June 28, 2017 3 min read
Presenting 4 paintings from the Yao group of Vietnam.
Yao paintings are always full of character and layers of stories embedded within.
But these 4 paintings have two characteristics that make them unique.
First, the blue/green background is seen only in a handful of Yao ceremonial paintings. These are highly prized finds for their rarity as well as their aesthetic value.
Second, the painting style is very unique – there are characters on a plain background without any embellishment of the background. These are works of ‘naive’ art.
It could be that the village artist had not yet come within the folds of influence of the styles that were common elsewhere and his personal style remained uncorrupted by the ‘popular’ view.
As a result the artist we see the stamp of his own soul on the painting, rather than just that of his ethnic group. And it is this soul-stamp that makes this set of 4 pieces extremely charming.
A. “Palace of the Grand Pure One”
This folk rendering of the Palace of the Grand Pure One demonstrates the strain of Daoism which binds with Buddhism. These paintings come in sets of three with the other two being The Palace of the Supreme Pure One and the Palace of the Jade Pure One. Collectively, these are the highest deities in the Dao pantheon. Collectively, these are the Three Pure Ones who are responsible for creation.
B: Daoist Painting of the Goddess of Fertility
In the Daoist pantheon, this is the Goddess of Fertility who gives women children. This deity is surrounded by babies and a large womb appears below her. Others represent midwives who assist this goddess. There are twelve principal midwives, each representing a month on the calendar.
Note the very unique style of painting through which characters have been created within the womb!!!
C: Shennong the God of Agriculture & Medicinal herbs
This painting pays tribute to Shennong, a god of agriculture and herbal drugs. He has been credited with inventions such as the hoe and plow and for methods such as using boiled horse urine to preserve seeds. In medicine, Shennong is said to have tasted hundreds of herbs to test their medical value and is credited with identifying hundreds of medicines by personally testing their properties, which was crucial to the development of Traditional Chinese medicine. In fact, he is said to have died as a result of testing a medicine and this added to his legend and the high regard in which he is held.
Legend holds that Shennong had a transparent body, and thus could see the effects of different plants and herbs on himself. Shennong is venerated as the Father of Chinese medicine. He is also believed to have introduced the technique of acupuncture.
D: Four Heavenly Messengers Upon the Animals of Supernatural Power
This folk painting depicts the Four Heavenly Messengers, minor deities in the Taoist pantheon. They are the Taoist monitors of human conduct as they observe, record and report acts by all humans to the Jade emperor so that good can be rewarded and bad punished. Each messenger is on his way to the heavens and carries a scroll in his hand. The First Heavenly Messenger rides a phoenix and is a year deity. The Second Heavenly Messenger is on a white horse and represents months. The Third Heavenly Messenger is carried by a dragon and is the day deity. Finally, the Fourth Heavenly Messenger rides the tiger and is the hour deity. At the bottom there is the local God of Earth and, kneeling between this deity and the black horse, a shaman or court messenger. All message scrolls are eventually handed to the First Heavenly Messenger on his phoenix and he takes the message to heaven.
What charming things I learn from the art legacy of cultures that I would never have interacted with without these artworks!
More photos may be seen in the Folk Art Collection on WOVENSOULS.COM
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