Wednesday, January 2, 2008


1999

1.Parinya Tantisuk. Hold Them High.
Yr.45, Vol.30, 27 December 1998 – 2 January, 1999.


Parinya leaves the old year and enters the new with a backward look at the tragedy of the TG261 Airbus crash in the south of Thailand on December 11, 1998. Expressing sympathy for the families and imagining the trauma of the survivors, the critic concludes that life really is uncertain, and no one should be greedy, as His Majesty has so often said.

“Hold Them High” is the title of a solo exhibition just concluded, by M.L.Busyamart Nantawan, a young artist studying for her MFA in painting at Silpakorn University. Few women artists do solo shows, the critic notes, so this exhibition reflects Busyamart’s confidence in her work and her determination to keep on this path of imagination and expression.
Parinya presents a list of about 18 Thai women artists, beginning with M.C. Pilailakar Diskul who was exhibiting her painting before the era of Silpa Bhirasri , and Misiem Yipinsoi, one of the great man’s students, as well as a number of other familiar names of women artists up to the present, including M.L..Busyamart, her painting, and mixed media. In a number of recent works, Busyamart uses bits of color-soaked cloth and other items built up in layers to make collages.

Parinya comments on her works:
“The red in her early works ... is lovely, used with increasingly rich effect, not only the color or set of colors chosen, but also the saturation and brightness as well…

Her later works are larger in size, as if she has hope and better understands life and the world. The bright greens and reds are a structure of color, brisk in feeling. The contrast of the two colors is refreshing and very happy. Besides brushstrokes and patches made from bits of cloth, she creates interesting dimensions of depth and shallows using little matchboxes, dozens of them, all over the surface of the image…and she brings household items like chairs or benches, creating exterior forms, an interesting perimeter for the color that dominates there.”

The critic closes with a brief biography of the artist, concluding that, “her work has a generous spirit –evidence of her inspiration – we will look forward to seeing more of her work.”

Commentary: In this review, the teacher introduces and gives a general critique of some works in his student’s solo exhibition. Long dominant in Thailand’s high artworld, critics such as Parinya from the Faculty of Painting, Sculpture and Graphic Arts carry on in a firmly established style of criticism, classically modernist, very elevated, and in the tradition of the art academy.




2.Parinya Tantisuk. Happy New Year.
Yr.45, Vol.31, 3 – 9 January, 1999.

The critic turns with a happy spirit to welcome the New Year, thinking aloud over childhood memories of the seasonal celebration. The images he mentions are vivid and also urban in character: waiting for special television programs for children, treats and gifts, smiles everywhere, kindergarten and primary school children in brightly colored sweaters moving about, the sound of their lively little voices having fun.
As to weather, the winter has turned chilly and extremely dry.
“At the New Year,” notes Parinya, “one wants to see something fresh and bright and to pass something happy along to the readers.” Parinya chooses to discuss some of the works by M.C.Karwik Chakrabandhu showing at the Soon Sangkidsilpa Gallery of the Bangkok Bank (Sapan Panfah) and reproduced in the article, “because I thought these pictures were beautiful and had interesting and meaningful stories.”
The first is a watercolor of hosts of Buddhist faithful coming to pay respects at a temple, one of the traditional ways Thai people celebrate the New Year. “This painting shows light coming down to all the faithful merit-makers. The yellowish-gold brown color looks peaceful and warm. The picture is like a real blessing in itself.”
The second picture is comfortable and natural, reflecting the artist’s skill in drawing and watercolor painting. “His work is very appealing and is much admired by collectors.” It is a picture of ‘Pat Hanging the Laundry Out to Dry.’ Parinya admires the clarity of the image, the artist’s use of few colors while taking advantage of the white of the page very cleverly. It is a picture of a simple, frugal life. Parinya describes the young woman in light sleeveless blouse and bright yellow sarong, her arms outstretched and raised high in order to open the big, white, freshly laundered cloth on the clothes line. “It is the life of Thai people 40 years ago…today it might be very hard to do such a picture,” Parinya concludes, but it is a picture with ‘a classic old atmosphere’, which “invites us to look and feel a great emotion of happiness.”
Parinya relates M.C.Karwik’s education and service to the 7th King while he was in England and studying (including studies in art) in France. Parinya names a number of members of the court in those days who also were enthusiastic amateur painters.
The critic describes M.C.Karwik’s interest in painting from an early age when he received an expensive set of fine watercolors as a gift. The hobby was practiced with enthusiasm and eventually led to M.C.Karwik’s involvement in Thailand’s contemporary artworld, including winning silver and bronze medals in the National Art Exhibition on a number of occasions, and serving as president of the International Artists Association in Thailand. Parinya praises his ongoing support for the Thai contemporary artworld.
The third and last picture described is ‘Salt Fields,’ made in 1957, showing workers in the salt flats returning home after a long day’s work. Parinya admires the artist’s watercolor technique, skillful composition, and fresh, warm feeling, citing M.C.Karwik’s code of ‘an economy of strokes’ when painting. “The people in the picture walking together give a good meaning of love, unity and assembled strength. Though the picture was created 41 years ago…, I think,” says Parinya, “its meaning is wonderfully appropriate and still very up to date.”
Commentary: After meditating on the tragedy of a crashed domestic airliner, and reviewing a student art show, Parinya bows out of the Silpa/Wattanatham lineup of critics, leaving his readers’ with a last New Year’s gift, a glimpse of the works of one of the pillars of Thailand’s contemporary artworld, M.C.Karwik Chakrapandhu. Just as he delights in recalling childhood memories, Parinya seems to immerse himself serenely and blissfully in describing the 3 watercolor paintings, telling the history of service of a well-respected artist and social figure. And on that note of reverie, the curtain comes down.

3. Golden Paintbrush. Artworks: The Crystal of the Imagination.
Yr.45, Vol.32, 10 – 16 January, 1999.
This article is a statement of aesthetic philosophy, focusing on the creative importance of the imagination, as follows:
The writer begins by noting the inspiration to create visual art which comes from dreams, adding that to be realized, there must be a concrete expression.
Artistic inspiration builds up, little by little, and is distilled and polished till nothing remains but the essence in the imagination. This is the crystal of the idea.
Nature is always an inspiration for artists, too, but it depends on the individual to transform that inspiration into a work of art.
Thoughts, dreams and imagination all concern feeling and emotion: they are always related, interconnected.
Feeling and emotion support imagination. Feelings are excited by imagination.
To transform imagination into an artwork, there must be external skills, the ability to use techniques and the ability to express.
Artistic imagination has no boundaries, and new techniques are arising constantly.
Art is a universal language using profound media and meaning – the real materials of the mind and spirit of the artist, to communicate with others.
The artist takes his dreams the way he wants to go.
Turning imagination into a work of art by an individual depends on the experience and way of life of each artist.
All the various kinds and categories of art come from the imagination of artists.
Art can arouse all kinds of emotion and feeling – all kinds of sad and happy feelings.
Works of art are born by imagination; the artist works on his art until it becomes beautiful.
Only humans make works of art. Art is the fruit of the human brain, of the soul of the artist.
If ever humans are without imagination, they will be no different from shrimps, snails, crabs and fish which eat the roots of lotus plants and never raise their heads to see the beauty of the sunlight.
Commentary: While giving a nod to ‘Nature’, the philosophy of art expressed here identifies the primary source and meaning of art with the dreams, imagination, experience and soul of individual artists. By means of skills and techniques, the artist who is able to express himself, realizes his vision and communicates with others. Good art is understood to be a universal language of the human mind and spirit, and imagination is a central element in the process.
The philosophy expressed here celebrates imagination as the moving force in mental or spiritual creativity and the importance of technical skill in order to successfully express artistic visions. At the same time, it virtually ignores the influence of the social, historical and political context of art and artists and the essential role of culture and education in understanding and enjoying art.


4. Golden Paintbrush. Thammasak Booncherd and Creativity…for Tomorrow.
Yr.45, Vol.33, 17 – 23 January, 1999.
The critic reviews an exhibition of 3-dimensional works and installations by Thammasak Booncherd at the National Gallery of Art. The event was opened by Kraisak Chunhavan and a host of artists, members of the public and representatives of the media.
The artist has moved into new territory, doing more sculpture and installations. However, there were many restrictions of time and money in doing this work. Area was limited and tools and materials were very costly. By fierce determination, the works in three dimensions were completed well, though the number of pieces is not great.
The artist had become “bored in the face of the overflow of paintings full of desire to sell, painting which had become familiar (predictable) and consistent with the taste of the general public.” The artist feels that sculpture in Thailand can go further than what we see being done nowadays. He tries to stimulate some controversy, to get some new ideas going. “Will they keep marching in place or should they break ranks and dare to rise to a higher level?”
The critic wonders if there is a lack of courage, generally, among people in the arts who dare not break through the common ways of working nowadays. Few would dare the pain and suffering of going against accepted practices.
“The important factor which is directly impacting creativity in making artworks is the state of the economy…Thammasak Booncherd created these works in 1998, the IMF era, presenting a new style emphasizing content, composition, and the relation between things and ideas. Geometric forms are introduced. Supporting units join together to become major forms…which suggest things to our imagination in an abstract way.”
ABSTRACT : physics, the movement of objects and forces to create aesthetic quality in a modern way which is tied to surfaces and objects in the industrial world.
1/ Sculpture Perforate – punching holes 2/ Object Sculpture
3/ Flat Form Abstract Sculpture 4/ Adjustable Sculpture
5/ Cut and Join – a new outdoor sculpture project
6/ Stick - partially burying objects outdoors 7/ Double Stick
8/ Stick Installation – emphasizing the potential of the wall, floor and all inter-related surfaces.
Commentary: Though the article seems rather ‘patched together,’ lacking continuity and development, it preserves a view of Thammasak Booncherd’s venture into abstract sculpture in a poverty-stricken, IMF era.


5. Manit Sriwanichphum. From Gun-boat Fire to Free Trade Mechanisms (1)
Yr. 45, Vol. 34, 24 -30 January, 1999.
Manit expresses mixed emotions as he begins his work writing in this venerable arts column for Siamrath Weekly news magazine. He makes it clear that he feels a heavy responsibility to write carefully as he realizes that these writings will echo through Thailand’s artworld.
Manit makes a sort of statement of faith, asking (rhetorically) “For whom am I writing? And for what? Is it useful or not? Most important, the opinions must be creative, pure and sincere…Without prejudice and ego. Then only can we see truth, beauty and goodness.”
Having wasted his own precious time fighting traffic to visit worthless art exhibitions, he vows not to be guilty of that kind of sin against art lovers.
The ‘Bloodless War’ show involves 6 black and white photos which were created in October, 2540 / 1997, after the devaluation of the baht in the same year. Following the prescriptions of the IMF, the country’s economy went into a coma, impoverished in the twinkling of an eye.
The soap bubble economy had burse. “A senseless dream carried on for 10 years by politicians and economists, businessmen, industrialists and all those experts who dreamed that Thailand would be an economic tiger among Asia’s NICs.”
Manit outlines the irresponsibility of the country’s finance sector: “Banks and finance companies brought money in from abroad and used it wrongly. Get rich quick schemes. Lending money to unproductive businesses, the stock market, land speculation, building condominiums and golf courses, resorts. Destroying forests and natural resources. Encouraging wasteful luxury and so much else. These evils were created by the government and the private sector. These people created the problem. Why do the people have to bear the consequences?”
Manit expresses rage towards the ‘neo-colonialism which uses capital instead of guns. With the bottom of this disaster still not in sight, people face depression and despair daily.
“Is it fair? Since the announcement of the baht devaluation, everything is expensive. There is inflation. The country is drowning in debt. More than 700,000 Million baht were lost. Used mindlessly by the Bank of Thailand in trying to maintain the value of the baht.”
“Globalization: I reject it utterly as neo-colonialism,” concludes Manit, faulting primarily the Europeans, the Americans and the Japanese. There are some new hands at this sort of colonialism, too, he notes – Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia.
Manit is not sure whether the country’s leaders see the dangers and the problems clearly or not. What is clear to him is the state of shock and despair of the Thai people generally, who lost 40% of their wealth overnight.
Commentary: Manit’s introduction, in which he makes a noble statement of pure intention, appears to be overturned to some extent as he tries to cope with the economic disaster that has befallen his country.
This article is part of the historical background to the performance-exhibition by the Ukabat group of Manit’s “Bloodless War” photos, described in the second article in this set (Vol.35, 31 Jan – 6 Feb.). Manit’s outrage, boiling with fury, is a remarkable contrast with the poetry, idealist philosophy, and cool professionalism in the earlier writings in January of Parinya Tantisuk and the Golden Paintbrush. The history cited by Parinya in his discussion of M.C. Karwik’(Vol.31, 3 – 9 January), and by Manit in this article, differs tellingly. The art which concerns and moves them differs accordingly, as well. These differences suggest contrasting perspectives of Thai society and history which would be interesting to try to reconcile.



6 Manit Sriwanichphum. From Gun-boat Fire to Free Trade Mechanisms (Finish)
Yr.45, Vol.35, 31 January – 6 February, 1999.
For his project, Manit chose news photos from Vietnam and the last colonial war in Southeast Asia before the Americans turned to the strategy of free trade as a means of forcing everyone to accept American goods.
Noting the credulity of newspaper readers who think news photos are authentic, Manit explains that he is now going to ‘take history and tell it anew,’ to make clear that some things - like attempts to trap new colonies - never change. What changes is that those colonized this time are willingly roped into the new slavery.
Manit’s three new photos imitate three old ones, using new actors and settings, not in Vietnam, but in Thailand.
The first historical photo is the famous image of screaming Vietnamese children fleeing before American soldiers after escaping a napalm blast. The original was taken by Huynh Cong “Nick” Ut, a photographer for AP). In Manit’s reinterpreted picture, a group of young yuppies flee their creditors in terror, carrying away their luxury goods in panic. The countless massive pylons of the abandoned Hopewell elevated train stretch behind them in the distance.
Manit apparently misunderstood the second picture he selected, reading it as American soldiers dragging behind their tank the body of a dead Vietnamese combatant. In fact, it is a Vietnamese tank, identified by the large star. The body, therefore, would be understood to be that of an American soldier.
In any case, Manit’s updated image uses a Mercedes Benz automobile, driven by cigar-smoking white and Thai business suits. They drag behind the car their yuppie victim’s body, which still clutches the precious shopping bags.
Manit compares the neo-colonialism throughout Asia of the West and by Japan. Japanese goods dominate the markets, a kind of stealthy control, sinking in, deep and soft, along with the wave of white culture.
In his third historical deja vu, Manit shows “a little kid who represents the future. He sits crying amidst the structure of the dead Hopewell (or hopeless) project.” The children will carry the debt burden of the IMF loans. The older, original photo shows a Chinese child in the middle of a Japanese air raid on Shanghai in 1937 (photo by H.S.Wong).
Manit did not leave these pictures in a gallery. His friends in the Ukabat (Meteorite) Group – Wasan Sittiket, Paisarn and Mongkol Plienbangchang, Mana Pupichit, Sompong Tavi, Jittima Ponsawake, Arak Apakas and Noppawan Siriwechakul – carried the pictures (in classic gold frames) about Silom when they did their performance art.
Manit identifies the root of today’s problems as Government House, the Bank of Thailand, the Stock Exchange on Silom Road, the banking sector, and the World Trade Center. The Ukabat performances may frighten people at first, but after reading the brochures and listening to the speeches, they better understand.
Manit tells of the reaction of a Scandinavian onlooker who interpreted the performance as ‘irrational nationalism’. Manit says: “He (the Scandinavian) put his arm around my shoulder as if I were a naïve person, and said, ‘The world is all one now; though our skin color is different, we are brothers and sisters.”
Manit believes that time will reveal the truth. “Today, we begin to see…and am I not correct? What the IMF has done to Thailand. What has happened. This year, there are more than 3 million people out of work. The IMF was set up by capitalist countries, so they have to step in. The attempt to force the government to pass the por-ror-bor finance papers is a familiar sign of their intention. Don’t be naïve – Look at the trade agreements since the John Bowring treaty. Who got the advantage? Who was taken advantage of?”
“I never discriminate on the basis of race,” says Manit in defense of his art and his interpretations. ”I oppose exploitation, no matter who does it to whom – if the whites do it to us – if we do it to the Khmer – I say it’s equally bad…if this is what you call mindless, irrational nationalism, I’m happy to be so.”
Commentary: Manit ‘hits the ground running’ as he drags Silpa/Wattanatham and his artworld readers out of museums and galleries and into the streets of contemporary Bangkok to face the present national disaster. He insists on the importance of history and of photography in his ‘Bloodless War’ performance-exhibition with the Ukabat group. Incensed by recollections of 19th century Western imperialism and by the apparent neo-colonial schemes of foreigners, Manit seems painfully frustrated but not so enraged by the exploitation he sees implicated from within.






7. Golden Paintbrush. Breath of Watercolor – 5 Artists.
Yr 45, Vol.36, 7 – 13 February, 1999.
The critic recalls how difficult painting with watercolors is for children. Many find crayons or felt-tip pens much easier and much more satisfying. However, those who have studied watercolor painting enjoy seeing the soft, wet hues coming softly together to make a new color. You can make so many watercolor pictures very quickly, and the equipment needed for painting is lightweight and easy to carry around.
The 5 artists organizing the show, First Impression, all love doing watercolor and consider it to be the breath of life for them! The group consists of Nukul Banyadhi, Chana Kawornlieng, Sawai Wongsaprohm, Pira Srianyu, and Kiettisak Plitaporn.
Some senior watercolorists have also been invited to show with them, for example, Chali Sodprasert, Suchart Wongtong, and some famous artists like Chalermchai Kositpipat and Wasan Sittiket.
The critic describes the lively atmosphere of the cocktail party at the opening in the Sintorn Building on Wittayu Road. The exhibition was opened by the Managing Director of Siam Commercial Bank, Opart Chaiprawat.
Many of the works of the 5 artists have similarities, almost as if they were painted by the same person…perhaps because the artist’s first impressions were the same.
Nukul Banyadhi paints with the emotion and rhythm of music. He can use many techniques. This ‘aesthetic of music’ gives the elements in his picture a different look. The colors are intense and dark. The artist is always searching for a new approach – sooner or later he will find himself.
Chana Kawornlieng slices on the paint with raw color, but damp and maintaining the feeling of the material in landscapes and some strange abstractions. He also made paintings about the sea, many-colored images of sea flora and all kinds of sea shells. Sprinkling and splashing the paint makes spots and stars of watercolor, very appropriate for the character of the sea.
Pira Srianyu paints myriad forms of plant life which give a feeling of the coolness of nature, all green. The light filters through the leaves, and there are deep, cooling shadows. Pira preserves these details with skill and determination. He can make watercolor sparkling and realistic.
Kiettisak Plitaporn is also bold and realistic in his watercolors (like Pira) – almost super-realistic. But there is some conflict in his own abstract world of ideas (which seem to circulate in the area of Christianity). If one does not read the information under the picture, one might not know what the artist is trying to communicate. If he wants to communicate clearly, his pictures need more than this. Then no explanation would be needed. The picture should speak for itself, autonomously. Kiettisak makes pictures of the life in the countryside, country people, an old lady sleeping, an automobile showroom contrasted with a grief-stricken old man. (This is a bit too simple and direct a statement). Such pictures have been done before.
Some pictures communicate profoundly, such as the one entitled, Water of Life.
Sawai Wongsaprom’s work is overflowing with the power of watercolor as much as any in the group, but his works seem less powerful. If it were a solo exhibition, he would survive, but in comparison with others, his work suffers a bit.
Commentary: Art critics cover art exhibitions and document the appearance of artworks and artists in society. This is a familiar kind of record-keeping, a sort of diary of the artworld’s functioning from week to week and month to month. A useful historical shorthand, also briefly sketching in the content of the art and the social context in which it appears and is welcomed.




