Inga Kerber

opening November 18th

( Cliché of a Landscape, Jungle ) Vietnam

Inga Kerber

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( Cliché of a Landscape, Jungle ) Vietnam
Spector Books, 2017
Design Daniel Rother, 184 S.
mit Texten von: E. Schwierz & Đinh Thị Nga, Đinh Thị Mùi, Trịnh Hà Ngọc Bích, B. Wode

(gefördert von der Kulturstiftung des Freistaates Sachsen)

Once accounting for 2/3 of its territorial area, Vietnam’s forest has been closely attached to people’s lives accompanied with the country’s history, however its presence in cultural life, in particular in the art, is not assertive. In Vietnam’s ancient art, forest was displayed in the form of a stylized plant world and modelized as a relic and cultural symbol. Plant species such as lotus, daisy, pine, and bamboo appeared regularly over the centuries in sculpture decorating architectural works; domestic tools all carried a symbolic value, becoming motifs expressing common ideas of Buddhism and Confucianism – completely not for the objective description of nature.

Modern art only truly made its appearance in the unfolding of the process of colonization, with French acculturation. The French had brought a European art and aesthetics training model into Vietnam when they built the first art schools at the beginning of XX century, marked by the introduction of Indochina Art College (École supérieure des beaux-arts de l’Indochine) in Hanoi in 1925. However, in the first few decades after this art academy came into existence, the main subjects of artistic works were still mainly Northern mountain or plains landscapes alongside scenes of daily life, portraits, and still-life. Although nature commonly appeared in Vietnamese painting, it was the commonness of bamboo clumps, banana clumps, and rice fields that could be found anywhere. Forest subjects, if any in landscape drawings, were still mainly a familiar combination between elements of nature and religious architecture or civic works, in which forest always played such roles as a tranquil backdrop created by shimmering mountain ranges against the sky, interspersed with bamboo clumps and rice fields.

At the time, the forest landscape drawings of European Classic and Romantic schools were familiar to Vietnamese painters but had had almost no influence on aesthetics and painting technique. Moreover, though trained in European artistic methods, their roots in traditional Asian aesthetic thought respecting absolute assimilation between nature and humankind had led to their artistic creations failing to set the natural world, including forest, as a subject for careful objective and independent research and description. In “borrowing landscape to describe love,” nature was only a source of inspiration, an object for transmitting human feelings and thought, a creative concept shared across generations of artists. Even in the half century of art spanning two wars of independence and unification against France and the US with the flourishing of countless works in praise of the bravery and enduring fighting spirit of the Vietnamese people, forest appearing in artistic works was also only a background scene to heighten praise of the image of soldier. While the affection and attachment of soldiers in regard to the forest is visualized in a famous line of poetry “Forest shields the soldiers, forest surrounds the enemy” by renowned communist poet To Huu, despite its importance in war, the appearance of forest in revolutionary art is in fact very modest.

Excerpt from: Forest in Art and Vietnam´s Forest Picture Series in the View of Inga Kerber, Photographer,

Vu Huy Thong, Hanoi, 2017 ( Translation by Ngyuen Si Ha )

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