different countries and I feel like because of the horrible history of Vietnam many people shy away from learning about them. I think this happens in school with teachers and even when people have the choice to choose their topics. This is why I chose Vietnam, because I don’t know much about the country except for the war. Overall this has been a positive experience and I enjoyed my topic thoroughly.


Geringer Art Ltd. Nguyen Phan Chanh. N.p, 2009. Web. 24 Apr. 2014.

My Art Tracker-Beta. Nguyen Phan Chanh Artworks. N.p, 2013. Web. 24. Apr. 2014.

Nguyen Art Gallery. Famous Vietnamese Artist Tran Van Can. N.p, 2013. Web. 24 Apr. 2014.

Phan Cam Thuong. The evolution of Vietnamese silk painting. Vietnamese Heritage Magazine, 2012. Web. 24 Apr. 2014.

Wikipedia. Tran Van Can. N.p, 2014. Web. 24 Apr. 2014.

Wikipedia. Vietnamese Art. N.p, 2014. Web. 24 Apr. 2014.


Aboriginal Australian Modern Art


Aboriginal Australians in Ceremony

During the post modern era there was an increase in globalization and information sharing, this caused religious beliefs outside the Judeo-Christian view point to find their way into the art world. This includes the beliefs of Aboriginal Australian artwork that originated in Australia many years ago. This Aboriginal society developed virtually without outside interference until the arrival of English convict ships in 1788. The Aboriginal Australians were a hunter-gatherer culture of people who demonstrated their traditions and beliefs through music, song, dance, and graphic expression – all of these contained rich symbolic meaning. Before the 1970’s Aboriginal artwork was limited to the idea of painted or burned decoration on “bark paintings”. The “bark” is strips of eucalyptus bark that have been flattened, dried, and smoothed prior to decorating with brown, yellow, black, white, and occasionally red natural pigments.  Traditionally these were only made for ceremonies and then destroyed during or shortly after the ritual. However, by the 1940’s these beautiful pieces of artwork became popular with collectors and have become widely produced for sale. In 1971 something very important to the understanding of Aboriginal art happened, Geoffrey Bardon a school teacher in Central Australia formed a close bond with the local Aboriginal residents. By Bardon developing a strong bond with the Aboriginal residents he was able to participate in ritual events, which were usually prohibited to non-Aboriginals; participating in these ceremonies he was able to see the incredible body paintings and ceremonial “ground paintings”. This influenced Bardon to get his students involved in a school mural wall painting to display the Aboriginal heritage of their country. Several local leaders became involved in the mural wall painting and they were called the ‘Painting Men’. This gave the outside world a first look at Aboriginal art other than bark painting.  This virtual exhibit will reflect the theme of Aboriginal Australian artwork that was created after 1975. The artworks in this exhibit are contemporary traditional pieces, acrylic on canvas or on art board, and were painted by rural dwelling Aboriginals.


Women’s Medicine

Willie Gudabi and Moima Willie are a married couple that work together to create vivid and beautiful pieces of Aboriginal art. Willie is known as the main artist of the work that they create, but many of the pieces are influenced by his wife and involve the many aspects of women’s ritual. Willie was born in Nutwood Downs Station in Australia circa 1917 and died in 1996. Willie was very involved in his Aboriginal community and his artwork reflects how important his culture was to him. Moima was born in at the Roper River mission in Australia circa 1935. Willie was the spiritual keeper of maintaining young men’s initiation ceremonies; some of his paintings depict these initiation rituals. Such as Women’s Medicine which portrays, to the young men, a woman’s healing power. They created Women’s Medicine acrylic on canvas, during the early 1990’s in Nutwood Downs Station, Australia. I think that Women’s Medicine is a very stunning piece of artwork. It is difficult to understand, but the white flower like parts of the painting seem to be herbs. Maybe these flowers are what women use for healing powers and they use them to help keep their tribe healthy. My favorite part is the contrast of blue, white, and red throughout the painting.


Women’s Business

Another painting by Willie Gudabi and Moima WIllie the  that shows the women’s influence within a village is Women’s Business, which young men are informed of the women’s area of power. Women’s Business, acrylic on canvas, was painted in the early 1990’s in Nutwood Downs Station, Australia by Willie and Moima Gudabi. I really like the rich, vivid blues that are used in this painting. There seems to be a lot of symbolic meaning behind all the animals in the painting; it is hard to tell what they mean when illustrating a women’s area of power. I think it is a lovely painting that shows the strong symbolic nature of Aboriginal Australian artwork.