8. Golden Paintbrush. Photos from the Mainland,
Shadows and Reflections of an Era. Yr.45, Vol.37, 14 – 20 February, 1999.
The critic introduces the review of a photography exhibition by 11 Chinese artists noting that China is the source of the art and culture of the East. The works of these artists reflect that challenging wisdom which today allows a greater role to Western ideas under the Communist system. Though the disorder of the capitalist world is reflected in many of these works, the old imagination still mingles there with the honor of a nation and a civilization which has its own way of thinking.
Chinese youth, like Thai youngsters, regard Western culture as little more than a plaything for leisure time.
The critic gives a cutting description of Thai youth: “Just caught on a merry-go-round of eating, shitting, and sleeping together, with an epidemic of drug addiction and the abandonment of the old culture in all its forms. The university youth in Thailand have taken pleasure in walking together this way for decades.”
‘You Are My Sister’ by Xutan refers to this situation in detail, from every possible angle. Pictures by Zeng Guogu in the series ‘Erotic’ attempt to be less pornographic.
‘Unveiled Reality’ is the concept of this exhibition which seems to say that there is much that is hidden behind the bamboo curtain.
Wang Wangwang presents a picture of Mao TseTung in a surrealist atmosphere suggesting the danger of nuclear war in the future, a warning that there are those who thirst for war.
‘Rainbow 1’ by Qui Zhijie has a beauty which makes the heart tremble. Colored syringes and the life of the person who is tied to medical treatments (the aristocrats of the capitalist system). They forget the old life in which one depended upon oneself. Unlike the strong ancestors, the lives of people nowadays are weakened. They cannot depend on themselves.
“If you compare this picture with Thailand, it’s right on target, where right now, there are 100 needles sticking in from abroad. Thailand is strung every which-way with saline drips, measuring the pulse which seems to weaken every moment, as if the patient were near death.”
An Hong presents works with a dancing rhythm of sexual desire which recalls the Tantra beliefs of Tibet.
The work of Huang Yan makes us aware of the transience of life with images much like we see in tabloid newspapers of the miserable ending of the lives of other people. It gives a boost to low minds.
The show is on at the Wityanitat Gallery, 7th floor of the Management Science Institute, Chulalongkorn University.
Commentary: The reproductions in this article are fairly grim, along with the mood of the critic. As Thailand reels under its economic crisis, the exchange of contemporary art and culture with China goes on. Exhibitions at the Wityanitat Gallery are a favorite with this generation of Silpa/Wattanatham critics.





9. Manit Sriwanichphum. Image vs. Reality: The Case of “Der Beesh”
Yr.45, Vol.38, 21 – 27 February, 1999.
“First of all, I love Thailand,” Manit quotes Leonardo DiCaprio, noting that the actor avoided interviews and photographers and remained well secluded, ‘protected by his giant white bodyguards and Thai policemen.’ Why did he sneak into Thailand? Was he afraid of mobs of screaming women or conservationists opposing the destruction of Maya beach by the planting of 100 coconut trees for the film? The hero, whose fee was 20 million, needed food testers to prevent himself being poisoned by hotel food. The security was so tight it became offensive. People became disgusted. The precious ‘image’ had to be protected, the media appeased. So “Leo Go to Party” happens. The actor has to go and meet the people in a bash at the house of the Thai producer of ‘Der Beesh.’ From this activity, (unsatisfying) photos were released to the press.
‘Leo Pays Respect to Monks- Wow!’ So charming. The young hero wais so beautifully that real Thai people were embarrassed.
Pictures at a distance. Press releases. News photos on CNN, CNBC and BBC all over the world reporting on the destructive changes to Maya Beach. It was illegal in a Thai nature preserve… etc.
After a lengthy diatribe against the abuses of the Hollywood movie makers in Thailand, Manit concludes that the case of ‘Der Beesh’ shows that ‘if you have enough money, you can buy Thailand. We will void the laws for you. Our dignity will be put on hold while you are investing…but first, you must say the words that all Thai people love so much to hear: First of all, I love (to rape) Thailand.’
Commentary: The making of a film, as an artistic and cultural event, catches the critic’s attention. In this case, the making of the film, ‘The Beach’, creates controversial impact on the natural environment. However, since illegal logging, clearing of protected forests, and destruction of precious wetlands goes on practically non-stop on any ordinary day in Thailand (and in so many other countries), the intense rage and indignation expressed by the critic on behalf of Maya beach seems to be a case of ‘too little, too late.’ Manit’s furious diatribe resembles xenophobia.
Apparently, he was able to unload a lot of anger in his first year as a critic for Silpa/Wattanatham. Later, as he avoids more subjects he hates, Manit’s criticism in the following years becomes consistently outstanding.


10. Manit Sriwanichphum. Bangkok, City of Angels – For Whom? (1)
Yr.45, Vol.39, 28 February – 6 March, 1999.
“This society is all on the surface, a society of faces…they are poor but drive a Mercedes-Benz. If they lack the real fashionable gear, they can rent or borrow a Louis Vuitton bag for a day.”
And then the thing about good manners, saving the faces of adults; it is a product of the culture handed down through the patron-client system.
Speak plainly and you will be considered a troublemaker. People only want to hear nice, comfortable things.
In this superficial society, no one likes to peel off the surface, to hear the truth of facts or feelings. They want you to say that everything looks good. Deceiving themselves continually. They don’t want to hear about problems. They don’t accept the truth. This happens throughout the whole society, including the artworld.
Manit points, as an example, to the Bangkok Art Project, 1998, which was called an ‘Asian art festival.’ Quoting the lyrical themes created by the organizers, Manit characterizes the event instead as ‘The Great Make-up Job with Powder and Rouge to Create an Image’ using contemporary art as the media symbol.
It is a Thai song and dance, a light and sound show, a walking parade, a boat set on land to sell Thai sweets and all kinds of traditional pastries and jellies.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority are pushing new ideas, bored with the old, and globalizing like the rest of the world. Everyone else has shows, so why shouldn’t the Thai do it, too?
Commentary: The critic appears to find utterly boring and superficial a publicity stunt and tourism event organized by the official artworld and the local and city government in the Rattanakosin area.


11. Manit Sriwanichphum. Bangkok, City of Angels – For Whom?
Yr.45, Vol.40, 7 - 13 March, 1999.
“Art is always taken by the governing powers and politicians as a propaganda tool for themselves, probably since art first appeared in the world.” No matter what kind of government it is, ecclesiastical, right-wing dictators, left-wing communists, liberal democrats – they all are aware of the power of art to help lead and spread ideas and ideals. Art is a good tool for brainwashing and for creating faith. It creates images which are somehow easier to believe in.
Manit cites, as an example, the music created by the Fine Arts Department and the Public Relations Department after World War II. There was patriotic music inspiring national unity, and there were sweet, loving, consoling songs to help an oppressed people more easily bear their suffering.
The title, “Bangkok, City of Angels,” refers to a propaganda song from that era of dictators, beautiful, rhythmic, lilting, easy to remember. The organizers of the event still hope to make Bangkok just such a livable place. Manit takes a look at the works of some of the (74) Thai artists and (3) foreign artists who took part.
“Most of the works concern being engrossed in, searching for and trying to solve problems of “beauty” in art, for example, perfection of art elements. Or attempting to consider the Dhamma – the world, hell and heaven – looking for ones Nirvana. The artists have their own world. What do they really need to make art for?”
One of the few artists who addressed contemporary issues was the Chinese, Cai Guo Qiang, in “Century with Mushroom Cloud Event at Nevada Nuclear Test Site.” The artist invited viewers to remember Hiroshima and to consider the plans for building a nuclear electrical generating plant in Pathumthani.
“WC for Bangkok” by Surasi Kusolwong playfully provides a mobile toilet for viewers of the other artworks.
Pishnu Supanimitr’s “Mixed Culture” questions consumerist society, and Chakarphand Vilaisirikul’s “Lost Angel” is interesting and thought provoking.
Does this event help make Bangkok the utopian city the organizers had in mind?
Although it brings high art ‘back down’ to the people, it was the artists themselves, who alienated ordinary audiences in the first place.
The cover of the catalog shows an angel scattering flowers, but what about the angels who committed suicide jumping off buildings, the angels impoverished by the IMF, or those who sell their bodies and get AIDS? Are there no such ‘angels’ in Bangkok today?
As far as Manit can see, this event reflects the ideas of the bureaucracy, men who have, for a day, assumed a suit over their khaki uniforms. This is a meaningless exercise because the roots of thinking never change. Nothing changes but the surface.
Commentary: Manit is in no mood to be persuaded of this campaign by the local government and by artists (many of whom are also civil servants) to celebrate the divine nature of the city of Bangkok. In Manit’s eyes, the effort appears half hearted, insincere and unconvincing. The critic is able to generate a faint enthusiasm over the few pieces he finds that bravely or playfully address urgent contemporary issues.




12. Golden Paintbrush. Kamol Tasananchali- the Eagle of Siam Returns Home
Yr.45, Vol.41, 14 – 20 March, 1999.
’39 Years of Art in Retrospective at the National Gallery of Art’
They called him ‘Busy Boy’ when he was a student at Poh Chang College, a model active student and leader of his class. His teachers were Jitr Buabutr and Chalerm Nakirak. Studying and working in the US for 20 years, Kamol was recognized as artist of the year (1980) and honored by an Oakland art museum. In 1997 he was selected as a ‘National Artist’ of Thailand in the category of visual arts. The critic concludes that, ‘if one considers the valuable artworks which Kamol has made, and his role devoting himself to the arts, the artworld, and beautiful and moral objects, one must say that he is very suitable to receive these honors.’
Kamol’s great happiness is making art. ‘That happiness – in solving one problem after another until he is satisfied – settles in his feelings. And that happiness doubles when someone admires and is interested in the work.’
“I always practice, both my brain and my skill. They are weapons I never allow to get rusty. Weapons must always be sharp, ready to wield on every occasion.” Kamol is quoted.
The critic admires Kamol’s long and steadfast career of developing his art and contributing to the Thai artworld, both in the States and in Thailand. He makes art ‘for art’s sake,’ based on sincerity and a pure heart.
The artist, coming from a family of craftsmen, was enthusiastic about visual arts from an early age. ‘His way of making art is outstanding, i.e. contemporary mixed media – finding what is near him and bringing it to create as an artwork, very interesting, using paint tubes, rollers, palettes and self portraits.’
Kamol went from making smooth prints to graphic art in three dimensions, large sculptures. He took nature as part of the artwork, pouring tempera paint across a desert surface, ‘a philosophy of work which challenges nature’s greatness.’
‘Later, there is more soul of being Thai in the works, using [a traditional] pattern, the wings of insects from Isarn, carved elephant from Chiengmai; bringing Thainess into the international artworld freely and naturally.’
The critic acknowledges Kamol Tasananchali’s work as teacher and lecturer in the US and Thailand, as well as his organizational efforts in the US, creating an art center and a Thai Arts Council to encourage Thai artists to show in America.
The retrospective includes drawings, early oil paintings, pictures of daily life in Thailand, abstract and expressionist images and some early graphics playing with Thai letters and numerals. There are also works using paint tubes in prints and in sculptures. Later, Kamol explored sculpture/ installation using fiberglass and neon lights, and also setting his works in natural environments.
The Nang Yai series uses a great variety of natural and technological materials. The show closes with the Golden Land Series III. The critic warmly and enthusiastically endorses the artist and the show.
Commentary: The critic congratulates a well-known Thai artist who studied and worked in the US for many years, and acknowledges his consistent efforts to open up opportunities for Thai artists in the US. The critic speaks for many of the powers-that-be in the Thai artworld. Kamol has lived up to many of the ideals of the contemporary artworld and has become a model for many young art students who hope to achieve similar success in their careers.

13. Golden Paintbrush. Art for Waterways.
Yr.45, Vol.42, 21 – 27 March, 1999.
‘The Ping River connects with the Wang in Tak Province, flowing on to the mouth of the Po. The Yom joins the Nan River at Chumsaeng district in Nakorn Sawan, above the mouth of the Po. These two rivers join again at the mouth of the Po, giving birth to the headwaters of the most historic waterway of Siam, the Chao Phraya River.’
The river winds slowly across the Central Plain, through Bangkok and the city of Samut Prakarn, busy with all kinds of activities of river dwellers and river workers. How beautiful in the evening are the sparkling lights upon the water, how cooling the breeze. Thames, Mississippi, Ganges, Chao Phraya.
To join in celebrating the rivers of the Kingdom, and to celebrate the Amazing River of Kings, Reurak Chao Phraya school, the TaWiset project, and the Faculty of Painting and the art gallery of Silpakorn University, led by 2 national artists, are organizing an exhibition at the Emporium Department Store. There are 40 paintings in the show by 24 artists who love the Chao Phraya river.
The show includes paintings by Sannarong Singhaseni (a watercolor about the coolness of the flowing waters); Panya Wijintanasarn (a search for goodness in the river); Pichit Tangcharoen ( only a fraction of the frame; looks unfinished); Arkom Duangchowna (beautiful impressionist style); Pairote Wongbon (detailed image of life along the river).
The critic comments on 4 images from the show illustrating the column this week, i.e. works by Prekamol Chiowanich, Worasan Suparp, Sujintn Trinarong and Sompop Budtarad.
Golden Paintbrush scolds his readers for not taking proper care of the nation’s rivers. “We grew up with the Chao Phraya waterway taking care of us. When we grow up, we destroy it, like matricides, without ever showing gratitude…Hope that one day, people will care for this ailing old mother, this waterway, so she can live to see her Thai children and grandchildren for as long as possible.” (Note: Factories are a problem…)
Commentary: Showing an awareness of the geography of some of the nation’s important rivers, the critic, with poetic (and scolding)language, joins with the artists, to make signs to the public that the river is a profound resource and should be respected and appreciated accordingly. The campaign to raise public awareness to clean up the Chao Phraya river continues with the cooperation of local artworld luminaries and a note that (factories cause problems for the river…).


14. Manit Sriwanichphum. If You Don’t Believe, Don’t Disrespect: Phra Suphan
Kaliya. Yr.45, Vol.43, 28 March – 3 April, 1999.
The rotten, tiresome case of toying with legality in the case of the draft status of the son of Chalermchai Yubamroong and news of the harassment of K.Sumali Limbhowat, for citing her constitutional right to see proof of the results of her daughter’s (supposedly failed) test enter Kasetsart University’s Demonstration School.
“In the midst of these melodramas in Thailand, the people’s faces were bright as they enjoyed new faith in Phra Suphan Kaliya, the older sister of King Naresuan.” The story of the great lady was fueled by Dr.Nalinee Paiboon and a monk, Luang Phu Ngon, who were accused, generally, of spinning royal history into a more marketable legend in order to improve sales.
Manit asks himself why Phra Suphan Kaliya should not become another angel in the pantheon. A thousand years from now, will it matter? The Thai people embrace so many deities and so many shrines. Even the 5th King was adored as a deity quite recently. It is not unusual for kings or royals to receive obeisance throughout the Kingdom.
“In our era of materialist civilization, wealth is our protection…Whatever makes you rich, worship it.” Honorable Father, the 5th King has become a symbol of business prosperity for the younger generation. Does anyone care about the burdens of office which he carried? Images of the 5th King are found everywhere, revered as symbols of power, wealth and comfort.
After the economic bubble burst, no one could do anything to help. Perhaps it was necessary to find a new deity. It is not only the government which can rewrite history as it pleases. The people also have the right. Seeing no dignity in the government, the bureaucracy or the law, the people look to angels, divinities and spirits to punish the wicked and bestow winning lottery tickets.
The success story of Dr.Nalinee Paiboon and her cosmetics company is intensely interesting to people. A divorcee with a child who surrendered her business, with many millions, to her ex-husband: it was her ‘sacrifice’ – like Phra Suphan Kaliya, who sacrificed herself so that Phra Naresuan could save the country.
In this IMF economy, a sacrificing woman is just in line with the values of Thai society, but more especially, the part about miracles and getting rich.
The late monk confirmed Dr.Nalinee’s vision of Phra Suphan Kaliya. Later, a painting of the princess was commissioned. The image (created by Chusit Wijarnjorkit) is beautiful in the style of Chakrapan-ism: sweet, peaceful, still, and sad.
Since nobody really knows what the actual princess looked like, there is an opportunity for artists to create a new vision: an oval face, great skin, large round eyes, a small red mouth, aristocratic in bearing. She looks a bit like Dr.Nalinee, herself. “We might say that this Phra Suphan Kaliya reflects Thai women’s ideals in the new era – right?”
She becomes the goddess of self-sacrifice, the angel of the past-bubble-burst economy. A million people out of work, hopeless, despairing, feeling empty, with no one to look to for help, not even Buddhism; they still hope that wealth will return again. Just sacrifice and endure!
Commentary: Cynical, bad-tempered Manit. Compared with his fellow columnists, he seems irretrievably grouchy, a ‘kill-joy’ and a ‘nay-sayer’. Reading only these early columns, one would be amazed to find that he was able to go on writing (very productively)in Silpa/Wattanatham for at least 8 more years.
Though the title of his essay quotes the rule of thumb in polite society (‘if you don’t believe, don’t disrespect someone else’s beliefs’), the critic cannot cast a blind eye on the present depressing situation. By sifting through the story and considering the pros and cons generally, Manit seems to make some peace with himself. Despite his frustration over social injustice with no solution in sight, Manit has sympathy for the people in the face of their overwhelming difficulties.


15. Manit Sriwanichphum. Kamol Tasananchali – The Good Boy of the Thai
Artworld. Yr.45, Vol.44, 4 - 10 April, 1999
We can see a lot about what Thai society admires in the person of ‘Kamol’ Tasananchali (if Thai society is what the National Culture Committee says it is). ‘Kamol’ was a good student, by Thai and American standards, a star pupil at Poh Chang and Prasarnmitr. He did his BFA and MFA at Otis Institute in LA. Following the values of society, he went to the top of the pyramid. So many praise and prizes, Thai and foreign, they fill up his room.
Who is good and charming is rewarded; who has problems is punished. Kamol, however, can get on with everyone in every society, every circle. He connects in every direction. He knows what society is, what is needed – so that is what he gives and receives.
Superficial Thai society, never sincere with anything. Never seeking truth, never testing the value of things. Maybe people feel they are not in the position, do not have the right to decide about values. It’s necessary to follow the advice of ones betters. Conferring value is thus a kind of power (like being a judge of a competition.)
‘Kamol’’s retrospective at the National Gallery of art begins with a room full of news clippings about all that Kamol and been and done. There are many photos of the face of ‘Kamol’ himself, like a great ego, floating around you.
‘Kamol’ has finally become an institution: no one dares to critique his work anymore. The walls carry his words of encouragement to all the members of the Thai artworld.
The next rooms show his big works, made between 1960 and 1999. Manit wonders about the lack of documents to help viewers understand.
‘Kamol’ is praised for using symbols of Thai culture to spread ‘Thai-ness’ in the world. These symbols are cited as the ‘essence’ of what it is to be Thai. (Yes, we have symbols, but we never have the soul.)
The National Culture Office wants to control ‘Thai-ness’ and keep it in the mid-stream of globalization, promoting sales of ‘Thai-ness’. ‘Kamol’ is useful for them.
‘Kamol’ has been a spokesman for the American School of Contemporary Art. He likes to talk about the outstanding American society and the American artworld, its museums, galleries and competitions. He always talks about these things since he went there to become an artist, like a young country bumpkin back from the city, encircled by villagers and telling them how heavenly the big city is.
‘Kamol’ is a picture representing the dreams of many Thai artists who want fame and success in white cities. They can be more, like many other Thai artists who go to white countries. They know what whites expect. (Like the Tourism Authority knows foreign tourists – what whites, Chinese, Japanese and Indians want.)
Commentary: Kamol’s name is placed in quotation marks throughout the essay, suggesting that Manit might be attacking the ‘idea’ of ‘Kamol’ rather than the human person behind the name. As one of the Thai artworld’s ‘good’ or ‘golden’ boys, Kamol ‘got with the program’ and is reaping the rewards of his success. In Manit’s estimation, however, ‘Kamol’ appears to have done little more than carry out the ‘ready-made’ values of his professional caste. Manit resents the institutionalization of ‘Kamol’ in his exhibition into an eerie, disembodied symbol, the lack of documentation and historical framework for important sections of the show, and the shallow citing of ‘the essence of Thai-ness’ when referring to things like elements of traditional Thai architecture. ‘Kamol’s story fits comfortably within the safe parameters of the National Culture Office as a suitable model for young Thai artists, but the model is much too ‘white’ for Manit’s taste.






