Preliminary Exploration on the Art and Nature of Chinese Lacquer
The aesthetic study of Chinese lacquer should start from the art of the painting process. Lacquer is painted one layer after another with the latter layer closely covering the lower one. Before the next layer is coated, a period of time is needed for the solidification of the lower layer. After a long time, the final image emerges when the upper layers fade to reveal the lower layers. The final images are shaped in this special way because of the high smoothness and fluidity of Chinese lacquer, so it is quite different from oil paint or propylene which can manifest the final images directly without relying on the upper layers to fade. The technique of layered painting suggests the sediment of time. The painting of Chinese lacquer is the work of a biochemical process, like a “plant cultured” by time as its nutrition. “Cultivation” means the process, and also the way to “make things”. The unique process in which the final images emerge has something in common with the process of appreciating or enjoying something in that they both take time to move to the end. Paintings of Chinese lacquer are something like flashbacks of memory rising up from layer after layer of coatings.
Another important application of Chinese lacquer is as a repairing material. Chinese lacquer has good sealing capacity and is resistant to acids and fire. When it is used, it closely covers the defects while repairing them at the same time. This virtue of it can be compared with that of a true noble man. Chinese lacquer deposits like the sediment of history while it repairs things to make them as fresh as if they were brand-new. The desire to repair defects originates from the cherishing for “things” or, to a broader extent, the cherishing and pity for life. It is because one feels pity about something that he gets the desire to repair it. And either repair or renovation involves the inheritance of the older work. In this regard, to repair is to cherish and rediscover the virtue of the original.