Wallaby Drinking at Waterhole

Now let’s take a look at another popular Aboriginal Australian artist named Jonathan Brown Kumunjara. He was born in Australia in 1960 and died in 1997. His later paintings are strongly influenced by the Maralinga Atomic tests done in the 1950’s that his father died from and have made much of where he grew up inaccessible.  He painted Wallaby Drinking at Waterhole in 1986, acrylic on canvas in Yalata, South Australia. The painting depicts the Hair Wallabies from Ooldea in South Australia. The row of uneven ovals at the bottom of the painting is the wallabies and the strands coming out of the top of the ovals represent their long, hairy tails. The significance of the story behind this painting is very secretive, but it is part of the young men’s initiation ritual. The two wiggly lines represent the paths taken to the ceremonial ground and the circles at the top represent the waterholes, which are connected by black lines to show paths taken from one to the other.  While local flora and fauna make up the background, the small white flowers are ‘Bush Pineapple’.  This is another very interesting painting that shows how important ceremonial traditions are to the Aboriginals. I am fascinated at how intricate even their paintings are at showing their culture and traditions. I also really enjoy the oranges and reds used in this painting.


Women’s Ceremony

Another Aboriginal artist named Ada Bird Petyarre who was born in a section of old Utopia Station in Central Australia, circa 1930 and died in June 2009. Ada created Women’s Ceremony in the late 1980’s, acrylic on canvas on board in Utopia, Central Australia. The ‘U’ shapes in the painting represent women and a totem for a tribal healer with women is shown in the center. Body paint and other designs are used with this ceremony to teach young women healing rituals. Ada Petyarre has said that the painted breasts, at the top of the painting, represent her younger sister, Gloria Petyarre. At first glance I didn’t like this painting very much, but after reading the symbolic meaning behind it I started to like it for what it represented rather than the look of it. I like that Aboriginal artist’s paint women in a good light and acknowledge the wisdom and power that they hold within a tribe. This painting holds a great story and it reminds me to not judge a book by its cover.


Ancestral Stories-1

Let’s look at the artist’s Willie Gudabi and Moima Willie again. They created Ancestral Stories-1 in the early 1990’s, acrylic on canvas in Nutwood Downs Station, Australia.  In Ancestral Stories-1 each square of the painting contains a part of a traditional law story and the pieces may or may not be related to the same law.  Human figures in the painting show that a ritual is in preparation or in progress. I really liked this painting and it is my favorite one I have seen created by this couple. I love all the bright colors that are used and how the different segments mesh to form a beautiful piece of art. This painting has really intrigued me to learn more about the history and culture of the Aboriginal Australians; I think that is exactly what they were trying to achieve with their viewers.


Ancestral Stories-2

As a follow up to Ancestral Storie-1 Willie and Moima created Ancestral Stories-2 in the early 1990’s, acrylic on canvas in Nutwood Downs Station, Australia. Mr. Gudabi has a passion for using paintings as a medium to express Aboriginal culture to the “outside world”. Ancestral Stories-2 depicts a mortuary ritual and the power of their ancestors. Mr. Gudabi was also responsible for mortuary ceremonies and with his closeness in understanding these rituals he was able to depict them within is artwork. The red within this piece reminds me of blood from death and that the bottom part of the painting is the earth where people are buried. One might not put death and the power of ancestors into one painting, but I see the comparison they were trying to make; that even though their ancestors have passed away they still hold power within their traditions and rituals.

Overall this was a great learning experience for me and I am very interested in the Aboriginal’s of Australia. I think it would be absolutely incredible to watch them go through the process of creating “bark paintings”. I am really happy that there are still societies alive and thriving today that still hold on to their indigenous culture and have made it many thousands of years, despite their setbacks. The Aboriginals of Australia are amazing and the stories and symbolic meaning behind their paintings are inspiring. I have always dreamed about visiting Australia and if I ever get the opportunity to visit now I have more than just the Great Barrier Reef to see.



Aboriginal Australians in Ceremony



MBANTUA- Fine Art Gallery and Cultural Museum. Ada Bird Petyarre. N.p, n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2014.

National Gallery of Victoria. Willie Gudabi and Moima Willie. N.p, n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2014.

One World Magazine. Aboriginal Australian Art. N.p, 1996. Web. 21 Apr. 2014.

Wikipedia. Geoffrey Bardon. N.p, 2013. Web. 21 Apr. 2014.