16. Manit Sriwanichphum. Miracle Day of Observance.
Yr.45, Vol.45 11 - 17 April, 1999.
Going through Paritat Hutangkul’s show at Tadu Gallery, Manit is wondering. What will happen in Thai society if the image of the Lord Buddha is presented as a woman? Paritat’s show is all about Buddhism. He puts a simple yellow linear image inside a traffic symbol, forbidding any parking. Simply put: No Parking for Lord Buddha. If the Buddha came today, he would be asked to move on. Buddhists only practice on high holy days now.
Paritat ridicules people who call themselves Buddhist but who are very selective about their practice, especially in today’s consumerist society where religion is just another commodity. Monks are only interested in sales figures and how to market their brand.
In “Give Back the Yellow Cloth,” Paritat shows a number of failed monks turning in their robes after piling up sins of the flesh, of greed for wealth, of lust for pleasure. Though so many people are swept up in the mad search for wealth, using money to buy ‘ready-made Nirvana’, no one would say they are not Buddhist.
“Capitalists are the greediest merchants. They can turn everything into money, even former enemies of worldliness like Buddhism.”
“Paritat thinks very straight, very simply. He talks straight. That’s why I have trouble with his work. He takes the point of view of a very old-fashioned Thai male, a villager, who looks at desire and the evils of lust as problems caused by women.”
Women have been portrayed by male painters in traditional temple paintings as perfectly in order or totally wild and sex-crazed. Women are presented as enemies of male virginity.
Manit is sorry to see Paritat presenting a very ugly, disgusting image, mocking the faces of pretty young starlets nowadays in “A New Face Comes Out.” The critic urges the artist to consider how women are typically targeted in Thai society where males rule. Women are sold as commodities, prostitutes and men count the money behind the scenes. In picture after picture, Paritat slams women as evil, for example, in “Got Her from Karaoke,” and “Got Her from a Magazine,” and “Ass- Take One, Ass –Take Two,” reminiscent of pornographic magazines, images of enticing naked women who lead young men astray.
“Paritat paints with anger, hate, rejecting the distortion of today’s society, but with good intentions. Still, the stark polar divisions which Paritat presents do not help us understand the real problem clearly.” Manit mentions some old wrong ideas which should be discarded, for example, using women as symbols of desire and lust, thinking that religion is about male purity and perfection being hindered by women.
In Paritat’s “Whites Beat the Likay Actor,” three whites in suits beat a likay actor bloody, suggesting how Western culture swallows up local culture insatiably.
“Paritat is brave, well-intentioned and very determined. But he may be rash, not figuring the problem carefully, from all aspects. Some of his symbols are incorrect, [causing a confused meaning.]”
Manit closes by admiring “Taking Yellow Robes to the Laundry,” in which the Lord Buddha delivers some yellow robes to an old Chinese man in jeans standing smiling by a washing machine. This work is very jolly, and very appropriate where monks today are concerned. Paritat uses some old Thai painting techniques very effectively in this work, bringing old and new together as part of his expression.
Commentary: Manit admires the lively ingenuity of some of Paritat’s images, for example, the spiritual ‘No Parking’ sign , the ‘turning in of robes’ by various failed monks, and the idea of the Lord Buddha overcoming the sins of his followers by taking dishonored robes to a Chinese laundry. He also appreciates the artist’s critique of Buddhist practices distorted by consumerist values. However, it is difficult to accept the logic of Manit’s assessment that “Paritat paints with anger and hate, rejecting the distortion of today’s society, but with good intentions.” Manit has keen perception, indeed, if he can find good intentions behind the other, even more aggressive works by Paritat which are not only misogynist, but also racist and xenophobic, according to the critic’s own descriptions.


17. Golden Paintbrush. Narrow World View of People in the Artworld –
Unchanged in Years. Yr.45, Vol.46, 18 - 24 April, 1999.
This April the weather is hotter than ever, frighteningly hot, in fact. The critic urges readers to seek some cool spot in nature, in a forest, on a mountain, by a stream.
Sometimes people go astray and follow, not nature, but illusion. The same is true in the artworld. Having a self, being jealous, looking down on others, being hypocritical: some people forget their roots, their old teachers. They get to the other side and abandon the boat. Some don’t work much, but like to criticize. They step on the heads of others in order to become famous. They are like worms reborn on a dunghill who spit on older worms. Some people in the new era have souls like animals.
But works of art should build the soul, stimulate and warn, stir us to imagine, awaken us to beauty, tell the heart to love life and care for culture and the environment…
The forms and elements of color in art can relieve tension. These things have value in a simple life. They are not old-fashioned, as some are claiming.
On the occasion of the 88th birthday of Acharn Kukrit Pramote, a master artist, a great philosopher of Siam and a pillar of Thai democracy, founder of Siamrath newspaper, I would like to put forward some of his ideas. Mom said that artists should follow their own ideas and satisfy their own need to express themselves. They should be patient and make the art which they think is right and beautiful. The immortal works of Kru-Inkong and Soontorn Phu were revolutionary…
Whatever Mom did, he did sincerely. He was a doer, not just a talker.
Artworld people should not be like politicians fighting. They should not be limited to narrow ideas. Open your minds! Accept each other!
Let the people enjoy and collect what art they like. They have varied ideas and tastes. Art is not a chain to drag people, forcing them to walk this path or that.
One art movement is not better than another. What is new today will be old tomorrow. We shouldn’t be overly attached to our institutions; we shouldn’t disrespect each other. Artists are ordinary, not super-natural people. The world is big enough for all kinds of artists.
Commentary: One wonders what prompted this impassioned statement by the Golden Paintbrush! There must have been some controversy arising in the artworld in the hot April weather of 1999.


18. Golden Paintbrush. The Power of Nature in Wacharin Rodnit.
Yr.45, Vol.47, 25 April – 1 May, 1999.
“Warm golden light pours everywhere in the forest. Mingled leaves and stalks with sharp thorns have woven dense shadows overlapping and breaking the golden light. You see the cluttered solitude of the forest, mingling, as if soaked,with the echoing boisterous, meditative sounds of small animals. Moist branches. Eyes stare at whoever passes by or enters in. The sound of tramping feet on piles of musty leaves and dry branches, rousing all the little living things from the subconscious. It has been a long time since we have see paintings which turn beautiful brushstrokes decisively. The marks of the brush become a flickering surface. Using the subject of nature and the forest, emotion and feeling are mingled and expressed in semi-abstraction.”
Wacharin Rodnit, an artist from the forests of the South, studied at the Faculty of Painting at Silpakorn University.
“The light of art which smolders brightly and brilliantly, luminously, in Wacharin’s heart reflects from the frame and canvas and cannot be hidden. He is a master of technique and texture. This is an important part of his work, slippery and flowing…”
“Wacharin has reached the universal language of the artworld, the profound roots of the old culture. The concept of his work is, ‘everything in nature mingles together in unity and is filled with mysterious power.”
The critic describes 6 paintings by Wacharin: ‘Green Waterfall’(the cool wetness of the streaming waterfall takes leaves on an endless journey); ‘Kongkarng’ (a deep, mysterious forest in a blue atmosphere, silent, tranquil and unpolluted); ‘Pai Preu’ (Floating Bamboo – The wind blows, branches sway. The crisp sound, dry and crackling, of brown trees in the warm yellow light); ‘Thorny Forest’ (he gradually fights his way through sharp places to find the flower and fruit of a little plant blossoming in a thorny wood); ‘Rain Forest No.2’ (the damp coolness of the forest floor after a rain); and ‘Northern Light,’(feelings that faintly move in the midst of the deep forest, a bright light beyond the darkness).
The critic mourns artists who hurry to abandon the creative possibilities of realism by rushing on into abstraction. Their work ‘is like a song with no words. The images look too simple, though it takes a long time to explain the concept. Some people change again and again till they can’t find who they really are any more.’
Wacharin joined in the event to honor Mom Kukrit Pramote on his 88th birthday at the Rattanakosin Hotel. That great man expressed his hopes that Thailand’s artworld ‘should be in unison, making artworks sincerely, not pretending, not dividing into opposing camps, whether they share the same ideas or not.’
The critic mourns the passing and loss of one of the Thai artworld’s highly respected senior figures.
Commentary: The melodious language of the critic’s admiring descriptions of Wacharin Rodnit’s work seems like music to the ear after the rattling and banging of Manit Sriwanichphum’s fuming and complaining. Even so, a steady diet of all one or all the other would be tiresome and oppressive. It’s great to have these distinctively different critical voices in the discourse of Thailand’s contemporary artworld.


19. Golden Paintbrush. A Hundred Birds, a Thousand Blossoms, Ten Thousand Insects in Scientific Drawings. Yr.45, Vol.48, 2 – 8 May, 1999.
Making illustrations is one aspect of applied art, and something which is very near to children in school. Pictures in textbooks have an important role in indirectly capturing the student’s interest. Without illustrations, many texts would lose much of their charm.
Scientific illustration is part of this. Scientific illustrations, besides being beautiful and realistic in form and color, must also make clear the important characteristic of their subject. The beauty and reality of nature is the core of scientific illustration.
This kind of art is not very well known or understood because there is no branch specializing in this field of illustrating.
Photographs cannot show inner organs and structures because of overlapping parts. Scientific illustration can emphasize the desired details more clearly. The picture can be realistic, broken into parts, focusing on one part or look through a cutaway view without destroying the natural reality.
Scientific illustration helps scientists all over the world communicate with each other. Detail comes into focus to serve the purpose as photographs cannot.
The critic introduces three such illustrators, Kamol Komolpalin, a well-known painter and illustrator of birds, and an advocate of bird conservation in Thailand; Ekachai Ort-amphai, who specializes in illustrations of flowers, especially orchids; and Wichai Malikul, who made a career of doing illustrations of all kinds of insects, especially butterflies. He worked for many years at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, where he has also been teaching watercolor painting in the institute’s entomology department.
These three painters volunteered to share their experience for those who are interested. A.Sasiwimol Sawaengpol in the botany department of the science faculty is the facilitator.
The critic urges that scientific illustration receive more attention in the curricula of applied art, visual communication design and commercial art circles in Thailand.
Commentary: Useful, interesting and stimulating for potential illustrators and those developing curricula in applied arts.


20. Golden Paintbrush. Somjai Rice: From Watercolor to Thai-ness.
Yr.45, Vol.49, 9 – 15 May, 1999.
“This week, let’s relax with some watercolor painting, cool and damp, with very simple Thai subjects to cool the heat and loosen up [in the face of] the Wat Phra Dhammakai case.”
From the little hand of a child drawing pictures of things along the Chao Phraya, has come today a bold hand which firmly reflects those early impressions. The artist has taken 10 years to reach this exhibition.
Somjai Rice, a Thai woman artist whose name fits her skills and ideas. Her heart and mind are forward looking and powerfully expressive.
“The traces of watercolor flow in a long stream, pictures of the temple, Thai style houses, women selling from boats on the river, markets, stores selling from six in the evening till morning in the dark, lights sparkling; rented houses, fishermen, all kinds of flowers and plants, stems and branches. The water colors are never still, myriads rushing to meet together like lovers who have to part.”
When making watercolor pictures, one wants them to be comfortable; no need to emphasize collecting details or to be realistic in every way, says the artist, to people who ask for advice.
Q. Some people wonder about your ethnic background.
A. I’m an authentic Thai, but I married a German.

Q.Why is your character like a white?
A. Probably because I am tall, and I like sports. My character is rather tough. Not like Thai women generally. I’m very dexterous, so that’s why [I seem like a foreigner].

Q.What is your primary career?
A. Painting is what I do primarily. I get up and paint and draw every morning. Some have accused me of not being a serious professional artist, but I don’t think about that because I work at it every day. Sometimes I give my works to friends as gifts…

Somjai did not graduate from art school, but studied with Ari Sutiphan from Srinakharinviroj University, Prasarnmitr, and later with Suchart Wongthong. Her first exhibition was around 1989, at the River City Hotel., about 135 pictures.

Q.Why don’t you show at a gallery? Like the National Gallery?
A. For Bangkok people, for business people who come and go, it is more convenient at hotels. The queue at the National Gallery is very long.


Q.Why does your work [sometimes] emphasize ‘Thai-ness’?
A.” Because I am Thai and I grew up along the Chao Phraya. When I paint, I try to communicate being Thai for the people of the world to see. Beauty is charming. Even the people from abroad are charmed. They want to keep these pictures as history. They want to see the real thing. And it supports the Year of Thai Tourism.

Q. Do you feel you are a tough Thai woman artist, having a solo show?
A. “You might say that. Because there aren’t that many Thai women artists. Actually, we women have a tough time, it’s true. Because of the burden of the family. My family burdens were lifted 10 years ago. All my kids are graduated and working, so I have full time to invest in making art, as I do now.

Q.What kind of pictures do you like to make most?
A. I can tell you right off, I like to do pictures of market places very early in the morning. They are my favorite subject. The dim lights inside the shops contrast with the sun, which is just coming over the horizon. I like the atmosphere of a market with the vendor-women. The people bustling; it looks so lively. After that, I like to do temples whose shadows fall on the river at sunset. These two, I really like.

Commentary: The case of women like Somjai Rice, for whom art is a favorite past-time and a second career is most interesting, one of those still unexplored areas of art history. Her comments about exhibiting in hotels are noteworthy. The artist’s life and work seem to exemplify those interesting and very lively ‘in-between’ worlds which often escape notice because they are between official categories.


21. Manit Sriwanichphum. Bored with Dhammakai; Met St.Francis of Assisi.
Yr.45, Vol.50, 16 – 22 May, 1999.
“I was gone from Thai society for more than a month while the scandalous Dhammakai case boiled over. I hoped there would be some conclusion, one way or another, though I know very well that temples and monks, generally, are very Dhamma-greedy. The difference is, Dhammakai does it better than anyone else.” Manit slams the professional marketing, advertising, selling of merit and fund-raising practices of the controversial sect. “They will probably be very powerful in the future…the Vatican of Thailand.”
Every order of the Thai Sangha is experiencing intense, critical deterioration, using the Lord Buddha to earn money and become filthy rich. And they destroy those who would defend the faith.
Manit’s visit to the pilgrimage site of Assisi (about half an hour north of Rome by train) during the Easter holy days was like a cleansing of depression and gloom, going to meet God, seeking Dharma, ‘finding real goodness in one blessed person the world has known, St. Francis.’
Manit takes great interest in the story of St.Francis, and how he was called upon by a voice from heaven to ‘repair’ the Church. As a brother, Francis lived simply and in poverty. “His was ‘a priesthood according to Dharma” in the true sense of the word… [By contrast] the Vatican was exceedingly wealthy, forgetting the objectives of religion. Even making war…destroying other faiths…building giant churches…controlling the people from birth until death with the repressive refrain, ‘In the name of the Lord.’
Francis saw the Church as a house falling down and made efforts to repair it by setting an example of simplicity and a return to nature. He was the forest monk of Assisi, the Ghandi of Italy, one of those who set alight the wave which became the Renaissance. He rebuked the Middle Ages and was marked by the stigmata, a mystical sign of his sainthood. Manit went to see the church of St.Damian, where Francis began his work, the first church he rebuilt. “It really is a beautiful temple, in my feeling…to reach it, you have to walk on foot about 4 kilometers. It took me back to nature, something I really missed in my life.”
“ Visiting Assisi and meeting St.Francis was like a dream, a kind of healing dream for a wounded faith in beauty and goodness which was beaten down on every side. I had then to go back to the real world which has no St.Francis in Thai Buddhist society – and if there is someone, Thai society remains indifferent, letting the destruction continue. It’s very sad.”
Commentary: In an exploration of the culture of religion, Manit draws parallels between the excesses and need for reform in the Church of Rome in the Middle Ages and the corrupt state of institutional Buddhism in Thailand nowadays. The critic, discouraged and worn down with frustration, finds some solace as he wanders through the town of Assisi, pondering the life and work of St.Francis. A walk through the natural vistas of the Italian countryside quiets the moody thoughts of the Thai critic, just as it must have lifted the hearts of countless pilgrims of art and religion through the centuries.


22. Manit Sriwanichphum. Perfectionism: A Virtue Lost From the Thai Artworld.
Yr.45, Vol.51, 23 – 29 May, 1999.
“Not that I am shameless, affected or arrogant like whites, or am boasting and bragging. It’s just hard for me to come back and try to admire works of art, or Thai artists, after traveling for a month or so admiring the art of Italy in Rome, Florence, Napoli and in many little towns.
“Let me ask a question: how was it possible for the Italians to create works like those?”
Many times, Manit, like other tourists, felt too filled with art, feverish, ‘giddy with beauty.’
“The Italian government has to station a nurse beside the churches and big art museums like the one next to the Duomo in Florence.” The beauty is over-powering.
The critic was surprised to find himself needing a break, recovering his breath for a moment in a public park..
“I went to the marketplace, looked at houses and buildings and at people on the street. Then I was able to go back to the museum. Even so, what I found outside was also art. It was living art in Rome, Florence and Napoli – these cities are living art museums, it’s true.”
‘Perfectionism’ [a word which, admittedly, imperfectly translates the Sanskrit idea] “has to do with determination, devotion to doing it, giving it your all, an eye for detail so your work will be best, the most beautiful, pushing it to the farthest one can push, to the limit, beyond brains and skill.”
Thai people might once have been seekers after perfection in the Sukhothai era, or in the work of Nai Kong Pae, or Kru In-Kong, or Acharn Fua Haripitak, who devoted his life and intellectual energy to recovering the scripture cabinet at Wat Rakang, or even in the work of K. Chakrphan Posyakrit in recovering a famous Thai puppet theatre. When Thai people seek perfection, mediocre work will not be admitted. This is not a matter of narrow-mindedness and nothing to do with seniority.
Manit points to the work of the Italian, Michelangelo, who went to the marble quarry and selected the exact piece of marble he wanted. Not that he finished every block which he began to carve, but even his discarded attempts, history has regarded as masterpieces.
Though Michelangelo did not want to paint the Sistine Chapel, when he accepted the work, he did it to his furthest capability. It was beautiful and full of power. “But before it was finished, he quarreled with the Pope many times.” Why was Michelangelo not content to do just enough to satisfy the Pope and no more? Because he worked “to please God – or as we say in our parlance, to offer to the Lord Buddha.”
Manit was happy to be able to see the restored Sistine ceiling during his visit. It was just opened after a 15 year period of cleaning. He admires the way the Italians take care of their cultural heritage, using technology to preserve these treasures for future generations, this ‘brain-food,’ this ‘nourishment for the soul.’
The critic notes that Michelangelo, unmarried and a man of simple habits, was an important financial support for his parents and siblings. At the same time, the artist “never referred to this burden as an excuse or a problem that impinged on his perfectionism as an artist till the day he died.” Manit mourns the lack of the perfectionist habit in the Thai artworld. When Thai artists reach a peak of creativity, they begin mass-producing – turning out ‘reproductions’ for sale like factories, losing their potential, their skill and their creative vigor. They compete for riches. The virtue of perfectionism seems to dry up and nothing remains but mediocrity. Only in the advertising industry do people with artistic flair go on challenging themselves to stretch their creative potential…in service to the gods of underwear, sweets, laundry detergent and condoms – not to gods of the soul.
Commentary: A trip through Italy and a heavy dose of Italian Renaissance art deeply impresses Manit. He sums up his praise by describing the artists of Italy as tireless seekers after perfection. Seeing so many fine original artworks in their home context, preserved for the enjoyment of Italians and countless visitors from around the world, Manit marvels at this ‘nourishment for the soul,’ and grieves at the short-sighted and shallow goals of too many contemporary Thai artists.



23. Golden Paintbrush. Thai @rtNet www.thaiartnet.com
Art Media on the Internet. Yr.45, Vol.52, 30 May – 5 June, 1999.
Many people are interested in Thailand’s artworld today, but information is scattered and time-consuming and expensive to obtain. There are more commercial galleries than sources of knowledge about art. The Thai Art Net website was created to provide information and news about visual arts for students at all levels and for any interested persons. Artists and their creative works can become better known round the world through these good examples for educational purposes.
Thai Art Net was created by Bangkok Darawat Ltd. and Darka Tantiwiwattanaphan, an art lover and collector, and her computer adept husband. The target group is members of the public between the ages of 15 – 45 who use computers and are interested in art.
Thai Art Net has been going for 2 years but is just now announcing itself. Enjoying art off a computer screen, of course, is not like seeing the original objects, but is better than not being able to glimpse the artwork at all. There is also news, history of artists, and other information. Silpakorn University has a website with details only on art teachers at the university, but Thai Art Net contains information about Thai artist generally.
Recalling the death of Professor Silpa Bhirasri on 14 May, the website is honoring this pillar of the modern Thai artworld.
The article gives details of the various ‘rooms’ at the website, eg. the Welcome Room, the Artist’s Room, the Visual Arts Room, etc.
Commentary: The Thai high artworld gets a boost from computer-savy admirers and reaches out on the Internet.



