Architectural plaster painting

Country: China

Plaster painting originated from the lacquer art on ancient Chinese buildings, which was mainly applied on the palace and temples to protect wooden buildings from erosion by the weather. And with the development of history, plaster painting started to be frequently used in the decoration of ancient furniture and wood carvings. As a craft decoration painting, plaster painting, extending from buildings and furniture, becomes a new favorite in recent years which uses embossing lines as the painting medium. Plaster painting materials need to be prepared according to a specific method. As part of the production process, painters will drip the plaster materials from the hole of the tool on the canvas or board in accordance with the composition of the picture.

In terms of artistic style, plaster painting highlights decorative features. As embossing lines serve as the major expression forms of plaster painting, producers tend to express their own artistic ideas through traditional Chinese patterns. And on the basis of vivid painting and color processing, producers would properly change and exaggerate these patterns according to their own understanding of arts by absorbing the features of folk art, so as to combine artistic elements such as dynamic & static, sparse & dense, simple & complex as well as black & white and cold & hot. For the purpose of strongly expressing artistic effects, in some cases producers would stick gold leaves or other special materials on their works to make them seem more decorative.

Procedure of making a plaster painting is summarized as follows: firstly, copy the sketch on the canvas or board; secondly, drip plaster materials along the lines, and then color in and stick gold leaves on the painting after the plaster lines become dry. It is advised to use just a few dense colors on the plaster painting, because gold/silver leaves will create optimal decorative effect against dense colors. Traditional method of sticking gold leaves on plaster painting is to drip gold gluing oil (which is made by decocting tung oil with proper amount of varnish) along the plaster lines and stick gold leaves on the lines until the gold gluing oil is 80% or 90% dry.

If the gold gluing oil is too dry, gold leaves are likely to fall off; if it’s too wet, the gold leaves may seem less shiny.

Currently, there are neither significant industrial clusters nor any national or provincial masters engaging in this area in China. Instead, plaster painting is mostly adopted by individual artists for independent teaching or creation, especially in colleges and universities in Beijing.