Art and the Great Depression

The Great Depression left a huge ugly pit in the world that left thousands of people starving and homeless. The Great Depressions was the longest, most severe depression, and its impacts were felt in the entire industrialized world. When people can’t get jobs and are out on the streets starving they certainly aren’t going to be buying art; this left the majority of artists without jobs. The United States government realized that something had to be done to combat the effect the Great Depression had on the economy. The administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt implemented “The New Deal” which was a series of domestic programs (lasting roughly from 1933-1939), that focused on providing work relief to unemployed workers from all areas of U.S society. The projects in which these workers were employed ranged from public works to cultural documentation projects. The Works Projects Administration (WPA) was the coordinating agency for many of these programs created by “The New Deal”. Many people from the Great Depression were left helpless and hopeless; the art that was created from “The New Deal” was to show how the Great Depression was affecting America and her people. This exhibit describes and presents the broad range of art that was created during the Great Depression.



History of Southern Illinois by Paul Kelpe

Under the WPA was the Federal Art Project (FAP), which Roosevelt created with the idea to combine the arts and patriotism to lift the fallen spirits of the many suffering Americans. From the FAP was born the Mural Division, which strived not only to employ artists, but to bring art to the public. The Mural Division during this era was very significant for its grand legacy and lasting impression it had on the arts because it displayed the many artistic styles, messages, and ideas of artists during this hard time. One popular art movement during this era was the “American Regionalism”, which depicts normal, everyday life with a special interest in community and hard work. One famous mural artist, Paul Kelpe (1902-1985), painted History of Southern Illinois, circa 1935-1939 in the state of Illinois. The painting was to depict an American scene and was painted for a Southern Illinois University library as part of the FAP. Within this piece Kelpe was striving to portray the history of industry, agriculture, and commerce in southern Illinois. The mural shows hard work and a thriving community, which was to help influence Americans that one day they will overcome these terrible times.


Farming and Politics Wall of a Social History of Missouri by Thomas Hart Benton


Law Wall of a Social History of Missouri by Thomas Hart Benton


A Social History of Missouri mural by Thomas Hart Benton

Another American Regionalist named Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) painted A Social History of the State of Missouri at the Missouri State Capitol building in 1936. This mural is a site to see, for it surrounds the entire room it is located in. At first Benton’s mural received harsh criticism, but he believed that showing the lower and middle classes in their everyday lives captured the spirit of Missouri.  Benton focused on the people of Missouri by including 235 individual portraits into the mural. Benton believed that Missouri’s uniqueness came from its people and he set out to travel all over Missouri in order to grasp the fullness of what Missourians are. Benton went on fishing and hunting trips, political barbeques, and spoke with the wide range of people that lived throughout Missouri. The mural displays a visual narrative of Missouri’s history. The narrative starts by showing pioneers arriving in Missouri and then on to men working the fields with their oxen and building a log cabin. There is a turkey shoot which is a popular Missouri tradition and a trade is shown of French frontiersmen trading whiskey and beads for furs with the Osage Indians. The Missouri River is shown winding through the murals in the background. This mural reflects the nationality and patriotism that so many Americans longed to feel through artwork of this time; life was hard and it was good to remember where they had come from and that there was a better future on the horizon.


Farm Hand by Clyfford Still

Abstract Expressionism was a huge art movement that happened after WW2. One well-known artist of Expressionism was Clyfford Still (1904-1980) who created Farm Hands, oil on canvas in 1936 in Washington State. Farm Hands was created before WW2 and even before Expressionism was developed into a new style that many artists were using; that is why Clyfford Still is one of the early pioneers of this style. It is an awkward looking painting that shows farmers toiling away during the Great Depression. The rugged hands show how hard these men have worked and the burden the Great Depression has had on their lives. It is a great painting that brings the viewer into the moment by feeling the, almost, despair within their lives as they work.




Gottesman, Laura. New Deal Programs: Selected Library of Congress Resources. Library of Congress, 2010. Web. 4 April 2014.

The National Archives and Records Association. A New Deal for the Arts. N.p, 1998. Web. 4 April 2014.

Thomas Hart Benton: Murals in the Missouri State Capitol. Subject Matter and Iconography of Thomas Hart Benton Murals. N.P, 1983. Web.4 April 2014.

Wikipaintings. PH 77. N.p. Web. 4 April 2014.

Wikipedia. Clyfford Still. N.p, 2013. Web. 4 April 2014.

Wikipedia. Paul Kelpe History of Southern Illinois. N.p, 2012. Web. 4 April 2014.