24. Niran Ketutad. Nude: The Feeling of Nitaya Eua-Ariworakul.
Yr.46 Vol.1, 6 – 12 June, 1999.
“Peel and denude the idea. Open up the raw world of instinct of Nitaya Eua-Ariworakul. Womanifesto – with artworks in mini-frames, raw, nude (headless) women, nameless. They all risk their fate in this gloomy world. Raw color and lighting, shallow space. No exit. Most of the works seem to have been torn out of a sketchbook. Very fresh indeed, with many techniques and subjects. It is like hearing the blues and rock mingled, hoarse and groaning, with a solo guitar for feeling…”
In the lonely night, there seems to be no way out for anonymous young women, judged and punished by society. The women seem to be dragged, without rights, bowing to their fate because of tradition, custom, values, whatever, like slaves.
It is a dark prison of the mind which becomes ordinary and acceptable in a consumer society.
The sketches are very simple. Simplicity is a taste that should not be denied. Some of the drawings are like cartoons, with very free lines. Sometimes the pictures are hard to understand. If there were some note of explanation…
Let me encourage her, says Niran, she who has chosen this path. It is her happiness to use her freedom in her work. She uses her instincts, both cultivated and raw. And she tries to understand herself and her fellow human beings.
I really wonder who the lady in these pictures is, shy and hurting, alone in a dark room. But who would want to know more? Why make such depressing pictures?
The picture “She” is a person with no right to protest, with no one to call upon for redress. This could be real life for many people.
The picture “Release Me” looks like a young woman in chains.
The picture “Beautiful” is the Buddha. The lines move more freely, the color is fresh.
These images are neither nice nor mannerly. We seem to be peeping at a private sketchbook. The ideas are still confused, between abstraction and reality.
It is very hard to communicate sometimes. Is something universal needed? Like a suit and tie. Speak English. There is a mask, as in a ‘Kohn’ play. It’s something we want to remove from ourselves (masks). Remove it or wear it till you die.
All who are interested in art, give this woman support. Nitaya Eua-Areworakul – one strong woman in the exhibition, ‘Nude Empty’ – opening Sunday, June 27 at Chandioh Gallery at Fun-Sunday Plaza in back of the Chatuchak Market.
Commentary: Through the years, the Silpa/Wattanatham column put many women briefly into the spotlight. The critic is very sympathetic with the voices which seem to come from the images in the ‘Nude Empty’ show in a gallery gamely located at the back of the weekend market. Intimations about the life and experience of the women in the pictures by artist, Nitaya, contrast starkly with the works and experience of Somjai Rice, another woman artist, who was interviewed a few weeks back by the Golden Paintbrush in ‘From Watercolor to Thai-ness, Yr.45, Vol.49, 9 – 15 May, 1999.

25. Manit Sriwanichphum. The Faith of the People of Bahn Krut..
Yr.46, Vol.2, 13 – 19 June, 1999.
Manit tells how he was invited by friends in the ‘Ukabat’ group to take part in an exhibition of paintings at Bahn Krut in Prachuabkirikan. They wanted to express their support for a group of villagers fighting to stop construction of a coal-fired electricity generating plant by a government sponsored private firm, Union Power Development Co.Ltd.
“I have been feeling bored and disgusted with myself, with the country, with society in general, so I wasn’t excited much when contacted to go and see ‘protest art’ this time. I had organized such activities myself and pretty much knew what to expect. And probably little would be accomplished. Why fight? Why protest? It will all be over soon. As my elders used to warn me,” says Manit, “ Who are you to think you can fight these biggies? Take care of your life. Do your own work.
“They warned me a lot,” says Manit, “ until my morale was utterly crushed because eventually, I knew that just knowing how to survive is best.
“Risking death for ones own ideals or fighting for the right is a joke in a society without ideals or faith in goodness like Thai society today.
“Meanwhile, the Ukabat people are brimming with faith and hope, all 3 of them – Wasan Sittiket, Mana Pupichit and Paisarn Plienbangchang, and an invited artist, Anurak Chachanand.
The group nails up their paintings to the trees along the beach. Manit records the comments of villagers who see their way of life being destroyed and jobs in factories being offered to them instead. Once happy in their community, the people are now divided in opinion and no longer trust each other. They regard each other with bitterness and pain.
Khun Jintana Kaewkao, one of the leaders told how they planned to close the highway in protest. Some leaders were arrested, but the protest did not fade away, and the villagers armed themselves, preparing to fight the police.
“We kept on demonstrating and protesting. We refused that electricity generating plant.” She tells how a group of 300 villagers went to the home of Anand Banyarachun (president of Saha Union Company) and begged the former prime minister to stop the project, but the discussion failed.
“He has a corpse in his hands and some holy thing in his mouth,” she said bitterly.
Manit sees a strategy of ‘divide and conquer’ in the ability of the authorities to set the villagers against each other. It is a tactic that works well in Thai society, he says.
The public hearings that were organized were not genuine in the peoples’ eyes.
“It has been a very tiring time, using time and energy and what little money they have, going back and forth to Bangkok so many times, fighting their way through the tricks of the cruel government. The more I saw, the more I respected them as fighters. They are, all of them.”
Manit is deeply moved by the people’s attachment to the land of their birth, their readiness even to die to stand their ground…old Uncle Somkid Sondhi, K. Jintana Kaewkao, K. Jurawidt Jaewsakul and the others. Manit finds himself deeply encouraged by the villagers’ example. “The villagers are like a greater fire of faith for people like me, whose faith is flickering out.”
Commentary: Not long after staring up in wonder at the murals of the Sistine ceiling in the Vatican, Manit is back in Thailand, standing on the beaches of Prachuabkirikan, looking with sympathy and respect into the fiercely determined faces of Thai villagers at Bahn Krut. They are fighting a desperate battle to protect their homes against the encroachment of unsympathetic officialdom and private sector investors. He finds himself uplifted and his courage rekindled by the determination of these poor country people. The morale of the art critic is thus strengthened and revived..

26. Manit Sriwanichphum. A Refreshing Burden.
Yr.46, Vol.3, 20 – 26 June, 1999.
“A small white room, not larger than 5 x 12 square meters in the Bangkok University Art Gallery has ‘rubber dolls,’ rather yellowish, life-size, four or five of them, seated on red cushions. Their eyes are closed in meditation. Similar cushions are placed before each figure, and each ‘doll’ has a red rubber tube attached to its navel. [A sign instructs:] Please sit on the red cushion, blow into the red tube and see.”
Manit takes a catalog and looks quickly at the statement by Suti Kunawichayanond, the creator of these works.
“While Thai people are weighing their hearts between joining the current of globalization or being satisfied with holding the line of yellow-skinned farmers of SE Asia; when everything is weak and weary, the former value of beauty has declined and deteriorated. The people become increasingly dried up and withered. Just breath, very delicate, helps extend life and liveliness in so many things. Adding breath is a great burden…but even though it is a burden that appears to have no end, it depends on patience, endurance and mercy. But it’s not a boring or painful burden…We should hold that it is a duty of the soul, a holy duty, which must be done happily…it is a refreshing duty of humanity.”
The works are a tease on the present social crisis, but Manit finds himself wondering why he does not find the presentation refreshing. Usually, he likes Suti’s works, but this time is no fun.
Manit calls them ‘rubber dolls’ instead of ‘sculptures.’ They are modeled from the body of the artist, himself. Why use a human figure? Why bald? Why is the figure sitting in a meditative position? Why did the artist use his own body as the mold?
Manit feels like the work involves ‘blowing up the ego of the artist.’ Puffed up, it becomes a sort of holy reverend acharn.
Breath in, breath out; this fits Thai Buddhism very well. If there is a crisis in life, go to Dharma. Manit sees in the rubber dolls the ‘body’ of Suti. The blowing up is a problematic symbol. (“Could the rubber doll be a Dharma riddle by which Suti is ridiculing or insulting Thai society?”) Manit mentions an inflatable female rubber doll which sailors took to sea with them…
Manit concludes that Suti’s work lacks imagination, and he is not pleased with the artist’s dense philosophical musing in the catalog.
Manit liked Suti’s earlier work, “When it rains, pig shit runs,” which also dealt with ‘breathing’ but was really much more fun for the participating audience. Manit liked the rubber elephant dolls and the rubber tiger dolls which Suti asked visitors to inflate with their own breath, “though in the end, one finds that these efforts [to inflate the rubber tigers] are meaningless and hopeless. No matter how much you try to help…it can only be temporary, and then they fold again.”
“Or even dolls like the 10 cute little elephants on which Suti fastened wheels, making the elephants run as if alive. They tried very hard to get out of the box which confined them, out of the glass case containing them. It was very sad to see.”
Commentary: Suti is an artist whose works Manit usually admires, but this set was not successful in the critic’s estimation. Manit’s analysis is concisely reasoned and without malice, citing earlier works which were much more refreshing. This negative critique makes the reader appreciate the artist’s efforts all the more by showing how difficult art is, and how even the most carefully constructed concepts can slide disastrously off the mark.


27. Niran Ketutad. Two Vision from Bordeaux and the Graphic Art of Toshiya Takahama. Yr.46 Vol.4, 27 June – 3 July, 1999.
“If the art of the world today goes beyond skill, delicacy and detailed care toward presenting mostly ideas, our world will be full ideas crashing together, crowded both in the air, on the water, in the wind, on the land, every hour of the day and night, because ideas are very mobile. Hundreds and thousands of ideas are born and die every day…
“The modern world in the era of the end of the millennium may be filled with thinkers. Bodies of humans may change – the forehead may stretch as the brain enlarges. The number of fingers might decrease, like crabs’ claws, from lack of use. “All these things are possible. When intellectuals and thinkers use their brains actively, there will be no doers, no one to carry things out after that.
“You think you want something – use your brain to think of it and Peng! It takes form, really exists.
“Think a lot. Think in measures. Think nonsense. Think well. Think evil. Think stupidly. Think fantasy. Think creatively. Think of that, of this.
“Better come back to the real world!!
“Looking at the works of art this time, I looked closely at ideas of 2 exhibitions with feelings of quiet, cool, still and silent. Nothing to impact feelings…
“Both events were works of someone who had crossed the waters from afar to show images of things concrete and ideas to people who have ideas or don’t. How much people absorb depends on the individual.
“One of those from the land of raw fish, Toshiya Takahama, presents ‘Bangkok Lotus Project 1998-1999’, at the Faculty of Painting, SU.
The other event is by two French women from the land of Bordeaux wine: ‘Two Visions from Bordeaux,’ by Marie Celine and Leticia Bourget at the Wityanitat Gallery, CU.
“Toshiya Takahama communicates his work in abstract form…an unreal, formless world, simple forms and lines, as if drawn by a child, denying visual reality, not attached to anything, like a world of ideas which cannot be seen. Let the viewer decide. Or it looks like a picture with no subject or message, made to decorate a room. “It has nothing to offer. The graphic technique has many complex stages before the images are complete. When you look at it, you have to read the name of the picture to find out what it means. Otherwise you might not get to the heart of it. Here! This is the world of abstraction.”
“Crossing over for a sip of Bordeaux wine at Chula, this set of works has photos, mixed media, video art. Marie Celine and black and white photos, pictures of little girls who look free, plump, innocent, in various poses, not wanting to look at the camera.
“Letitia Bourget, her work looks powerful and bold in some pieces. Perhaps too bold. (For example, she uses her own excrement sculpted into a piece of conceptual art.) Boldness is needed by people who make art, but it must be done right…Colonialists like the French, they don’t respect propriety in these cases.
“Big black and white photo portraits entitled ‘Friends Joining the Show’…’The Sleep’ is a composition that surprises the eye with extreme close-ups of the face of a sleeper. ‘Sewing the Line of Life’ …I think it mocks fortune by setting the lines of the hand anew.
“It’s not strange if the artworld today lacks skill. But ideas or wisdom are the central principle. If the idea is not good, or muddy or unclear, that’s another matter.”
Commentary: The Faculty of Painting at Silpakorn, ever interested in technical expertise, hosts a show of abstract works of graphic art by a Japanese artist. Chula, giving coverage to gutsy foreign women, hosts an exhibition of black and white photos by two French artists.
Judging from the diffuse and labored character of the critique, the two shows were not particularly inspiring for Niran.
The illustrations in the article include a reproduction of ‘Sewing the Line of Life,’ which is labeled ‘photocopy’ and another of ‘The Sleep,’ which is labeled ‘photo of photocopy,’ but the critic does not comment on the implications of the use of photocopying to create these high art images.

28. Niran Ketutad. ‘Flaring Emotion,’ the Expressionist Art of Yongyuth Damsri. Yr.46 Vol.5, 4 - 10 July, 1999.
The critic begins by explaining the aims and character of expressionist art generally, the use of distortion and raw color to express what the mind feels rather than what the eye sees. He briefly surveys the history of modern German expressionism since just before the first World War, mentioning Die Brucke and Der Blaue Reiter as examples of the emergence of the movement in the early 20th century.
Expressionism has never had much of a following in Thailand; expressionist painters are few. A vocalist and artist from Nakorn Srithammarat, where he studied at the College of Fine Arts, Yongyuth Damsri, is one of them. Taking his BFA from Poh Chang College, the artist exhibited for the first time in the 3rd Thailand Art Exhibition. Later, he organized 4 solo exhibitions and joined group shows with the Le Group, the Darmkwan Group, a group of graphic artists, and a group of ‘Artists for Nature.’
Niran quotes Yongyuth’s advice not to ‘draw according to the expectations of others.’ Aware of the constant need for compromise in daily life, Yongyuth noted that ‘only painting made him feel like himself.’
Asked about artistic influences, Yongyuth mentioned admiring works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Kandinsky, Amnart Yensabai, Ari Sutiphan and Wasan Sittiket.
Though Yongyuth’s works are not ‘virgin fresh’, Niran finds them bold and sincere.
Analyzing his oil paintings this time, the critic sees two patterns or styles, one more realistic, the other more symbolic. Niran suggests the artist might try working in black and white, however, because, “in some pictures, the form and the color are much in conflict. It looks intentional rather than like the emotional flaring up of which [Yongyuth] speaks.” The critic briefly surveys 7 paintings in the show, for example:
“I don’t destroy forests,” – a tree trunk with no branches. The leaves are indicated with simple marks, but the light is soft and indistinct, lonely and sad, reflecting the swampy recesses of the artist’s state of mind.
“Can you not know just one thing, please?” – The idea refers to persons who interfere with the [artist/singer’s] work, to the media society that wants to know everything.
And “Can you Hear Me?” – in which the artist tries to give the picture more voice, like music whose colors you can see. In actually, there isn’t any, but we seem to perceive it.”
The artist admits that these paintings are ‘a total mess,’ but promises to present a new series in the coming year which will be more enjoyable. The critic expresses guarded optimism.
Commentary: Silpa/Wattanatham gives coverage to an aspiring local talent with interesting reproductions of Yongyuth’s work illustrating the article. Judging by the review, Paritat Hutangkul’s show (Yr.45, Vol.45 11 - 17 April, 1999), despite that artist’s crudely misogynist images, was much more powerful. Manit’s review was, accordingly, much more interesting. It may prove the old adage that stronger art elicits more vigorous criticism.


29. Manit Sriwanichphum. Private and Public.
Yr.46, Vol.6, 11 - 17 July, 1999.
Manit describes his experience making photographs for a living for more than 10 years. He worked for magazines and advertising companies. He was always very aware of the need to make a polished professional composition. Indeed, the look of his photographs tended to remain within the ‘professionally photographed’ genre. To change his style, he eventually bought himself an ‘idiot’ camera with the automatic focus and light control which is so popular with the public generally. This so-called ‘idiot’ camera then becomes the boss, leaving nothing to the user but to point the camera and click the shutter. Even so, Manit didn’t get the pictures he wanted. Some were blurred, some very dark, some over-powered by the flash.
Most people are not too concerned about these imperfections as long as they have the keepsake image they need. They do not consider themselves as artists, nor do they regard their personal photos as artworks. They just snap what they want to preserve in memory – their friends, loved ones, relatives or images of themselves on holiday in famous places. Later, advertising and fashion photographers and artists in other fields borrowed this ‘candid’ mode as a stylish hit all over the world. Then you had ‘real candid’ and ‘fake candid’.
“Like so many other people, I believed that ‘every picture has a story, every picture has meaning, thought this many not always be true. But at least, it must be true of the photographer. The photo records a journey of [the photographer’s] life, no matter how small or big. On this journey, there is no turning back. That’s why we have photos to let us remember.”
Manit confesses that he has never given much importance to [photos of] his own private life. Though he took tens and hundreds of thousands of pictures for other people, he never has collected any photos of his own personal world. Though he likes to look at other people’s photo albums, he has none of his own!
Sompong Tawi, by contrast, has hundreds of personal photos on show in his “Once is Never Enough” exhibition at Gallery 253, with Tanom Chapakdi. Most of Sompong’s pictures are of friends, people at parties, pretty girls, former girlfriends, new girlfriends. Dogs and cats at home, bedroom, bathroom, toilet. Sompong presents his personal world for the world to see.
There are 800 photos, postcard size, all mixed up in time, place and subject, dangling from strings tacked to the wall. The strings serve to connect friendships and various close relationships from his past. Though the people in the pictures smile back at Sompong, they now smile back at us. Sompong’s private world has dissolved into the public world.
It almost seems as if Sompong should be honored for sheer ‘exhibitionism’. He has had so many shows, one after the other, sometimes with little to offer, of poetry, performance art and painting. He did many things with little skill and little determination. (“If anyone took him seriously, they would be crazy.”)
Even so, Manit finds the latest show at Gallery 253 to be quite worthwhile. “It is a(n ego) breakthrough for him. With this show, the audience is able to have some rapport, to perceive one person’s fate and fortune. Manit is much more interested in Sompong’s show than in the images from tourist spots round the world, the landscapes and art galleries in the photos by Tanom Chapakdi.
“Tanom still doesn’t dare to bring out his real personal life, to ‘undress’ for us...unlike Sompong, whose personal life seems to be his public life, in which we are able to have a part of his feelings and his story.”
Commentary: Manit’s article on Sompong Tavi and Niran Ketutad’s article on Yongyuth Damsri (Yr.46 Vol.5, 4 - 10 July, 1999) make an interesting contrast. Manit is fascinated with photography and intrigued by Sompong, an artist, somewhat ‘on the fringe,’ who can realize, in the public eye, 800 glimpses of his personal history by stringing up hundreds of old snapshots. Compared with Manit’s autobiographical confidences, Niran’s introduction of Yongyuth by reference to the history of German expressionism and the artist’s inspiration from Picasso and Van Gogh seem rather ponderous.

30. Manit Sriwanichphum. The Wisdom of the Snail.
Yr.46, Vol.7, 18 - 24 July, 1999.
Manit comments on the ‘Thai Wisdom’ fashion which is presently sweeping the media in television advertising and even in theaters before the playing of the royal anthem. The critic casts a cold eye on the unconvincing media images of students hurrying up-country to keenly study the way of life of country people. “The music plays, flowers bloom all over the background, and the segment closes on an image of a mobile phone logo.”
Last year, the same mobile phone company advertised with a youth in a hi-tech shiny suit like an astronaut. The sudden swing back to romantic agrarian images is confusing.
The critic’s dismay grows when he visits a special exhibition celebrating the preservation of Thai Heritage 1999. The show was at the National Museum of Bangkok, entitled: Regional Thai Wisdom and Technology. And there was a question tacked on at the end of that, too. “[Will we] Join in global competition, or move forward, uniquely Thai, in the world society?” Not bad.
The museum’s exhibition room, not much bigger than a temple hall, was broken into lots according to basic factors: Thai food, lodging, weaving and cloth, medicine and medical care. The show begins with a house on stilts with an open space beneath. There is a bench with pillows, large water jars and a cloth hammock in the back. Walking further in to the ‘food’ section, we see examples of a Thai kitchen. There are pots, ceramic pots, wooden cooking utensils and Chinese decorated dishes. Looking at the way they set it up, it looked more like the way of life of cavemen. Keep walking and you find small baskets with examples of Thai rice, and explanatory pictures.
There are also model houses in the old Thai style, adapted Thai houses, and models of houses provided by the National Housing Authority from some of their old projects. This section closes with a Thai home beside a swimming pool.
The Thai clothing section shows white models wearing ‘adapted Thai clothes.’ The local Thai people are represented in miniscule photos of uncle and auntie, resting in their sarongs. It was a very sad sight, that the values of local folk are shown this way.
Manit feels weak-kneed in the section on traditional Thai medicine. “I felt I was walking through an atmosphere of nationalism, as in the era of Field Marshall Plaeck and Luang Wichit Wattakarn. Perhaps it was the atmosphere of the place – the museum –and civil servants looking after the rooms. Or maybe the sayings on the ceiling, “Preserving the legacy of the Thai is preserving the Thai nation.”
Since the economic crisis of 1997, the ‘Thai folk wisdom’ theme has become a propaganda tool. Many private companies also use this theme to show how much they care for Thai society. When the economy is good, however, they go with hi-tech satellites (which they buy instead of developing themselves). They are not interested in Thai wisdom at that point. On the contrary, they scorn it.
The exhibition of local wisdom and rural technology arranged at the museum by the Fine Arts Department was very bureaucratic, and very silly, in Manit’s view, because the country people in Laos, Khmer, Vietnam and Burma and many other countries in the region have a way of life very similar to the way of life in rural Thailand. Manit agrees with his friend’s assessment: Thai people understand the value of a lie, and they know how to survive very well. That is the true Thai wisdom.
Commentary: Pity the poor officials in the museum and the Fine Arts Department when Manit decides to visit their exhibition. The critic has no mercy, playing the gadfly to bureaucratic mediocrity as he outlines the extremely lame display. The pictures accompanying the text illustrate some of the exhibition’s inadequacies.

