Silk Painting : Grandeur Of An Ancient Art

Silk Painting : Grandeur Of An Ancient Art

Silk painting is a type of traditional painting deeply rooted in Asian cultures like China, Japan, Vietnam, Tibet and India. The most well-known religious painting is the Tibetan Thangka which is made on cotton or silk appliqué or on Chinese scroll paintings.

Historically, this form of textile painting has its origins in China with one of the earliest Chinese silk paintings still in existence being a 2-meter-long T-shaped artwork from the Mawangdui that dates back roughly to 165 BCE (2100 years ago).

The earliest evidence of silk dates back to more than 8,500 years ago and has been found at the early Neolithic Age tombs of Jiahu, China. The production of silk originated in Neolithic China within the Yangshao culture (4th millennium BCE). Though it would later reach other places in the world, the art of silk production remained confined to China until the Silk Road opened at 114 BC, though China maintained its virtual monopoly over silk production for another thousand years. The use of silk within China was not confined to clothing alone, and silk was used for a number of applications, such as writing. Within clothing, the color of silk worn also held social importance, and formed an important guide of social class during the Tang dynasty.

Silk painting can also be recognized within Vietnam's traditional craft, known as Tranh lụa. Several antique silk paintings, including portraits of Nguyễn Trãi, Phùng Khắc Khoan, Trịnh Đình Kiên, Phan Huy Cẩn, Phan Huy Ích, Phan Huy Thực, and Phan Huy Vịnh from Lê and Nguyễn dynasty are considered amongst the oldest known relics of Vietnamese silk painting.

Silk painting in India dates back to the second century A.D., when silks were decorated using the wax resist technique. It reached its height of popularity during the Mughal Empire (17th–19th centuries), when numerous wall hangings and portrait paintings were created. Marking the beginning of an incredible creative process in creating textile art with the method of employing conventional materials, with pure silk cloths stretched in a frame and applying textile paints or dyes.

Basically, a resist is anything that prevents dye from reaching the fabric, it resists the dye. There are two major categories of resists commonly used for silk painting : Guttas and Water-soluble resists. Solvent based Gutta is a thick substance that is derived from Indonesian rubber trees (Gutta Percha). Gutta, which is a rubber like latex derived from the plant of Gutta-percha, started to be used in silk painting as a resist to help achieve finer patterns.

Indian silk paintings have a distinct style with the emphasis on the beauty, softness, and flexibility of design which make it unique. Silk is skillfully utilized as a canvas for portraits and painting. Another distinctive feature that serves to draw attention to the designs is the extensive usage of gold. Rich court life, religious themes, and epic stories are frequently depicted in silk paintings. Gold, diamonds, and glitter can also be noted to be frequently used.