Ando Saeko, Japanese lacquer artist

Ando Saeko, Japanese lacquer artist

Since relocating her studio from Hanoi to Hoi An in 2016, Saeko has been immersed in the energy of Nature which is ‘so powerful here that I have become just one of the creatures in the middle of it’.

GLEAM OF ENLIGHTENMENT by ANDO Saeko (b. 1968) Heisei period, 2017 Coloured lacquers and metal foils on acrylic panel 120 x 60 x 0.8 cm. Signed

Vietnamese lacquer has long been the perfect material for her creative works. Its high transparency and glossiness naturally resembles water in living organisms. Using her experience and knowledge of natural lacquer and its chemical properties, she is now turning it into colours, patterns, textures and shapes in order to conjure up new life.

‘My current work exploits the qualities of Vietnamese lacquer, giving the viewer a heightened feeling of obvious vitality even on abstract pieces by working, not on the traditional wooden board substrate, but on transparent acrylic panels’. This enables complete light penetration into the heart of the creative process. Textures and depth created by the layers of lacquer metamorphose into what could be considered part of an unknown organism.

Life sparkles when it is filled with water – the major component of living cells – where it is acting as a solvent, a temperature buffer and enabling metabolism. But when the organism dies all this stops, and desiccation follows.

‘Gleam of Enlightenment’ captures the draining away of life from a living organism. The light penetrates the multiple layers of lacquer – dispersing into cells by the controlled application of oils – and becoming accented with brilliant colours that flood out of a wall of silver leaf. While the parts with bright colours and transparent layers symbolise the life forces, what is now bright silver will progressively oxidise to symbolise the organism’s transformation after life.

‘Metamorphosis’ is not a complete creature, but a magnified image of a living organism metamorphosing into something fantastically strange and vital.

Both these pieces will be shown in my exhibition as part of Asian Art in London 2018 in November, after which they are lent to Munster’s Lacquer Museum in Germany for inclusion in their exhibition Lacquer Friends of the World.

METAMORPHOSIS by ANDO Saeko (b.1968) Heisei period, 2017 Coloured lacquers 50 x 50 x 3.5 cm. Sealed

Simon Pilling, East Asian Art & Interiors, www.simonpilling.co.uk

Also, see the following article by Simon Pilling about Saeko ANDO, on April, 2015
entitled IF I WERE AN OCTOPUS

The work of Saeko Ando combines two lacquer traditions – those of Japan and Vietnam. While Vietnam shares a long-standing East Asian tradition for lacquered utilitarian objects, its lacquer paintings, son mai, are an art form dating only from the arrival of French colonists and the establishment of the École Superieur des Beaux Arts de l’Indochine in 1925. Thus local tradition and materials were blended with a more Western-centric familiarity, to become a unique fine art for which Vietnam is rightly acclaimed. Read more…


Simon Pilling, MA, RIBA, FRSA is a graduate of Sotheby’s MA in East Asian Art and is based in London, UK. He is a member of the Asian Art in London group of dealers and specialises in 20th century and contemporary Japanese lacquer.

Simon’s website: < www.simonpilling.co.uk >

Simon Pilling East Asian Art & Interiors
PO Box 40062 London N6 6XB

Author: tetsuya

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