31. Niran Ketutad. Tora Matsuyama – Woodcuts from Japan.
Yr.46 Vol.8, 25 - 31 July, 1999.
The artistic excellence of each nationality differs by character, habit, custom and culture. In painting, the French are famous since the Impressionist period. In sculpture, the world celebrates Italy, especially Michelangelo. In terms of graphic art, we must accept that Japan, with its long history and tradition, is best in the field.
The woodcuts of Toru Matsuyama in the classic style present a corner of nature in imagination. He prints them using watercolor rather than oil, making the work fresh, not opaque, full of energy, with distinctive subjects and compositions.
The work of Toru Matsuyama is naturalist in expression, especially images of various plants…all growing in lively fashion, combining ideas and imagination from various angles as in a fantastic, lonely dream.
The artist especially likes the curving smoothness of a bit of moon at night, the moonlight bathing the complex vegetation in the darkness. The outlines are very sweet, soft branches, flowers and leaves, drifting and floating in the air and on the dark and heavy earth.
‘Poetry of Birth’ – little living things being born, bringing freshness to the earth, providing food to others with their own vegetable bodies. Elders from nature give to all humanity and all living things on earth.
‘Leaf Flame’ - the rhythm of leaves dances under the radiant moon.
‘Banquet Under the Earth’ – the surface of the earth is the source of food for plants. The composition is packed and tight, deep space, points lead the eye, peaceful color, emphasis on line and shape.
“We have to accept that Japanese graphic artists have a naturalist point of view, very ancient and profound, living poems with imaginative forms. The ways of nature must be part of [the artist’s] life, like deep roots in the soul and in the reality around us.”
The show is in the gallery of the Fine Arts Faculty of Rachapat Institute, Suan Dusit.
Commentary: Once again, Niran references art history as a way of setting some sort of context and background for the works at hand. The critic focuses on the naturalism and poetry of the romantic, moonlit images. The artist has tried to suggest the profound power and gift so generously given by the plant kingdom to all that lives in the world.

32. Niran Ketutad. A Woman Artist from Argentina and Fantasia Latina.
Yr.46 Vol.9, 1 – 7 August, 1999.
The exhibition “Fantasia Latina” by Lydia Heidi Wieteskid, an Argentinean artist was jointly organized by the Argentinean Embassy in Thailand and the Administrative Science Institute of Chulalongkorn University. The show includes 11 metal sculptures and 20 paintings, mostly abstractions.
The bronze sculptures, relieved of rigidity and hardness, have a soft, gentle look.
The material has a lively, moving appearance, flowing, silky, curving and emotive. The reflective surface of the metal shines and sparkles. Other pieces look serious and tense, solid, showing a rough surface contrasting with a gentle form, like toughness hidden in softness, inviting further investigation.
The paintings and sculptures of Lydia show ideas and dreams in a personal world which finds freedom in abstract forms, communicating feeling through form and composition rather than through realistic subject. Most of the oil paintings are in hot colors, yellow, orange and red.
The artist was born in Buenos Aires and studied art in the US. She gained experience from traveling and living in cities like Sao Paolo, Miami, Mexico City and Bangkok.
Commentary: No commentary needed here about a diplomatic goodwill exchange exhibition.

33. Manit Sriwanichphum. Industry: Recording Personal History.
Yr.46, Vol.10, 8 - 14 August, 1999.
Manit and his darling are enjoying their pleasant little Italian-style picnic with red wine, gazing out over a view of the city of Florence, under the setting sun, when suddenly, ‘as if in a dream’ a groom and bride appear, hand in hand, floating smilingly into the frame, complete with photographer and videotape technician. Thus, the most picnic spot with a view becomes the background for [big time] wedding photos. One wedding couple after another are queued up for pictures.
Manit watches the directing and producing of the photography session with bride and groom: the call from the photographer to embrace, to kiss, to look lovingly into each other’s eyes, sweetly, as if freshly fallen in love. The Italians can do it all very well.
It reminds one of Benjasiri Park in Thailand, where Thai bridal couples like to have their pictures taken. But Thai yuppie bridal couples don’t act as well. Thai grooms can manage the requisite sweetness – perhaps they are embarrassed, or the sun is in their eyes. The photographer becomes impatient and clicks the shutter. Just get it over with!
Manit notes how much wedding photos in Thailand have changed, unlike when his parents operated a camera shop when he was a schoolboy. Ah Hia, the owner of the shop, took the wedding photos. There wasn’t much to it in those days. The pair would dress in their wedding clothes with garlands upon their necks. They stood before a blue screen, smiling at the camera, arms at their sides. Or the bride might take the groom’s arm, to show that she put her life in his care. The pictures were always very gentle and charming.
Nowadays, however, the wedding photo business, following trends from Hongkong and Taiwan, offer a very luxurious program at a high cost for a lavish selection of photos. These photos say a lot about Thai society today, where getting married is not just a matter of two people in love committing to each other for a lifetime. Getting married has become more than a social blessing: it has become a fantasy dream of young men and women in the new age, the age of shameless egotism.
The wedding photo company has the responsibility for coming up with a ‘concept’ which will guide all the photos, according to the selected fantasy.
Manit finds these photos false, insincere, posed, badly acted, inhuman and unnatural. Anyone who sees them will think them rather silly rather than romantic. These photos attempt to let an ordinary couple feel like stars. Hence, these photos are not about love, but rather about image.
The wedding will be an important moment in the couple’s personal history. The media will be involved, especially the social news where someone famous must be listed as having presided over the nuptials. Thai society has gone over the edge: a 10 million baht wedding for little ‘Mangkut’ who is famous for excess. As for the current economic crisis, with the bulk of the population slipping toward poverty, Miss Mangkut and her groom boasted of their riches (not of their love) to make people jealous. Why play at such things?
Manit’s American friend (who speaks Thai very well) had his wedding photo dressed as a Chinese Mandarin, a fan in one hand, his other hand around the waist of his ‘consort’, a Thai Chinese girl. The bride was very beautiful. Like a starlet from an action movie who has leaped from the TV screen and cuddled up to the white as if she were so very happy. In any case, the image said that the groom accepted the ‘being Chinese’ of his Thai Chinese bride. But how can such pictures not be ridiculous?
Commentary: As a young schoolboy, Manit spent a lot of time around a photo shop. He would have seen, from an early age, countless examples of the many intimate and important social roles and services played by photography. Wedding photos are just one of the many photographic genres which have served official and historical functions in society. Manit’s essay takes a dim view of the lavish spending on wedding photos which the critic sees as representing a new extreme in serving personal aggrandizement in the fantasies of yuppie nuptials.

34. Pinit Ninratana. Living Creatures They Call Human.
Yr.46, Vol.11, 15 – 21 August, 1999.
Chart Kobchit made a new page in history by being first to win the SEAWrite award twice, first in 1982 for The Judgment and again in 1994 for Time. This year, history repeats itself again as Win Liohwarin, author of Double Zero, becomes the second, after Chart. Wintr takes a ‘double SEAWrite’ with Living Creatures They Call Human. Pinit writes about the competition and Win talks about the inspiration for the book.



35. Chalong Pinijsuwan. A Masterpiece of Woodcarving.
Yr.46, Vol.12, 22 – 28 August, 1999.
Woodcarving at the Viharn of Wat Phra Singh, Chiengsaen period.

36. Pen Pakta. From ‘The Essence of Nature’ to the Core of Abstraction.
Yr.46, Vol.13, 29 August – 4 September, 1999.
“In my point of view,” writes the artist, Seni Chaemdech, “art and Dharma are the same thing. And Dharma and Nature are the same thing. Nowadays, I live by bringing together art, Dharma and Nature. They are all the same thing.”
Seni has shown his work frequently in the past year, twice on his own and a number of times with other artists and groups such as Si Tassana (4 Viewpoints) and the ‘Save the Western Forest’ group. His first solo show this year was at the Museum of the Suan Pakkad Palace, ‘The Breath of Nature.’ This time, however, the artist insisted:
“It’s time to remove the outer peeling and to pull out the true ‘core of nature,’ whose value humans never see. It must be shown for once for the world to experience.”
There are 30 oil paintings in the new show. They divide clearly into those which ‘make sense’ and those which don’t, in common parlance. The artists would say they divide into pictures of ‘exterior’ and ‘interior’ subjects. Academicians would call the two groups ‘abstract’ and ‘semi-abstract.’
As to those works which make sense, which use ‘exterior’ subjects and are semi-abstract, they may seem easier to understand, but you don’t get the whole idea in a flash. You will just begin to see a trail, a sign, a structure, which somehow resembles nature. All this simply helps one to imagine more and to go on, creating further and further.
One example of this approach is Seni’s Untidy Origins, a canvas divided into a left and a right side, using a striking and beautiful play of green and red tones.
People who insist on stories and subjects may not be very interested in the set of totally abstract works which only suggest ‘the flavor of things.’
The most outstanding point of the pictures in this set, notes Pen, is that each picture is able to shock the emotions or electrify the feelings of the viewer decisively and immediately from the first second. This point, says the critic, we take as precisely the essential principle of making abstract art. If the new symbols created by the artist, already difficult to understand, are insipid and tight when wholly realized, and are unable to stimulate or excite the emotion of the viewer, then that kind of work is considered to have failed.
The critic describes in detail Seni’s ‘truly abstract’ painting, Dark and Light.
The artist’s habit of dividing his pictures into two contrasting parts, like the idea of yin and yang, suggest a Buddhist world view. However, the most striking element in these paintings is the artist’s genius in the use of color. Though some of the paintings have been criticized as being a bit flat, the color is splendid, even ‘angelic.’
At the closing of the exhibition on 30 August, a discussion between Seni Chaemdech and senior graphic artist Ittipol Thangchalok, with Dr.Krisana Hongutain as host and moderator.
Commentary: The critic does a good job of attempting to simplify for readers some basic approaches to appreciating abstract art. Clearly, some model of appreciation is helpful, even necessary, to encourage the uninitiated.



37. Niran Ketutad. Life in the View of the New Wave.
Yr. 46, Vol. 14, 5 – 11 September, 1999.
Five artists and works full of stories of life, content which makes the heart tremble, thinking of dangers from the social problems all around us. They are outstanding works from the 267 sent in to compete in this year’s exhibition of Thailand’s best fine art. In addition to the prizes they received, these works will represent Thailand in the Best Art of ASEAN competition in Kuala Lampur in November.
Ditsapong Boonsanong, using crayon on handmade paper, created a drawing of gibbons packed in a cage in his work About Life. It makes one think of people, too. Humans or animals, all need freedom in life.
Piwat Nophiran’s Siam Smile is another work which expresses human emotion on the dark negative side. Wearing masks which cunningly express just the opposite of ones true feelings.
Panu Saruaysuwan’s Miss Thailand shows a young Thai lady from many close-up angles, mixing ideas and materials which suggest the female sex. The picture suggests the packaging of beauty as a commodity to be enjoyed by the powerful.
Marut Wanthong’s Sankarn (‘the flesh’) shows a paralyzed woman gazing at her care-giver. The room is dark and crowded. Many families struggle to take care of their ailing members.
Wutikorn Kongka’s The Fate of Young Girls, 2000, in chilling tones, presents an image of night-time society which invites all kinds of dangerous behaviors and a sad and depressing state for young women.
Other interesting works include: The Same Destination, by Chakrit Srisongkram, a picture of a traffic jam and the competitive life in Bangkok; Within the Human Mind and a Picture of My Wheels by Rattapol Tiradamrongtanya is both playful and cutting, mocking the behavior of men in suits and in yellow cloth, and naked women.
Tamniap Sira’s picture, Life, Countryside, Earning a Living suggests a friendly provincial atmosphere.
In addition, two artist professors sent in works – Roong Tirapichit and Wijit Apichatkriengkrai. Their works look strange and interesting with their use of materials.
These best works of art in-Thailand –this-time express the particular character of each artist and express the state of society and culture as it is today, from many angles.
Commentary: National competitions in Thailand lead toward participation in an ASEAN art competition at the international level.

38. Manit Sriwanichphum. From the Parthenon to Amarin Plaza.
Yr.46, Vol.15, 12 – 18 September, 1999.
Manit quotes the German teacher of architecture he chatted with in Greece:
“In the olden days,” the professor had said,“ the grandest architecture, fine and beautiful, was reserved for very special buildings only – such as temples and the palaces of kings.”
He explained the old ideas about building residences in the West in answer to Manit’s wondering about why the homes of the Greeks were pretty much the same, rich or poor. Manit couldn’t find any of the exotic residential architecture which is well known in Thailand. Still, Manit found the idea of reserving grandness to be not an entirely ‘white’ idea. The same used to be true of Thai society, long ago. Even in the poorest provincial areas of Thailand, everyone’s dwelling place remains pretty much the same. In areas economically better off, however, there is often an exotic variety of dwelling investments and styles, some of them like mansions, estates, even palaces. On the view of the German professor, in Thai society now, the special and holy places are either quite scattered or no long as important. The special status of some places has been diluted, become pale, as society’s structure, politics and culture changed. Holiness has moved from temples and palaces to the homes of individuals. We bring it into ourselves. Indeed, Manit concludes, we now worship ourselves, the individual egos and ‘being an individual’ above all else. The form and style of the house reflects the ideas, taste, success, wealth and status in society of the resident.
Temples and palaces are still visited, but they have to work hard to survive. They become museums and receive donations from visiting tourists.
People who visit temples are looking for a little luck, knock on a Buddha image’s head and ask for a lottery number. The temples compete among themselves in size and glory so as not to lose face in the eyes of the people.
In Greece, Manit did not see any skyscrapers of 20 stories or more. The buildings were limited to not more than 10 stories. None were allowed to rise above the revered symbol of the Parthenon. By contrast, Thai people don’t think much about respecting old glory. In Thailand, temples, palaces and mosques are all dwarfed by tall office buildings nowadays. Amarin Plaza is a good example. The post-modern eclectic mishmash of architectural parts uses giant (fake) columns to suggest that the building is like a holy place, like an old temple. Manit rejects the claim that he is too conservative. “I’m saying that everything should have limits, should have its own flourishing and balance.”
A Greek girl who was studying a Byzantine image of Jesus and various saints told Manit that the Italian painters had tried to portray Jesus like an ordinary human person, but the Greeks held to a more idealized vision. The Byzantine monks called religious symbols ‘a window through which we see God.’ Pictures were not just for the eye and the surface image.
In a thousand years, the Byzantime image of Jesus did not change. It is an idealized face which has been passed on even today. The artist must be without ego; the style cannot be turned by a Tawan or a Chalermchai.
With ideas and traditions, the style of individual craftsmen radiate out naturally, at the level of detail; how fine is the mind and the skill, not in cunning, determined to make a style. The objective of making the face of God in Byzantine art was ‘ to communicate Dharma’ – a blessing, serving the Lord, not showing off. That is, function was more important than ego.
Commentary: Manit prefers the idea of the idealized rather than the human face of God, and is disturbed by the result of having scattered holiness out from temples into people’s individual residences. The critic is repelled by signs of burgeoning egotism in residential architecture and even in images of the Buddha in contemporary art.






39. Manit Sriwanichphum. The Best Got Nothing; the Winners Were Lame.
Yr.46, Vol.16, 19 – 25 September, 1999.
“It’s the judging committee, not the artists who sent in work, who are mediocre.”
“A famous architect and national artist in the field of architecture – that was what he said after receiving my wai in the middle of the hall of the National Gallery. I could only stand stunned and smiling (they [the judges] got what they deserved). What this critic said in conclusion was exactly what I thought.”
They were both uncomfortable with the winners and losers in the show.
“What a pity! So much good work, and it wasn’t rewarded. Look at the work opposite the door. Very strong. OK, it may be like the work of Damien Hirst…but it’s still better than the one that got a prize, he said, pointing at the work of one artist …(I think it was by Daeng Buasaen, but there was no sign with a name to identify it – Let the visitors figure it out for themselves!)”
“In less than a minute, when the catharsis of feeling heavy and heavy hearted, depressed and baffled, had ended, our architect of Siam left with the breeze, leaving me to wander around and consider these works on my own.
“Why did the committee of judges of the 45th National Art Exhibition get slammed as mediocre?”
Manit notes that the circle of artists, academics, art scholars and art lovers who follow the National Exhibition seems to be shrinking. He quotes the catalog article for this show, 50 Years of the National Art Exhibition, by Surasak Charoenwongs from the Faculty of Painting at Silpakorn University. In his article, Surasak points out that the national show is becoming a forum for mostly young artists. ‘Professional artists’ don’t want to compete because of the way the judging committee is selected, according to Surasak. The selection follows changes initiated since 1984. The writer considers this tampering to be the primary reason that the quality of prize winners has continued to fall in this exhibition.
Manit reviews the history of attacks made on the way the National Exhibition was conducted in the years between 1977 and 1983. Many at that time considered it to be a conveniently controlled show, ‘a family business.’ In response, the administrators of Silpakorn eventually changed the rules, opening the selection of judges to include representatives from other institutions as well. This solution seemed more democratic.
Manit notes Surasak’s bitter comment on the results of that historic decision: “The people of that era, rather than helping to create good artworks, simply created a loud noise, like frogs after a heavy rain.” In the aftermath of that decision, the quality of artworks and expertise of the participating artists gradually but steadily declined.
In Manit’s view, Surasak ‘sees the result, but doesn’t understand the cause.’
Manit believes that the quality of the judging improved, but that the process of selecting judges was still unfinished, needed to go forward. The judges should have continued to change, following the changing development of the nation’s social structure.
“But that never happened. Everything just stopped there. The new rules became the old rules, repetitious and monotonous. So, the judges had the same old faces, old ideas, no change. This, in fact, is the problem. How could the show not die?”
In Manit’s view, civil service professors, including art professors, are everywhere equally conservative and resistant to innovation in administration. The private sector must come in to push for change – pressure – then it goes forward.
Manit also takes a swipe at the reference to ‘professional artists,’ asking how much they pay in taxes for the art works they sell.
There has been no research in 50 years, complains the critic, to measure the impact of the National Art Exhibition, whether it weakens or builds up creative thinking in art.
Manit closes with his own long list of suggestions as to how to prevent the national show from becoming as old fashioned and behind the times as the civil service.
Commentary: The history and development of the National Art Exhibition is a fascinating microcosm and mirror of Thailand’s contemporary ideological and intellectual development. The bitterness of the old regime at their ‘ruined’ creation has not been healed by the passage of time. The intentions of the reformers have not come to full bloom. The story of the National Exhibition represents a rich mine, packed with of all kinds of historical case studies which still lie virtually untouched.


40. Niran Ketutad. Thoughts from the National Art Exhibition.
Yr. 46, Vol. 17, 26 September – 2 October, 1999.
“After joining the seminar on ‘Art Criticism of Visual Arts at Bahn Chao Phraya on Phra Ahtit Road, and taking a look at the works in the 45th National Art Exhibition, we could draw some conclusions and make some observations about the structure of the judging committee, the standards in judging, as a group and individually, of the judges, and some of the interesting ideas of people speaking at the seminar.”
The judges were selected from among master artists, independent artists and critics or art scholars.
The principles for judging the artworks (of Assoc.Prof. Kietisak Chanonarodt) were:
1) Establishes a new idiom; outstanding and unique.
2) Uses fresh new forms and approaches.
3) Powerful
4) Has continuity with the artist’s oeuvre.
5) Represents a progressive step for a senior artist
Generally, judges should have wide knowledge about art and expertise in some area, for example, in painting or techniques of graphic art. They should judge without bias. They should know the ideas and distinctive personal characteristics of the artist and the expressive techniques, forms or styles.
Like Manit, Niran also has his own ideas about criteria for selecting judges, and seconds the opinion of Prof. Kamchorn Soongpongsri, that the subject of a work of art is also important, compared to technique (which is only a tool for expressing an idea about the subject).
“A prizewinning work plays on technique, method and form, as in the print entitled The Pagoda, by Tamrongsak Nimanusornkul, which took the gold medal in graphics.
The form is geometrical – like Op Art, but you can’t see any content to make one dream, wonder or follow beyond. The good part is the artist’s determination to do a piece which is utterly distinctive and different.
“ The work entitled Faith and the Invisible by Supote Singhsai, which took a bronze in painting, has a subject and style which many artists have done before, unlike the work, The River Does Not Flow Back Again, by Nucharee Pidech, who also took a bronze, but which has a more profound and moving subject. It is Buddhist in philosophy without using the walls of temples or chapels, like so many artists have liked to do.
Of the graphic work, Movement in the Surrounding State, by Thanasarn Pattanasutichonkul, some said it should not have been a prize-winner – there are more interesting works in the show. But Thanasarn works hard with technique and form.
Mongkol Kerdwan’s untitled mixed media was almost eliminated from the start, but later won a silver medal. He got points for the beautiful form, hard work, innovation, and because the work was a set of 9 pieces.
Niran also takes a look at notable works which did not win prizes – Sirichai Sornchit’s painting-installation, Changing States of Mind; Sirinit Dirujicharoen’s sculpture, The Last Item on the Agenda, 2541, which says something about death. It’s quite different in some ways, but the dead look quite typical. Repressed State, a mixed-media installation by Titi Saengrangsri, protests the destruction of the forests.
Daeng Buasaen’s Method of Controlling Society is enigmatic, bruised and beaten. Not pretty, but bold. And finally, Bandit Poonsombatlert’s Readymade Products with Chromium Kiosk, where parts of human bodies are on sale.
With a hope that next year’s show will improve beyond this one, Niran assesses the weak points of the 45th National Art Exhibition as:
1) Prizes awarded more for technique (craft) rather than for subject or story.
2) The sculpture section was haphazardly arranged and many pieces were not identified.
3) The concept of the works did not accompany the artworks, leaving the viewers to struggle for themselves in making an interpretation.
Commentary: Between Manit’s and Niran’s rather different responses to this show, providing contrasting and useful perspectives, we get a brief, but vivid glimpse of the state of the official artworld in 1999. Both critiques have a number of photos of works from the 45th show.

