I had passed the Queen’s Gallery literally thousands of times ( I used to work across the road) and never realised it was actually a real art gallery. I used to think it was an art gallery styled gimmick to get money off tourists never entering thinking that they would charge the earth.
For the last two years i had been visiting the national gallery, which has an appauling colection in its permanent exhibition to say they charge tourists 300 baht or somewhere near and the temporary exhibitions are not very often.
After reading tripadvisor and finding out it was only 30 baht admission and it was allegedly even better than the museum of contemporary art I ventured down to see what was on. The sign reàd the 4th Asia Plus Art Exhibition ‘Rhythm of Light and Colour’ 2nd October to 30th November, this is what I found on the internet.
Asia Plus Security PCL showcases the best 56 paintings from the 4th Asia Plus Art Contest under the theme of ‘Rhythm of Light and Colour’ – 6 award-winning works and 50 additional pieces that received notable praise at the contest. The theme of the annual art contest was picked to encourage younger generations of artists to be more imaginative and creative in the composition of their work. There were 5 floors in total at the gallery, the first floor at last year’s winners on, I think as they had rosettes on and this contest was far from over.
On the second floor there was a collection of entries from the first lot of competiton. From what I could make out they had been given a choice of themes for their paintings and a guess I would say they were Surrealism, Abstract, Politics, Thai culture, Modern Culture/architecture and Landscape, I say this because these kept repeating themselves in the paintings as I walked around the gallery.
The third floor was closed and then on the 4th and 5th floor there were the next lot of competitors starting work on their submissions. It would have been good to have gone back while they were full steam to take a look at them using different techniques but time hasn’t allowed me to. I am hoping to go back and see the work that the next lot of artists produced. The quality of work produced by these young Thai art students was excellent and very inspiring, I particularly like paintings of the traditional Thai houses. I am hoping to be able to get out and draw/paint some similar works over the duration of this course.
Either artists have become uninterested in exhibiting their work at the national gallery or I have picked poor times to visit, the last time I visited the gallery, there had been nothing in the temporary exhibitions luckily I used that time for drawing statues. I thought I was destined to spend my student days in the permanent exhibition of royal paintings by unknown artists until I discovered the Queens Gallery which I will talk about in the next gallery visit.
Anyway, a fortnight ago I ventured over to the National Gallery to see if there was anything on that would introduce me to some new Thai or western artists and I noticed that the permanent gallery had expended by one room displaying work my two contemporary artists. The paintings that really caught my eye work works by an artist named Thawan Duchanee, so I decided do some investigating into why his work had made it to the permanent exhibits with paintings of the royal family as neighbours.
I discovered that the distinguished national artist Thawan Duchanee recently died on 3rd September this year, 2014 at the age of 74. He was born on 24th September, 1939, in Chiang Rai, Thawan and studied at the Poh Chang Art and Craft College in Bangkok. From there he then studied at the Faculty of Painting, Sculpture and Graphic Art at Silpakorn University, where he was mentored by the late professor Silpa Bhirasri. Thawan also earned a doctorate degree in metaphysics and aesthetics from the Royal Academy of Visual Arts, Amsterdam, Holland, under scholarship of the ministry of education. From 1964 to 1974 Thawan had a number of one man shows in France, the Netherlands and the U.S.A including Hawaii and various venues around Thailand, including Chiang Mai university and the British Council in Bangkok. In 1982 and 1983 he was commissioned to paint murals for the Bank of Thailand and the Shell Company respectively before embarking on a study tour of the Mount Everest region in search of yaks and Buddhist art in several Nepalese villages. Over the next thirty years he had numerous solo exhibitions around Asia, Europe and the U.S.A. as well as representing Thai Artists at many international events and art fairs including the “Art Beyond Borders” exhibition at the Museum of contemporary Art in Lisbon, Portugal. In 2001 Duchanee was declared the Thai National Artist and that same year saw the Grand Opening of the artist’s residence and gallery the Black House Museum of Art in Chiang Mai attended by 1,000 artists from 23 countries across the globe. Various media houses reported that Thawan Duchanee died of hepatitis although his 4 sons failed to reveal the cause of death. Interestingly enough I was reading ‘This is Modern Art’ by Matthew Collins in the book he talked about the myths of modern artists, maybe this is his.
The four paintings above are in the national gallery next to the older section of paintings of the royal family. The last of the four paintings is the earliest of the lot and since I can’t find a more descriptive biography telling me the reasons for his change of subjects I will draw my own conclusions from the subject in the paintings and the timeline of events on his website (a little gift from John Berger’s Ways of Seeing). The painting of ‘Two Boats’ above is dated 1963 so it was painted during his time at Silpakorn university so it may have even been part of his coursework. The subject of the ‘Two Boats’ and the first painting ‘Farmer’ are not that far apart though as both depict Thai rural life.
The connection between ‘Farmer’ and ‘Suwanna Some’ is also present, both are figurative paintings and both depict the human form as muscular male figures. The first painting however seems to be a study for a mural of sorts as it reminds me of a stained glass window, the thin strips of grey that depict movement and rigid shapes in the painting look like the lead strips in a church window.
The paintings below were images i found from different sites on the internet mainly from his own site which seems to display work from his gallery and residence, the Black House Art Museum, Chiang Mai.
He developed his works in to a simple but unique style of painting that is strictly Asian but seems to take elements from art of different parts of Asia most notably Chinese and Thai but there seems to be other Asian influences in there which is probably the result of study trip around the Mount Everest region of the Himalayas.
