Medium 101: Lacquer

Medium 101: Lacquer

What is Lacquer?

At Teichert Gallery, host a wide range of artists, which translates into diverse list of media types. A recent addition to the line up is lacquer, a traditional type of painting from East Asia. 

Colin Chen, the first artist to bring lacquer work to Teichert, has provided us with an explanation about the medium and process. Below is a brief summary of his words for your reading.

History of Lacquer

Contemporary lacquer painting is a mere one hundred years old, though its rich history dates back over 7,000 years through ancient China. 

Crafting lacquer paintings is labour intensive; it involves multiple layers, ranging from as few as ten up to several hundred. Each layer has its own drying and polishing process, which requires a specific temperature and humidity. The creation cycle can take up to two years.

Materials Found in Lacquer Art

For Chen, the process starts as he copies a draft of the drawing onto a board for painting. Then, he'll lay out materials; lacquer is a tolerant substance and can be mixed with a wide range of materials, including gold, silver, copper, shells, eggshells, leaves, cotton, and wood chips.

Chen's Lacquer Process

Lacquer art from Halifax Artist at Teichert Gallery
To add colour, each layer requires seven to eight coats. The layer must dry completely before an artist can move on to the next. The colouring process can take seven to eight coats per layer of painting. 

Next comes the sanding process: Chen starts by sanding his work with 400 grit sandpaper, and repeats seven times with increasing levels of grit, up to 7000. The painting is repainted and polished as many times as is necessary for desired affect.

For a glossier surface, natural wax is applied to the paint surface and rubbed repeatedly before transparent varnish is applied. This is repeated 3 times. 

Because lacquer painting is created with pure natural material, the lacquer molecules and the air will have a perfect oxidation reaction. This means that the colour becomes more vivid with time. 

For examples of lacquer artwork at Teichert Gallery, visit Colin Chen's artist page. His works showcase the rigorous attention to detail outlined above.

- Cormac Newman

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