41. Pen Pakta. Sompop Budtarad: The Picture Declares, ‘Thai Traditional Art, a
New Era.’ Yr.46, Vol.18, 3 – 9 October, 1999.
There was quite a noise all over the city in response to the picture, My Angel, one of the latest works by young painter, Sompop Budtarad, from the highland plateau of Mahasarakam.
“Many years before, Prof.Chalud Nimsamur used to shake up the artworld with his sculptural masterpiece, Lokutra. His inspiration was the symbolic flame of holy fire above the topknot on the head of Buddha images of the Lanna school. He adapted that and put the new elements into a striking, innovative pattern. The sculpture stands before the Sirikit Convention Center. The after-shocks from this image were considerable. How great? A major artist like Angkarn Kalyanapong was compelled to appear, virtually dancing with fury, asking Buddhists all over the country, ‘Is it right? To bring such noble things and to set them on the ground?’ And, ‘What could possibly reflect the Lokutra?
“This case had many like-minded artists coming out to contest, pointing to the path that must be chosen – between ‘new creative ideas’ and ‘ultimate conservatism.’
Since Panya Wijintanasarn made his picture of the enormous head of the reclining Buddha, gazing upon the fortunes of the human world, no artist has shaken the artworld so completely until the appearance of Sompop’s work in the group exhibition at Siam City Hotel.
The critic points out the ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ points to making a contemporary work of art in traditional Thai style. The strong point is that the artist can use all his skill and expressive potential, within a framework of traditional motifs and techniques. The weak point is that the artist is confined within traditional subjects, which have moral teachings already attached. The principle content of traditional Thai, anchored, fixed and immovable, is therefore a daunting constraint for creative artists who choose to work in this idiom.
While Sompop is not famous, he was a prize-winner in the Bua Luang Show in 1983, and he worked on the mural paintings at Wat Bhudda Pratheep in London. In his latest solo exhibition, Transitory (anijang), his installations show some striking new ideas about the mystery of ceremonies and the people’s way of life. In one piece, Sompop presented a child’s cradle with a pair of twins, white and black, and empty – symbolizing the loss of his own twin while still in their mother’s womb.
In Sompop’s latest contemporary/ traditional images, he ‘tears’ a familiar figure of a Buddha image. The top of a pagoda is broken and scattered. The atmosphere glitters with moonlight which shines on the old temple roof. A kinaree plays in a pool of water…
There is a circle of faces, beautiful, serious and dark, but also sweet and gentle, friendly and charitable, clearly a comfortable mixture of Buddha, goddess and Madonna.
Sompop is able to represent an innocent beauty which has no borders; neither Buddhist nor Christian, Mahayan nor Hinayan. Not past, not present, not future. It is not real; it’s not a dream, a state of being born and extinguished, like sleeping and awakened….
Society yearns for a savior, a sacrificing, kind, sweet, caring and unconditionally loving and giving person. We feel, instinctively, that this person should be a mother, but not only beautiful. She must be a leader, as well, like a man.
In fact, Hindu philosophy of art stresses the power of women, the contrasting complements – male and female. Indians believe women have real power, pouring out sweetness to balance the male.
Sompop Budtarad has been able to combine the handsome and quiet character of the male with the sweet gentleness of the female together in harmony, undivided. It is wonderful that a brave artist has broken through the repetitive monotony which has too long dominated the forms of traditional Thai painting.
Commentary: Very difficult reading for the uninitiated, this critique would be of great interest to enthusiasts of traditional Thai painting by contemporary artists.

42. Manit Sriwanichphum. Iron Pussi, Sperm Gun, and Satisfaction.
Yr.46, Vol.19, 10 – 16 October, 1999.
Manit examines the plight of the latest winner of the Miss Queen of the Universe, Thailand, Miss Oh Patira Sirinamwong. No hoards of government and private agencies seek her out as presenter for their products or campaigns. Her mother or guardian is not honored as an outstanding role model for other parents. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any ‘best in the nation’ award ahead for Miss Oh at all, strangely enough…. But why?
Because Miss Queen of the Universe is a position for the ‘Transvestite Miss Universe.’ Everyone avoids it out of fear for their image.
Manit examines the case of beauty competitions generally, where the protocols are very similar. Miss Oh had to wear a traditional Thai outfit, a swimsuit and an evening gown, just like real women beauty queens have to do. The only difference in Miss Oh’s ‘little friend down there,’ which was, in fact a requisite governing this pageant. But she told the media that if there were enough money, she would cut it for sure. Rather than enjoying the limelight, feeling loved and merry, she had to be very discrete about media coverage.
Some months earlier, Khun Ying Supatra Masadit moved to block the appearance of gays and transvestites in various Thai television programs, asking the media to censor themselves voluntarily and not to present images of ‘such persons.’ The Khun Ying urged a campaign against ‘homosexual behavior.’ One academic, and expert in psychology, went public saying that being gay was a mental illness which required treatment.
Manit therefore calls upon the Iron Pussi to put in their place these politicians and narrow minded academics who so selectively oppress the rights and freedoms of gays in Thailand. Iron Pussi makes super-gay the super hero(ine). The many short film episodes were created, directed and starred in by performance artist Michel Shaowanasai. As ‘Mongkol,’ the yuppie hero, Michel wears big, square-rimmed glasses (like Clark Kent) when working at his job in a finance company. But when there is a villain to contain, our hero runs into a beauty salon to transform into the Iron Pussi. “From being a proper male, he becomes she, mighty and powerful, and dressed like Miss Tiffany. (You get the picture, right?)
The Iron Pussi’s most powerful weapon is the sperm gun. Anyone who is hit by her sperm will have a tremendous (probably fatal) climax.
After describing the short film, Manit concludes that Iron Pussi is a fun movie, annoying, maddening, sexually charged, crazy, rude and presenting an image of the sex service industry of Thai society. Very Sad. (It grows as fast as Japanese factories in Thailand.) This looks to be the most successful of Michel’s short films. He shows us the dreams and desires of gays that someone like the Iron Pussi would arise to protect them from the evils of society, just like Superman comes to help real males and females. “Help me! Iron Pussi….help me!”
Commentary: Manit strikes a blow for the rights of Thailand’s gay community generally, giving sympathetic coverage to the most recent Miss Queen of the Universe, Thailand, whose title did not bring her the attention and support that normally reward beauty pageant winners. The art critic doubly champions the civil liberties of gays by giving close and appreciative consideration of Michel Shaowanasai’s short film, Iron Pussi.



43. Pen Pakata. Thinking of Waterways.
Yr.46, Vol.20, 17 – 23 October, 1999.
“It shows great and meaningful vision, when architects who are not occupied with their usual work of designing buildings, show friendship and kindness to artists in other fields, becoming patrons of art. We know that no one makes art thinking things through so carefully and managing so well and faultlessly like an architect!
“ Yes, I’m talking about two architects, Wirapan Shinawatr and Dr. Somridt Nierowattanayingyong, who have established the ‘Fund for the Cultural Environment’ in order to give opportunities to artists in myriad fields to come and take responsibility for the environment and for culture as well. Each artist proposes a viewpoint or makes a work of art, doing what he does best, based on the premise that the nation must not be harmed.
The fund focused this year on waterways. Artists were invited to join the first project to ‘Come Down the Maeklong – Remember the Diamond River’ this past 12 – 14 August. Asst.Prof. Wichoke Mukdami, director of the Silpakorn University Art Gallery, acted as liaison to select 30 qualified artists in five groups from retired and senior artist to rising young stars and new faces. The fund provided necessaries and equipment needed to make pictures, arranging transport, lodging and an exhibition forum. Half of the earnings from the sale of any pictures were donated back to the Fund.
The exhibition took place at Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel between 10 -15 Sept. It was very well received in the media. It has been a long time since there has been a coming together of the skills and ideas of famous artists on the same subject (i.e.waterways).
The critic reviews 4 pictures of particular interest. The first, and most romantic is Sujin Trinarong’s picture of a mangrove forest. Images of boats in mid river by Alongkorn Lorwattana and Pisit Panthien are noteworthy. And finally, Mae Klong, My Beloved River, by a young artist from Chaiya, Chaem Sanfran (Wichien Boonmemark) who has studied and lived abroad for more than a decade. With hardly any scent or atmosphere of Thai-ness in it at all, his mixed media work is a complete contrast with the paintings of Alongkorn and Pisit.
The critic invites readers to the special lecture, Remember the Waterways,’ on 17 October at Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel, hoping that the enormous investment by the ‘Fund for the Cultural Environment’ will not come to nothing.
Commentary: A hefty investment by a certain Wirapan Shinawatr and friend hosts 30 selected high profile artists for some days and nights along the river, all expenses paid, with a high end hotel exhibition and lecture to follow, all on behalf of the nation’s beloved waterways.
Not surprisingly, it smells a bit fishy.


44. Manit Sriwanichphum. What Counts is ‘Size’.
Yr.46, Vol.21, 24 – 30 October, 1999.
Manit refers to the article by Worasak Mahatanobol on the subject of ‘size’ in Matichon Weekender, (Vol. 995, Tuesday 14 Sept. 1999).
“It helped me understand more about ‘size’ in Thai society. Acharn Worasak points out that the roots of this [obsession] are in Chinese culture, the Chinese millionaires and barons in Thailand who carry on and pass on this value.”
China, of course, is gigantic with a population to match. Everything there has to be big. Hence, size is naturally an element in Chinese culture.
If Thai society is experience a state of ‘exaggeration of size,’ it is because of the wealthy barons and their socially elite offspring in Thailand. Acharn Worasak related the history of Chinese people coming poor to Thailand and building fortunes. During the last 10 years, their descendents have gained political and economic power. The Thai middle class of Chinese ethnic origins show themselves more fully now, in concert with Western ideas which give importance to individualism, the self. Now they really go over the edge.
Manit sees size as a social value suggesting other things beyond sheer gross quantity. It is used to suggest great faith, political power, etc. as well. The critic appreciates the exaggerated size of temples and palaces, for example, at the archaeological sites in Sukhothai and Ayuthya, or in the reclining Buddha at Wat Khun-Indrapramul in
Angthong province.
“If you take the size of construction at religious sites, large Buddha images, Buddhism is the true center of the soul of Thai people, so that would not be far from the truth. Looking at religious objects, they are full of beauty, finely detailed, with strong intention, great care and skill. The quality comes from true faith, the same piety that the Khmer used in building Nakorn Thom, Angkor Wat. (Nowadays, it’s so hard to find such faith.)
“When Thai society follows the whites (especially the Americans), materialism is the new religion. The new belief is that ‘you can own the world.’ The word ‘freedom’ becomes a convenient excuse to do anything you like. (Even if it is illegal, just interpret the laws as you like.)All the value is measure by size, including the value of people.
Manit sees a mad fascination with size in Thai society, too, for example, when monks and laypeople created a giant incense stick which fell over, crushing some people in the crowd at the Pathom Chedi in Nakorn Pathom. Or the giant chedi of the Dhammakai: it is crushing the faith of Buddhism.
Especially in the year of ‘Amazing Thailand’ 1998-1999, the people are obsessed with identifying ‘size’ with ‘Thai-ness’. The critic quotes the celebration of “The Most” in Thailand, which took place at the Future Park Shopping Mall in Rangsit.
They boasted about the biggest arch made of corn; the biggest broom made of coconut fibers; the biggest silver bowl; the biggest monk’s umbrella, etc. More embarrassing is the tendency to celebrate ‘size’ on behalf of His Majesty’s upcoming 72nd birthday. A spicy sausage 72 meters long… decorative bunch of 72 coconuts? “I beg the public to consider,” says Manit, “how far astray Thai society gone.”
Commentary: Inspired by Worasak Mahatanobol’s article, Manit presents a view of Thai society’s fascination with making things bigger. From the wealthiest barons to the ordinary folk in the marketplace, from monks to businessmen, all tend to get things badly out of proportion, finding it [embarrassingly] difficult to contain excess. Unrelenting in his scathing dislike of aggressive American materialism, Manit is nonetheless romantically indulgent of traditionally oversized Chinese ambitions as well as some of the extraordinarily massive ancient Hindu and Buddhist monuments in Cambodia and Thailand.

45. Niran Ketutad. ‘Tattoo Creatif’ Contest – Art Contested on Tapering Legs.
Yr. 46, Vol. 22, 31 October – 6 November, 1999.
Art is not always something you have to crane your neck to catch sight of. Music is made on the roadside by blind men and buskers. Art students sometimes do portraits on the footpath and sometimes people get together to watch movies out of doors.
With the overflowing current of Western art and culture, or Eastern ways which are still very bold, there is so much to choose from today, thanks to artists and creative people who keep the world from standing still.
Tattooing the body is one kind of art that is said to date back to ancient times, to ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Khmer, Lao and Thai. The Japanese tattoo all over their bodies, both men and women. Some find it very beautiful. In Lanna, Lanchang, the Central Plain, in Isarn and in the South of Thailand, we have had tattooing for a long time. It is mentioned in literature – In Khun Chang-Khun Paen. Mostly, it is mingled with magic and superstition, with art and beauty, and mostly only men use it.
Recently there has been painting on nylon stockings, ‘with charming tattoo patterns for people who love legs.’
In contemporary fashion, women take more interest for the sake of art and beauty. Tattoos are part of the expanding development of body and nail painting and using readymade patterns of traditional designs. Not only teenagers but working age women as well like tattoos, but not all want the design actually embedded in their skin. Besides being painful, it is risky for health. Thus, painting on nylon stockings was born; a new fashion was started, a new way of dressing for women only. This is the way of dressing up in the new cultural era, like ear piercing and strange new hairstyles, etc. Thus, works of art can come down (almost) to the ground. From now on, you don’t have to peer up so high. Look down, and you’ll find works of art that please your desires. Commentary: Acknowledging new fashion trends in body art.


46. Manit Sriwanichphum. Pad Thai Art.
Yr.46, Vol.23, 7 – 13 November, 1999.
“ I’d like to ask the vendor selling pad Thai at the entrance to our lane – does she think her pad Thai is art?” The question came loud and clear from a senior Thai artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat, for the people at an art seminar in Chiengmai in 1996. I remember it very well.’
Rerkridt Tirawanich, famous for ‘performing’[cooking] pad Thai in art galleries and art festivals in America and Europe, was there to answer the question, but at the end of the seminar, his listeners left the room in doubt. The answer as to why his pad Thai was ‘art’ was not so very clear.
“Though Rerkridt doesn’t sell pad Thai on the roadside, but makes it within the four walls of an art gallery, the white critics and curators present it as a work of art. The white world and the Thai world are so very different…Trying to guess what the whites are thinking; how can they treat pad Thai as art?
“Manit answers the question by referring first to the idea of context.
“You have to look at it in a white context…First of all he [Rerkridt] is an artist. This is important, because if he wasn’t an artist, they wouldn’t regard his work as art.
“Second, the work has the character of a performance.
“Third, the gallery or exhibition hall is a place for showing works of art. Rerkridt is able to change the role of the place from exhibition hall to dining room in a twinkling..
“Fourth, pad Thai is not pat farang. The dish expresses the Thai character of the artist. He is bringing Thai culture to the West.
“Fifth, pad Thai is food to nourish people. This is the role of art - to nourish the mind of society.”
And a new book on art in America places Rerkridt among the top 100 contemporary artists in the world today.
Another artist who carries Thai culture abroad in high art is Nawin Lawanchaikul, who handed out traditional Thai loincloths when he showed his work in Japan.
“Art is like religion. Its meaning is abstract, depending on who interprets it. The artist can put any interpretation on it he likes. The basic principles of art never change, like the basic principles of religion.”
The art of Rerkridt seems to be in the mainstream of art today. Manit refers to an exhibit in New York’s Brooklyn Art Museum in which the artist created a dark-skinned Holy Virgin Mary whose right breast was made of elephant dung. A photograph of a female sex organ from a porn magazine represented the angel Gabriel. Another artist, Damien Hirst, suspended a bisected ox and shark in glass tanks of formaldehyde.
These artworks caused an uproar in New York and were widely rejected. One New Yorker said, ‘ From now on, when my dog shits on the ground, I’ll now need to clean it up, because I can call it art.’
Commentary: The question is strangely reminiscent of a riddle from Alice in Wonderland : “How is a raven like a writing desk?” But in this case, the riddle is, “How can pad Thai be high art?” Manit answers that question, which was asked of the artist, Rerkridt Tirawanich, a few years back at a seminar in Chiengmai. Manit’s analysis showing why pad Thai can be art is clear, witty and provocative.
His discussion turns, in closing, on the conservative precept that the basic principles of art, like those of religion, never change. Though Manit can include pad Thai within the province of high art, it is not clear to what extent he accepts the controversial artworks he describes from the Brooklyn Art Museum show.

47. Manit Sriwanichphum. Between the Lord Buddha, Gauguin and Chatchai.
Yr.46, Vol.24, 14 – 20 November, 1999.
Manit unhesitatingly accounts Chatchai Puipia as the greatest Thai painter of the decade.
“Some people would say I exaggerate on behalf of my friends. That doesn’t mean anything to me, because I have talented friends whose abilities are beyond the ordinary, equal to true masters. I count it my good luck to have a chance to know a master artist during my lifetime.”
Chatchai showed Manit the pictures to be shown in his upcoming show (On the Journey to Find the Lord Buddha, I Hesitated, Meeting Gauguin, Coming Slowly Back) at the Wityanitat Gallery of Chulalongkorn University from 29 October to 3 December.
Manit particularly liked Dedicated to the One I Love. “ It was a portrait of Chatchai, with just his big head placed on a golden chair. The head seems dim and withdrawn, as if trying to pull back into the red velvet cloth. It’s the same red which Caravaggio, the Italian artist (1571 – 1610) and John Singer Sargent, an American artist, use in their pictures. It is red full of the power of flesh and blood lust, and trembling. (He attests with his sexual member, which is hard, a stalk, in the shadow of the cloth under his chin.)
“ The face of Chatchai is turned a bit, like someone seated and looking at the world before them with eyes which are gloomy and sad. Both hands, which look like a demon’s hands, [are part of arms which] come out of his ears. Thin, lacy black gloves, like what nudes in Playboy like to wear when they pose for photos, hide the intense blue skin of his hands. On his right hand, he wears a large red ring. If you look closely, you’ll see it has on it an image of buttocks. (When people come in, they bend down to kiss the ring, as when meeting the Pope. So you can know what this means.) This hands holds a dry, faded old garland presented by someone long ago. The left hand pinches an envelope, a white love letter with a pink border. What did Chatchai write in his love letter- or is it a confession of his sins against the world?
“Why does this picture look so very sad and so very real? It held me spellbound, stunned, for a moment. I can’t tell why it has such power to strike the heart to such an extent. It’s the same feeling as when I got to see an original work (not a reproduction in a book) by Caravaggio, which made me think very sincerely about what a real painting really is. It has power…Such images retain the living power and soul of the artist and communicate to the view from across the centuries.
“When I think of going back to that time when I saw the original works, I feel so very happy. I can’t wait for that time to happen again, like a youth waiting for a lost love. Then my heart withers, hopeless of a sudden, when I think of the reality that this is Thailand, where there are artists in name only. No one really understands what real art is.”
Chatchai’s habit of painting pictures with himself as almost the sole subject made many people say he was too fascinated by himself, but Manit compares Chatchai with Frida Kahlo, the respected Mexican artist who did only self portraits. These are very deep images of the artists’ humanity.
Dedicated to the One I love was inspired by Velasquez’ painting of Pope Innocent X.
In 1951, the English painter, Francis Bacon, also made a painting based on this image. But Bacon’s pope screams instead of sitting, tight-lipped. Manit admires Chatchai for taking up the Velasquez painting once more, in an equally interesting way. He also praises Chatchai’s paintings, I Still Feel There is Something Missing,and Beginning, both which he finds very poetic and evocative.
“I’m very happy that Chatchai hesitated when he met Gauguin. Otherwise, his works might be like other Thai artists who make pictures without feeling or emotion – all so still, still, peaceful, peaceful, empty, empty, empty.
“Because artists understand Dharma like primary school children, who memorize everything the teacher tells them during the hour they study Buddhism.”
Commentary: Manit makes a clear, confident assessment, putting Chatchai in the forefront of a whole decade of Thai artists. He reaffirms the meaning and value of experience with original paintings as opposed to reproductions. And he points, using very concrete and specific examples, to the useful tradition among artists of the new generation of looking back to and playing off of the work of older masters. In this way, Manit brings alive and enriches the meaning of his art historical references.