What I like about these more simpler works is that he manages to depict the beast’s anatomy and muscles with a few simple brush strokes and in some places even long continuous brush strokes that often resemble clouds adding to the mythical feel of the paintings.
It is difficult to tell which painting tools he uses as he seems to change throughout his career some of the later pieces look as though parts of them could have been painted with an airbrush.
After drawing the statues I went back to the National Art gallery to take a look of the work of the only artist who was probably brave enough to exhibit his works while the protests had been going on just 500 mertres away and the site of several shootings and grenade attacks just a few weeks later.
I have since tried finding a biography for Preekamon Chiewanich but the most I could find on the artist that he did a Bachelor and Master Degree at Silpakorn College of Fine Arts. His work seemed to be a mixture of wood carving and mix media.
I’m not sure whether the two pictures above were carved or he had painted with mixed media over natural bark. What I do know though is they are spooky as hell, he called the two paintings Expression Texture and Subjective of Forest 1 and 2 but looking at them again and again he seemed to capture the true spirits of the forest, abstract figures that moved as you looked at them from different angles due to the 3D surface of the textured wood.
The painting of the stool above was another great example of natural 3D art, the stool has been carved onto an already wooden carved surface and like the paintings above changes when viewed from different angles.
I love cycling and it is my chosen method of transport around Bangkok so to me the piece above was wonderful, what a great idea to incorporate an actual bike into a 3D painting.
The work below seems to be a series of preliminary paintings in preparation for some of his carved pieces above, I would love to know though if they were done before or afterwards.
I went to the National gallery by bike so on the way home I decided to ride through the protesters at one of the primary road blocks on Rama 8 where I took the photo below.
It has been a bit hard to get around Bangkok the last few weeks and the ‘mob’ protesters have shut off the main road entrances into the city. You can still get around, they aren’t preventing pedestrians but there has been numerous grenade attacks and shootings over the last few weeks; so unfortunately I had to stick to the national art gallery and in and around school.
My first drawing was in Conté and hard pastel. I liked using them in the last exercise a limited palette study from your sketches and i thought that the three colours that I used in that exercise would be great for Bronze. In the teacher’s room on the third floor of the school, there was a reproduction bronze statue of the Thai playwright and poet Soonthornpoo (so highly regarded in Thailand that he has his own day).
Surprisingly the three colours worked very differently together in this exercise as the subject was very dark and I had to bring in a yellow and orange pastel pencil.
My next drawings were done at the national art gallery, I was due a visit and I also planned to get some drawings of statues done while I was there. The protesters had been camped out round the corner from the gallery for the last three months which probably put everyone off exhibiting anything at the gallery so there was only one artist exhibiting. There were some nice statues in the permanent exhibition though.
The next subject was a statue of a naked young girl that caught my eye because of the smoothness and colour of the statue but after about 5 attempts in pastel pencil, that ended up in the bin, I gave up trying in colour and did two successful drawings in 4B pencil. Well not quite that successful as it was quite difficult to get the body and facial proportions right of a girl at that age, Drawing the kids heads at school has helped.
The next drawing in pastel and Conté of a women’s head in the gallery was the last drawing I did in the gallery, this particular statue caught my eye because of the strong contrast in colours of the light and shadow caused by being placed in the corner of the not-so-well lit statue exhibition. Disappointingly the finished drawing does not look like the statue, although it does look female, it does look Asian and the colours are spot on, the original statue’s face looked more primate-looking with the face stretching forwards and big cheeks.
I was back at school on the Monday and so I had time to draw a statue depicting one of the 7 faces of Buddha (I think that’s how many there are). Phra Mahanchanok and the other 6 faces are depicted in different scenes around Wat (temple) Makut near the school and are statues molded from a cement time mixture around a metal frame. This was a disappointing effort as the drawing just looks flat.
The last statue was of a southern Thai style female figure in bronze, from a photo that I took in the art gallery, I loved bronze appeared to be different colours in different parts of the statue due to the contrast in curves and textures, I thought it was the perfect subject for a larger drawing and so I completed her in pastel pencil and Conté on an A3 sheet of paper.
I don’t get many days off in fact the only day I do get off is the only day I get to see my kids, Saturday but luckily for me my kids love drawing and looking at art so we went for a day out to the Thai National Art Gallery near the Khaosan Road area of Bangkok.
It was my first visit to the National Art gallery, I didn’t even know where it was which was a bit embarrassing as I used to cycle past it everyday to the last school I used to work at. With it being my first visit to the National Art gallery I didn’t know what to expect, I actually thought it would be a bit disorganized.
The price for the ticket for the gallery was 250 baht for foreigners but only 30 baht if you speak Thai, the kids were free so it only cost us 30 baht to enter. On entering my first impression was that it was all a bit too royalist and I with photos of the Royal family from different generations, traditional Thai drawings, which I am quite fond of and even an abstract painting by the king (which I think is a self portrait).
As I made my way round into the temporary gallery section I decided that my money was well spent and was amazed at some of the work on display, so much so that I forgot to get the name of the artist who created this piece which I believe is of a Muslim girl, knowing what is going on in the south of Thailand.
At a first glance of the painting it looked to be made up of Thai alphabetical characters but I think most probably just squiggles influenced by both Thai and Islamic characters.
It wasn’t long before I came across the next exhibition, Crossing over by Chile born artist Marco Evaristti. Crossing over displays several drawings and paintings of dismembered suicide bombers and victims, although they were very beautifully drawn my kids were terrified so I only managed to stick around long enough to get some photos and managed to get the details on line from the Bangkok post.