48. Pen Pakta. Destroying the Body is Creative: The Anti-Art Group: Dada –
Relatives of Phra Siva? Yr.46, Vol.25, 21 – 27 November, 1999.
The critic considers the history of the Dada movement and the similarities between Dada theory and practice and Hindu philosophy and mythology.
The Dada artists are a very important modern art source all over the world. They inspired (among others) the surrealists, the expressionists, Pop art and ‘happening’ art.
Dada artists agreed that ‘destroying bodies is creative.’ They had a dark, anarchist view of the world, lacking purpose and direction, which grew out of the suffering and loss of the World War I era. They saw people crippled, homeless, starving, with eyes full of fear, anxiety and hopelessness. They rejected to idea of appealing to some golden age of the past for inspiration. The Dada artists believed that real creativity could not arise until the roots of old values had been destroyed – whether in morals, philosophy, education, culture, art or aesthetics. Thus, they made art of a urinal, a tin beer can, a picture of the Mona Lisa with a mustache drawn in. How satisfying!
Phra Isuan or Phra Siva is the god of destruction from Brahmin scriptures. Most Hindu people round the world pay respect to Siva as the greatest deity. Phra Narai is second. No one pays much attention to Phra Phrom, who seems altogether too forgiving and kindly.
Comparing Dadaism and the worship of Phra Siva, the critic sees them both as welcoming destruction. Their supporters live as hippies, shunning material comfort. Pen Pakata tells the story of how naked Phra Siva came to be dressed in the skins of a variety of wild animals.
In Thailand, the Ukabat group is about the only Dadaist group, and includes Wasan Sittiket, Sompong Tavi, Manit Sriwanichphum, Paisarn and Mongkol Plienbangchang, Jitima Ponsawadke and some others like Soontorn Misiri and M.L.Sakdlin Kasemsan, etc.
Their ideas are actually ahead of their time; they tend either to be loved or hated. The Ukabat group seems resigned to negative responses. Their supporters, by contrast, believe that beauty must be broken down before healing can take place.
The critic had admired the group for many years, but does not see them making any advance. When there is an Ukabat happening, one sees only the same old faces of friends from Na Pralan and Phra Athit Road. What obstacle keeps them from reaching their star? They need not destroy society’s culture, but must destroy evil and ugliness. Before the artists can seek new creative possibilities, they must destroy their own ‘self’ [ego?]. And they should stop dressing like hippies and dress more like Phra Siva, who is kin to them. Right?
Commentary: It is in some ways reassuring to find some profound philosophical and religious support for the value and necessity of destroying things that comfort and anchor us in society. The critic gives a supportive exposition on such anarchism, eventually arriving at the Ukabat group. Offering them a boost, the critic tacks on a homily in closing, suggesting, nonetheless, what an obstacle to progress the members’ egoism can be.

49. Pen Pakata. The Loy Kratong Ceremony. Here! Thai Style Performance Art.
Yr.46, Vol.26, 28 November – 4 December, 1999.
The critic begins with a quote from the Nobel prize-winning American author, John Steinbeck about the secret of success in creating art. In short, Steinbeck urges young writers to hurry and write down the most important things they have to say, for no one knows if they will live to see tomorrow.
Steinbeck’s belief in the freshness and truthfulness of artistic expression reminds Pen Pakata of performance art, a very ‘here and now’ kind of art.
Performance is a kind of face-to-face meeting with the world where all eyes are on the artist. There must be no misstep, no pretending, for audiences quickly feel suspicious behavior.
As one example of ‘performance art’ in Thailand, the critic offers the marriage celebration of Preecha Phanklam, a lecturer at the Faculty of Decorative Arts, Silpakorn University, which recently took place at the Sukhothai Hotel.
The wedding invitations were rather dark, and each card included a little swatch from an oil painting, part of a jigsaw puzzle which the guests would all help put together at the reception.
The groom agreed with the painter of that picture that he (the groom) would, at 7pm sharp, ascend to the stage and read a poem. There was nothing at all on the stage but a microphone. The hundreds of guests were stunned and puzzled.
At the conclusion, pictures drawn by the bride were uncovered at each by the guests. Everyone applauded, pleased and delighted to be part of this exhibition-performance.
The critic then closes with a meditation on the social and natural setting and the charming romantic atmosphere of the traditional Thai ‘performance art’ of Loy Krathong, urging readers to appreciate, take part in, and enjoy their own cultural heritage,
Commentary: The critic brings together Steinbeck’s words of wisdom (basically, ‘Do it now, before it’s too late!’), an example of the creative re-invention of a wedding reception, and a respectful bow to a traditional ceremony that people generally would not conceive of as ‘performance art.’

50. Manit Sriwanichphum. The Confused Life of Wasan Sittiket.
Yr.46, Vol.27, 5 - 11 December, 1999
Manit opens the scene standing, unburdening himself, and listening to a conversation between two other gents in the lavatory. They like and enjoy the exhibition; it was ‘good.’ But Manit finds it confused. If the pictures in Wasan’s series are ‘delicious’ and ‘satisfying’ – is that good?
“What is ‘juicy’? What is ‘satisfying’? We feel it is so juicy and satisfying for someone to throw shit in the cabinet minister’s face, but if you experienced it, you would hate it, right?”
And we have artists like Wasan Sittiket who are braver than the rest, making images of animals in full dress uniform, preparing to drink a toast with a glass of wine. Pictures of ministers of state, drinking and having sex, or monks in postures of ecstatic emotion with young girls.
“These pictures show corruption, cheating, and the quest of politicians and clergy for personal gain, things well known to us all…Wasan scolds all…And everything goes that way (till sometimes it’s almost a workday routine, part of the formula of daily life.)
“In a society where it’s every man for himself, and there is bowing and acceptance of evil in ‘Thai-Thai’ fashion, we may find someone to stand up who is ‘Bold to Scold.” Because ‘hell is other people;’ evil is something caused by other people, not by you or me…We get excited by [the spectacle of] the evil of others…like people cheering a boxing match in a stadium.
“For 20 or more years, Wasan has been showing his work and diligently joining demonstrations, tirelessly calling for various things in politics, in religion, in the environment all over the country. As a result, society has labeled him, put him in a folder. People everywhere and art academics call him ‘the artist who fights for society…It’s very sad that [such labeling] happens to many people, not just Wasan.”
When Wasan did a landscape exhibition, the critics attacked him violently. Even his friends called him a turncoat. In the face of such fierce rejection, Wasan recanted, announcing that he would not show landscapes (unrelated to social protests) again.
The artworld could not allow Wasan to try his hand at the study of nature. They hold Wasan to his coarse linear images of brutal conflict which only please briefly, temporarily.
“Wasan as usual, one admirer told me, and laughed. You can translate that as praise or criticism…Wasan’s pictures must have naked people, must show sexual organs, must have sex together in strange attitudes, with tired looking villagers or a hammer and sickle and violently cursing politicians. These things have become his logo, his brand. Without these, he is not ‘Wasan as usual.’ Not tasty, not satisfying.”
Manit urges Wasan to follow his other desires as an artist, as well, and refers especially to the artist’s unusual picture, Missing Dad. Manit finds the painting moving and authentic.
“Wasan Unusual is different from the expectations or guesses of people – an unusual Wasan who takes the viewer into new dimensions of wisdom, who understands life better. Not stuck with daily political problems. He is Wasan who is multi-dimensional, of flesh and blood and feeling, not an art machine producing ‘anger’ on demand.”
Commentary: Manit points to the habit in society of pigeon-holing individuals and holding them hostage there behind a particular image. This has happened to Wasan Sittiket, and the critic urges the artist to escape the label.
Manit also challenges the cynical social satisfaction generally served by Wasan’s often crude assaults on corruption. Too often, Wasan’s admirers are enjoying his work simply as a kind of predictable but daring and naughty entertainment.

Manit recalls with dismay how Wasan retreated under the hostile fire of critics who could not accept his attempt to paint landscapes. The critic encourages the artist to explore other expressive dimensions which have begun to emerge, for example in Wasan’s painting, Missing Dad, which Manit liked so much.





51. Niran Ketutad. Rage Color.
Yr. 46, Vol. 28, 12 – 18 December, 1999.
The exhibition, Rage Color, is the work of three artists, Adulphan Isarakul na Ayudthya, Mana Pupichit and M.L.Sakdilin Kasemsan. The show was on at the Saxaphone Shop for a month, scheduled to go on to Samui Island and then to Chiengmai.
The theme is ‘communities along the Chao Phraya River.’
The three artists have three different styles. The works of Adulphan center on temples, churches and other such places along the river. The artist uses acrylic color on photo-board. The painting is simple and free, not emphasizing details. The brushstroke is decisive and expressionist. The paintings are in frames which cut glare to prevent reflections from the lighting.
Adulphan was a classmate of Chuan Mulpinit and Nab Sodtiphand, the so-called ‘Three Musketeers of Na Phralarn.’
The works of Mana Pupichit are all watercolor images of the Tha Prachan community and Pakklong Talad Market. He is someone who likes dampness and the philosophy of the river, gently flowing. He emphasizes light and color, the lives of people waiting for boats at the docks. Color and artistic emotion flow together.
M.L.Sakdalin Kasemsan does painting, photography, music, performance art, and magazine illustration. His work here is mainly in acrylics. The artist likes to use his camera, taking photos and then doing the paintings in his studio. All his pictures are small and bright with color and brushstroke. The works are entitled ‘Host,’ referring to the buildings and clusters of stores and houses in which he is a guest or a passerby. He misses them when he leaves. And these places may, themselves, eventually be gone.
‘Rage Color’ in this set is an experiment, doing something strange and new. The venue for the show changes from a gallery to a pub, where the space is strange and different. The change of space creates a new aesthetic taste for viewers in the new venue, not the first in the series – cozy, relaxed, modest and friendly.
The atmosphere of communities along the river is charming the livelong day. The people, the light and shadow, the sound of the waterway, of boats, the footsteps of passersby. Morning and late morning, mid-day, evening and night, life move along with the current of the river which is never still. The article closes with a poem to ‘Rage Color’ by Sompong Tavi.
Commentary: Three artists with an exhibition of watercolor and acrylics on the theme of waterways. The show travels to Samui and Chiengmai as well, moving from gallery to pub. The critic notes appreciatively that the atmosphere in the pub gives the paintings a new aesthetic flavor.



52. Manit Sriwanichphum. Smells like (F)Art.
Yr.46, Vol.28, 19 - 25 December, 1999.
Manit reminisces about playing truant from high school to go out and play snooker, which was badly regarded as a form of gambling popular with drug users and glue sniffers at that time. Then Tong Sitchoi, known all over Thailand and the world, revolutionized Thai snooker, turning it into a respected sport requiring the use of brains, wits, skill, concentration, and disciplined practice, just like other sports.
Tong cleaned up the image and lifted snooker to another level. Though the sport has drifted down again since those days, Manit remembers the honor it enjoyed in its heyday.
The critic recently picked up a snooker cue again, this time at the About Studio(gallery)/About Café, a venue for avant garde art. Surasi Kusolwong, artist and teacher at Silpakorn University, had rented some snooker tables and set them up in the Café. The artist did some redecorating, putting a big red curtain behind the table, painting walls, putting in lights as big as watermelons and changing the library into a bedroom. He brought mattresses to sit on instead of chairs.
In one corner of the gallery was a snooker table; on the floor there was a sign in pink neon letters, “Smells Like Art.”
“So now, in About Café, everything is art, and I am playing in a work of art by Surasi.”
Manit quotes the café’s press release, explaining Surasi’s idea: “It is an attempt to blur the division between sharply allocated spaces for art (art sites) and general areas which are not designated or made to show art (non-art sites). Surasi uses elements in the site to become part of his artworl. Context is important in creating meaning in this installation – the building, the role and function of the various areas and activities arising in the place, as well as the environment altogether… For Surasi, the process of creating art is very important and the importance of making artworks within a context of society more than creating to show in a place specifically for art. For Surasi, art is the common/shared experience of individuals.”
“What is this ????” exclaims the critic. Is Surasi trying to introduce postmodern art, which is presently so popular round the world?
“Just setting up snooker tables and calling it art? And dragging people in to ‘play,’ and responding with circuitous and tortuous answers and academic terms. (We don’t want to know the metaphysical problem – that is really totally nuts.)
“Is art that easy nowadays?” was a comment in the visitor’s book. Kindly Thai people faulted themselves for not understanding the exhibition.
“Though Surasi drags in a lot of logical reasons to explain…I don’t get it. I don’t understand. Don’t get it..
The critic notes that nowadays, one must look at the explanation when looking at art. And the explanation will be very twisted and tricky to understand. The art cannot stand on its own, but depends on explanations. The artist is great at giving reasons …this is the amazing thing about postmodern art.
“I don’t see the beauty of this art,” says Manit. For ‘process art,’ he prefers the beautiful process of creating good cloth in the example given by Mahatma Ghandi.
Manit criticizes Surasi for ‘slicing up’ ideas and beauty, and for slicing artistic practice, knowledge and skills right out of art. Noting that artists are expert art-makers, he challenges Surasi’s complaint that art is being bought and sold and turned into a commodity.
“ Is it true or not, that this is a dark age of intellectual blindness. This is an age of madness for ‘fake art academics.’ They don’t take anyone anywhere … N one follows a path of intellectual enlightenment. You study it and you remain as ‘stupid’ as before. All meaning shrinks into ‘technical vocabulary’ …vocabulary like social areas…culture…community… These are just decorations, which look impressive but lack meaning.
“ The final result which society gets is art which is thoroughly soaked, simple, crude (both in idea and skill) which the audience hates. Should we see this as a victory or a defeat for postmodern art?” Quoting his friend who accompanied him to see the show, his assessment is, ‘Smells like fart.’
Commentary: Manit’s complaint about Surasi’s art being ‘too easy’ and showing a lack of skill reminds one of the criticism of abstract modernist art, which ‘any 4-year old would be able to do’ (or so it was commonly said). His critique records a very familiar historical experience, i.e. the artist is unable to convince his critical contemporary of the validity of his (the artist’s) new direction. The fact is that profound change catches most of us by surprise, and it is extremely difficult to explain what is happening while in the midst of the metamorphosis.
Certainly, Surasi was completely serious in his intent, and, years later, it is not difficult to find many interesting things to say, in retrospect, about the show.
Manit’s annoyance at the unpersuasive explanation of the show in the press release contributes to his anger, along with his perception that this is just another ‘scam’ being perpetrated, a familiar fraud that has become all to common in academia.
















1999

1.Parinya Tantisuk. Hold Them High.
Yr.45, Vol.30, 27 December 1998 – 2 January, 1999.

Parinya leaves the old year and enters the new with a backward look at the tragedy of the TG261 Airbus crash in the south of Thailand on December 11, 1998. Expressing sympathy for the families and imagining the trauma of the survivors, the critic concludes that life really is uncertain, and no one should be greedy, as His Majesty has so often said.
“Hold Them High” is the title of a solo exhibition just concluded, by M.L.Busyamart Nantawan, a young artist studying for her MFA in painting at Silpakorn University. Few women artists do solo shows, the critic notes, so this exhibition reflects Busyamart’s confidence in her work and her determination to keep on this path of imagination and expression.
Parinya presents a list of about 18 Thai women artists, beginning with M.C. Pilailakar Diskul who was exhibiting her painting before the era of Silpa Bhirasri , and Misiem Yipinsoi, one of the great man’s students, as well as a number of other familiar names of women artists up to the present, including M.L..Busyamart, her painting, and mixed media. In a number of recent works, Busyamart uses bits of color-soaked cloth and other items built up in layers to make collages.
Parinya comments on her works:
“The red in her early works ... is lovely, used with increasingly rich effect, not only the color or set of colors chosen, but also the saturation and brightness as well…
Her later works are larger in size, as if she has hope and better understands life and the world. The bright greens and reds are a structure of color, brisk in feeling. The contrast of the two colors is refreshing and very happy. Besides brushstrokes and patches made from bits of cloth, she creates interesting dimensions of depth and shallows using little matchboxes, dozens of them, all over the surface of the image…and she brings household items like chairs or benches, creating exterior forms, an interesting perimeter for the color that dominates there.”
The critic closes with a brief biography of the artist, concluding that, “her work has a generous spirit –evidence of her inspiration – we will look forward to seeing more of her work.”
Commentary: In this review, the teacher introduces and gives a general critique of some works in his student’s solo exhibition. Long dominant in Thailand’s high artworld, critics such as Parinya from the Faculty of Painting, Sculpture and Graphic Arts carry on in a firmly established style of criticism, classically modernist, very elevated, and in the tradition of the art academy.


2.Parinya Tantisuk. Happy New Year.
Yr.45, Vol.31, 3 – 9 January, 1999.
The critic turns with a happy spirit to welcome the New Year, thinking aloud over childhood memories of the seasonal celebration. The images he mentions are vivid and also urban in character: waiting for special television programs for children, treats and gifts, smiles everywhere, kindergarten and primary school children in brightly colored sweaters moving about, the sound of their lively little voices having fun.
As to weather, the winter has turned chilly and extremely dry.
“At the New Year,” notes Parinya, “one wants to see something fresh and bright and to pass something happy along to the readers.” Parinya chooses to discuss some of the works by M.C.Karwik Chakrabandhu showing at the Soon Sangkidsilpa Gallery of the Bangkok Bank (Sapan Panfah) and reproduced in the article, “because I thought these pictures were beautiful and had interesting and meaningful stories.”
The first is a watercolor of hosts of Buddhist faithful coming to pay respects at a temple, one of the traditional ways Thai people celebrate the New Year. “This painting shows light coming down to all the faithful merit-makers. The yellowish-gold brown color looks peaceful and warm. The picture is like a real blessing in itself.”
The second picture is comfortable and natural, reflecting the artist’s skill in drawing and watercolor painting. “His work is very appealing and is much admired by collectors.” It is a picture of ‘Pat Hanging the Laundry Out to Dry.’ Parinya admires the clarity of the image, the artist’s use of few colors while taking advantage of the white of the page very cleverly. It is a picture of a simple, frugal life. Parinya describes the young woman in light sleeveless blouse and bright yellow sarong, her arms outstretched and raised high in order to open the big, white, freshly laundered cloth on the clothes line. “It is the life of Thai people 40 years ago…today it might be very hard to do such a picture,” Parinya concludes, but it is a picture with ‘a classic old atmosphere’, which “invites us to look and feel a great emotion of happiness.”
Parinya relates M.C.Karwik’s education and service to the 7th King while he was in England and studying (including studies in art) in France. Parinya names a number of members of the court in those days who also were enthusiastic amateur painters.
The critic describes M.C.Karwik’s interest in painting from an early age when he received an expensive set of fine watercolors as a gift. The hobby was practiced with enthusiasm and eventually led to M.C.Karwik’s involvement in Thailand’s contemporary artworld, including winning silver and bronze medals in the National Art Exhibition on a number of occasions, and serving as president of the International Artists Association in Thailand. Parinya praises his ongoing support for the Thai contemporary artworld.
The third and last picture described is ‘Salt Fields,’ made in 1957, showing workers in the salt flats returning home after a long day’s work. Parinya admires the artist’s watercolor technique, skillful composition, and fresh, warm feeling, citing M.C.Karwik’s code of ‘an economy of strokes’ when painting. “The people in the picture walking together give a good meaning of love, unity and assembled strength. Though the picture was created 41 years ago…, I think,” says Parinya, “its meaning is wonderfully appropriate and still very up to date.”
Commentary: After meditating on the tragedy of a crashed domestic airliner, and reviewing a student art show, Parinya bows out of the Silpa/Wattanatham lineup of critics, leaving his readers’ with a last New Year’s gift, a glimpse of the works of one of the pillars of Thailand’s contemporary artworld, M.C.Karwik Chakrapandhu. Just as he delights in recalling childhood memories, Parinya seems to immerse himself serenely and blissfully in describing the 3 watercolor paintings, telling the history of service of a well-respected artist and social figure. And on that note of reverie, the curtain comes down.

3. Golden Paintbrush. Artworks: The Crystal of the Imagination.
Yr.45, Vol.32, 10 – 16 January, 1999.
This article is a statement of aesthetic philosophy, focusing on the creative importance of the imagination, as follows:
The writer begins by noting the inspiration to create visual art which comes from dreams, adding that to be realized, there must be a concrete expression.
Artistic inspiration builds up, little by little, and is distilled and polished till nothing remains but the essence in the imagination. This is the crystal of the idea.
Nature is always an inspiration for artists, too, but it depends on the individual to transform that inspiration into a work of art.
Thoughts, dreams and imagination all concern feeling and emotion: they are always related, interconnected.
Feeling and emotion support imagination. Feelings are excited by imagination.
To transform imagination into an artwork, there must be external skills, the ability to use techniques and the ability to express.
Artistic imagination has no boundaries, and new techniques are arising constantly.
Art is a universal language using profound media and meaning – the real materials of the mind and spirit of the artist, to communicate with others.
The artist takes his dreams the way he wants to go.
Turning imagination into a work of art by an individual depends on the experience and way of life of each artist.
All the various kinds and categories of art come from the imagination of artists.
Art can arouse all kinds of emotion and feeling – all kinds of sad and happy feelings.
Works of art are born by imagination; the artist works on his art until it becomes beautiful.
Only humans make works of art. Art is the fruit of the human brain, of the soul of the artist.
If ever humans are without imagination, they will be no different from shrimps, snails, crabs and fish which eat the roots of lotus plants and never raise their heads to see the beauty of the sunlight.
Commentary: While giving a nod to ‘Nature’, the philosophy of art expressed here identifies the primary source and meaning of art with the dreams, imagination, experience and soul of individual artists. By means of skills and techniques, the artist who is able to express himself, realizes his vision and communicates with others. Good art is understood to be a universal language of the human mind and spirit, and imagination is a central element in the process.
The philosophy expressed here celebrates imagination as the moving force in mental or spiritual creativity and the importance of technical skill in order to successfully express artistic visions. At the same time, it virtually ignores the influence of the social, historical and political context of art and artists and the essential role of culture and education in understanding and enjoying art.


4. Golden Paintbrush. Thammasak Booncherd and Creativity…for Tomorrow.
Yr.45, Vol.33, 17 – 23 January, 1999.
The critic reviews an exhibition of 3-dimensional works and installations by Thammasak Booncherd at the National Gallery of Art. The event was opened by Kraisak Chunhavan and a host of artists, members of the public and representatives of the media.
The artist has moved into new territory, doing more sculpture and installations. However, there were many restrictions of time and money in doing this work. Area was limited and tools and materials were very costly. By fierce determination, the works in three dimensions were completed well, though the number of pieces is not great.
The artist had become “bored in the face of the overflow of paintings full of desire to sell, painting which had become familiar (predictable) and consistent with the taste of the general public.” The artist feels that sculpture in Thailand can go further than what we see being done nowadays. He tries to stimulate some controversy, to get some new ideas going. “Will they keep marching in place or should they break ranks and dare to rise to a higher level?”
The critic wonders if there is a lack of courage, generally, among people in the arts who dare not break through the common ways of working nowadays. Few would dare the pain and suffering of going against accepted practices.
“The important factor which is directly impacting creativity in making artworks is the state of the economy…Thammasak Booncherd created these works in 1998, the IMF era, presenting a new style emphasizing content, composition, and the relation between things and ideas. Geometric forms are introduced. Supporting units join together to become major forms…which suggest things to our imagination in an abstract way.”
ABSTRACT : physics, the movement of objects and forces to create aesthetic quality in a modern way which is tied to surfaces and objects in the industrial world.
1/ Sculpture Perforate – punching holes 2/ Object Sculpture
3/ Flat Form Abstract Sculpture 4/ Adjustable Sculpture
5/ Cut and Join – a new outdoor sculpture project
6/ Stick - partially burying objects outdoors 7/ Double Stick
8/ Stick Installation – emphasizing the potential of the wall, floor and all inter-related surfaces.
Commentary: Though the article seems rather ‘patched together,’ lacking continuity and development, it preserves a view of Thammasak Booncherd’s venture into abstract sculpture in a poverty-stricken, IMF era.


5. Manit Sriwanichphum. From Gun-boat Fire to Free Trade Mechanisms (1)
Yr. 45, Vol. 34, 24 -30 January, 1999.
Manit expresses mixed emotions as he begins his work writing in this venerable arts column for Siamrath Weekly news magazine. He makes it clear that he feels a heavy responsibility to write carefully as he realizes that these writings will echo through Thailand’s artworld.
Manit makes a sort of statement of faith, asking (rhetorically) “For whom am I writing? And for what? Is it useful or not? Most important, the opinions must be creative, pure and sincere…Without prejudice and ego. Then only can we see truth, beauty and goodness.”
Having wasted his own precious time fighting traffic to visit worthless art exhibitions, he vows not to be guilty of that kind of sin against art lovers.
The ‘Bloodless War’ show involves 6 black and white photos which were created in October, 2540 / 1997, after the devaluation of the baht in the same year. Following the prescriptions of the IMF, the country’s economy went into a coma, impoverished in the twinkling of an eye.
The soap bubble economy had burse. “A senseless dream carried on for 10 years by politicians and economists, businessmen, industrialists and all those experts who dreamed that Thailand would be an economic tiger among Asia’s NICs.”
Manit outlines the irresponsibility of the country’s finance sector: “Banks and finance companies brought money in from abroad and used it wrongly. Get rich quick schemes. Lending money to unproductive businesses, the stock market, land speculation, building condominiums and golf courses, resorts. Destroying forests and natural resources. Encouraging wasteful luxury and so much else. These evils were created by the government and the private sector. These people created the problem. Why do the people have to bear the consequences?”
Manit expresses rage towards the ‘neo-colonialism which uses capital instead of guns. With the bottom of this disaster still not in sight, people face depression and despair daily.
“Is it fair? Since the announcement of the baht devaluation, everything is expensive. There is inflation. The country is drowning in debt. More than 700,000 Million baht were lost. Used mindlessly by the Bank of Thailand in trying to maintain the value of the baht.”
“Globalization: I reject it utterly as neo-colonialism,” concludes Manit, faulting primarily the Europeans, the Americans and the Japanese. There are some new hands at this sort of colonialism, too, he notes – Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia.
Manit is not sure whether the country’s leaders see the dangers and the problems clearly or not. What is clear to him is the state of shock and despair of the Thai people generally, who lost 40% of their wealth overnight.
Commentary: Manit’s introduction, in which he makes a noble statement of pure intention, appears to be overturned to some extent as he tries to cope with the economic disaster that has befallen his country.
This article is part of the historical background to the performance-exhibition by the Ukabat group of Manit’s “Bloodless War” photos, described in the second article in this set (Vol.35, 31 Jan – 6 Feb.). Manit’s outrage, boiling with fury, is a remarkable contrast with the poetry, idealist philosophy, and cool professionalism in the earlier writings in January of Parinya Tantisuk and the Golden Paintbrush. The history cited by Parinya in his discussion of M.C. Karwik’(Vol.31, 3 – 9 January), and by Manit in this article, differs tellingly. The art which concerns and moves them differs accordingly, as well. These differences suggest contrasting perspectives of Thai society and history which would be interesting to try to reconcile.



6 Manit Sriwanichphum. From Gun-boat Fire to Free Trade Mechanisms (Finish)
Yr.45, Vol.35, 31 January – 6 February, 1999.
For his project, Manit chose news photos from Vietnam and the last colonial war in Southeast Asia before the Americans turned to the strategy of free trade as a means of forcing everyone to accept American goods.
Noting the credulity of newspaper readers who think news photos are authentic, Manit explains that he is now going to ‘take history and tell it anew,’ to make clear that some things - like attempts to trap new colonies - never change. What changes is that those colonized this time are willingly roped into the new slavery.
Manit’s three new photos imitate three old ones, using new actors and settings, not in Vietnam, but in Thailand.
The first historical photo is the famous image of screaming Vietnamese children fleeing before American soldiers after escaping a napalm blast. The original was taken by Huynh Cong “Nick” Ut, a photographer for AP). In Manit’s reinterpreted picture, a group of young yuppies flee their creditors in terror, carrying away their luxury goods in panic. The countless massive pylons of the abandoned Hopewell elevated train stretch behind them in the distance.
Manit apparently misunderstood the second picture he selected, reading it as American soldiers dragging behind their tank the body of a dead Vietnamese combatant. In fact, it is a Vietnamese tank, identified by the large star. The body, therefore, would be understood to be that of an American soldier.
In any case, Manit’s updated image uses a Mercedes Benz automobile, driven by cigar-smoking white and Thai business suits. They drag behind the car their yuppie victim’s body, which still clutches the precious shopping bags.
Manit compares the neo-colonialism throughout Asia of the West and by Japan. Japanese goods dominate the markets, a kind of stealthy control, sinking in, deep and soft, along with the wave of white culture.
In his third historical deja vu, Manit shows “a little kid who represents the future. He sits crying amidst the structure of the dead Hopewell (or hopeless) project.” The children will carry the debt burden of the IMF loans. The older, original photo shows a Chinese child in the middle of a Japanese air raid on Shanghai in 1937 (photo by H.S.Wong).
Manit did not leave these pictures in a gallery. His friends in the Ukabat (Meteorite) Group – Wasan Sittiket, Paisarn and Mongkol Plienbangchang, Mana Pupichit, Sompong Tavi, Jittima Ponsawake, Arak Apakas and Noppawan Siriwechakul – carried the pictures (in classic gold frames) about Silom when they did their performance art.
Manit identifies the root of today’s problems as Government House, the Bank of Thailand, the Stock Exchange on Silom Road, the banking sector, and the World Trade Center. The Ukabat performances may frighten people at first, but after reading the brochures and listening to the speeches, they better understand.
Manit tells of the reaction of a Scandinavian onlooker who interpreted the performance as ‘irrational nationalism’. Manit says: “He (the Scandinavian) put his arm around my shoulder as if I were a naïve person, and said, ‘The world is all one now; though our skin color is different, we are brothers and sisters.”
Manit believes that time will reveal the truth. “Today, we begin to see…and am I not correct? What the IMF has done to Thailand. What has happened. This year, there are more than 3 million people out of work. The IMF was set up by capitalist countries, so they have to step in. The attempt to force the government to pass the por-ror-bor finance papers is a familiar sign of their intention. Don’t be naïve – Look at the trade agreements since the John Bowring treaty. Who got the advantage? Who was taken advantage of?”
“I never discriminate on the basis of race,” says Manit in defense of his art and his interpretations. ”I oppose exploitation, no matter who does it to whom – if the whites do it to us – if we do it to the Khmer – I say it’s equally bad…if this is what you call mindless, irrational nationalism, I’m happy to be so.”
Commentary: Manit ‘hits the ground running’ as he drags Silpa/Wattanatham and his artworld readers out of museums and galleries and into the streets of contemporary Bangkok to face the present national disaster. He insists on the importance of history and of photography in his ‘Bloodless War’ performance-exhibition with the Ukabat group. Incensed by recollections of 19th century Western imperialism and by the apparent neo-colonial schemes of foreigners, Manit seems painfully frustrated but not so enraged by the exploitation he sees implicated from within.






7. Golden Paintbrush. Breath of Watercolor – 5 Artists.
Yr 45, Vol.36, 7 – 13 February, 1999.
The critic recalls how difficult painting with watercolors is for children. Many find crayons or felt-tip pens much easier and much more satisfying. However, those who have studied watercolor painting enjoy seeing the soft, wet hues coming softly together to make a new color. You can make so many watercolor pictures very quickly, and the equipment needed for painting is lightweight and easy to carry around.
The 5 artists organizing the show, First Impression, all love doing watercolor and consider it to be the breath of life for them! The group consists of Nukul Banyadhi, Chana Kawornlieng, Sawai Wongsaprohm, Pira Srianyu, and Kiettisak Plitaporn.
Some senior watercolorists have also been invited to show with them, for example, Chali Sodprasert, Suchart Wongtong, and some famous artists like Chalermchai Kositpipat and Wasan Sittiket.
The critic describes the lively atmosphere of the cocktail party at the opening in the Sintorn Building on Wittayu Road. The exhibition was opened by the Managing Director of Siam Commercial Bank, Opart Chaiprawat.
Many of the works of the 5 artists have similarities, almost as if they were painted by the same person…perhaps because the artist’s first impressions were the same.
Nukul Banyadhi paints with the emotion and rhythm of music. He can use many techniques. This ‘aesthetic of music’ gives the elements in his picture a different look. The colors are intense and dark. The artist is always searching for a new approach – sooner or later he will find himself.
Chana Kawornlieng slices on the paint with raw color, but damp and maintaining the feeling of the material in landscapes and some strange abstractions. He also made paintings about the sea, many-colored images of sea flora and all kinds of sea shells. Sprinkling and splashing the paint makes spots and stars of watercolor, very appropriate for the character of the sea.
Pira Srianyu paints myriad forms of plant life which give a feeling of the coolness of nature, all green. The light filters through the leaves, and there are deep, cooling shadows. Pira preserves these details with skill and determination. He can make watercolor sparkling and realistic.
Kiettisak Plitaporn is also bold and realistic in his watercolors (like Pira) – almost super-realistic. But there is some conflict in his own abstract world of ideas (which seem to circulate in the area of Christianity). If one does not read the information under the picture, one might not know what the artist is trying to communicate. If he wants to communicate clearly, his pictures need more than this. Then no explanation would be needed. The picture should speak for itself, autonomously. Kiettisak makes pictures of the life in the countryside, country people, an old lady sleeping, an automobile showroom contrasted with a grief-stricken old man. (This is a bit too simple and direct a statement). Such pictures have been done before.
Some pictures communicate profoundly, such as the one entitled, Water of Life.
Sawai Wongsaprom’s work is overflowing with the power of watercolor as much as any in the group, but his works seem less powerful. If it were a solo exhibition, he would survive, but in comparison with others, his work suffers a bit.
Commentary: Art critics cover art exhibitions and document the appearance of artworks and artists in society. This is a familiar kind of record-keeping, a sort of diary of the artworld’s functioning from week to week and month to month. A useful historical shorthand, also briefly sketching in the content of the art and the social context in which it appears and is welcomed.




8. Golden Paintbrush. Photos from the Mainland,
Shadows and Reflections of an Era. Yr.45, Vol.37, 14 – 20 February, 1999.
The critic introduces the review of a photography exhibition by 11 Chinese artists noting that China is the source of the art and culture of the East. The works of these artists reflect that challenging wisdom which today allows a greater role to Western ideas under the Communist system. Though the disorder of the capitalist world is reflected in many of these works, the old imagination still mingles there with the honor of a nation and a civilization which has its own way of thinking.
Chinese youth, like Thai youngsters, regard Western culture as little more than a plaything for leisure time.
The critic gives a cutting description of Thai youth: “Just caught on a merry-go-round of eating, shitting, and sleeping together, with an epidemic of drug addiction and the abandonment of the old culture in all its forms. The university youth in Thailand have taken pleasure in walking together this way for decades.”
‘You Are My Sister’ by Xutan refers to this situation in detail, from every possible angle. Pictures by Zeng Guogu in the series ‘Erotic’ attempt to be less pornographic.
‘Unveiled Reality’ is the concept of this exhibition which seems to say that there is much that is hidden behind the bamboo curtain.
Wang Wangwang presents a picture of Mao TseTung in a surrealist atmosphere suggesting the danger of nuclear war in the future, a warning that there are those who thirst for war.
‘Rainbow 1’ by Qui Zhijie has a beauty which makes the heart tremble. Colored syringes and the life of the person who is tied to medical treatments (the aristocrats of the capitalist system). They forget the old life in which one depended upon oneself. Unlike the strong ancestors, the lives of people nowadays are weakened. They cannot depend on themselves.
“If you compare this picture with Thailand, it’s right on target, where right now, there are 100 needles sticking in from abroad. Thailand is strung every which-way with saline drips, measuring the pulse which seems to weaken every moment, as if the patient were near death.”
An Hong presents works with a dancing rhythm of sexual desire which recalls the Tantra beliefs of Tibet.
The work of Huang Yan makes us aware of the transience of life with images much like we see in tabloid newspapers of the miserable ending of the lives of other people. It gives a boost to low minds.
The show is on at the Wityanitat Gallery, 7th floor of the Management Science Institute, Chulalongkorn University.
Commentary: The reproductions in this article are fairly grim, along with the mood of the critic. As Thailand reels under its economic crisis, the exchange of contemporary art and culture with China goes on. Exhibitions at the Wityanitat Gallery are a favorite with this generation of Silpa/Wattanatham critics.





9. Manit Sriwanichphum. Image vs. Reality: The Case of “Der Beesh”
Yr.45, Vol.38, 21 – 27 February, 1999.
“First of all, I love Thailand,” Manit quotes Leonardo DiCaprio, noting that the actor avoided interviews and photographers and remained well secluded, ‘protected by his giant white bodyguards and Thai policemen.’ Why did he sneak into Thailand? Was he afraid of mobs of screaming women or conservationists opposing the destruction of Maya beach by the planting of 100 coconut trees for the film? The hero, whose fee was 20 million, needed food testers to prevent himself being poisoned by hotel food. The security was so tight it became offensive. People became disgusted. The precious ‘image’ had to be protected, the media appeased. So “Leo Go to Party” happens. The actor has to go and meet the people in a bash at the house of the Thai producer of ‘Der Beesh.’ From this activity, (unsatisfying) photos were released to the press.
‘Leo Pays Respect to Monks- Wow!’ So charming. The young hero wais so beautifully that real Thai people were embarrassed.
Pictures at a distance. Press releases. News photos on CNN, CNBC and BBC all over the world reporting on the destructive changes to Maya Beach. It was illegal in a Thai nature preserve… etc.
After a lengthy diatribe against the abuses of the Hollywood movie makers in Thailand, Manit concludes that the case of ‘Der Beesh’ shows that ‘if you have enough money, you can buy Thailand. We will void the laws for you. Our dignity will be put on hold while you are investing…but first, you must say the words that all Thai people love so much to hear: First of all, I love (to rape) Thailand.’
Commentary: The making of a film, as an artistic and cultural event, catches the critic’s attention. In this case, the making of the film, ‘The Beach’, creates controversial impact on the natural environment. However, since illegal logging, clearing of protected forests, and destruction of precious wetlands goes on practically non-stop on any ordinary day in Thailand (and in so many other countries), the intense rage and indignation expressed by the critic on behalf of Maya beach seems to be a case of ‘too little, too late.’ Manit’s furious diatribe resembles xenophobia.
Apparently, he was able to unload a lot of anger in his first year as a critic for Silpa/Wattanatham. Later, as he avoids more subjects he hates, Manit’s criticism in the following years becomes consistently outstanding.


10. Manit Sriwanichphum. Bangkok, City of Angels – For Whom? (1)
Yr.45, Vol.39, 28 February – 6 March, 1999.
“This society is all on the surface, a society of faces…they are poor but drive a Mercedes-Benz. If they lack the real fashionable gear, they can rent or borrow a Louis Vuitton bag for a day.”
And then the thing about good manners, saving the faces of adults; it is a product of the culture handed down through the patron-client system.
Speak plainly and you will be considered a troublemaker. People only want to hear nice, comfortable things.
In this superficial society, no one likes to peel off the surface, to hear the truth of facts or feelings. They want you to say that everything looks good. Deceiving themselves continually. They don’t want to hear about problems. They don’t accept the truth. This happens throughout the whole society, including the artworld.
Manit points, as an example, to the Bangkok Art Project, 1998, which was called an ‘Asian art festival.’ Quoting the lyrical themes created by the organizers, Manit characterizes the event instead as ‘The Great Make-up Job with Powder and Rouge to Create an Image’ using contemporary art as the media symbol.
It is a Thai song and dance, a light and sound show, a walking parade, a boat set on land to sell Thai sweets and all kinds of traditional pastries and jellies.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority are pushing new ideas, bored with the old, and globalizing like the rest of the world. Everyone else has shows, so why shouldn’t the Thai do it, too?
Commentary: The critic appears to find utterly boring and superficial a publicity stunt and tourism event organized by the official artworld and the local and city government in the Rattanakosin area.


11. Manit Sriwanichphum. Bangkok, City of Angels – For Whom?
Yr.45, Vol.40, 7 - 13 March, 1999.
“Art is always taken by the governing powers and politicians as a propaganda tool for themselves, probably since art first appeared in the world.” No matter what kind of government it is, ecclesiastical, right-wing dictators, left-wing communists, liberal democrats – they all are aware of the power of art to help lead and spread ideas and ideals. Art is a good tool for brainwashing and for creating faith. It creates images which are somehow easier to believe in.
Manit cites, as an example, the music created by the Fine Arts Department and the Public Relations Department after World War II. There was patriotic music inspiring national unity, and there were sweet, loving, consoling songs to help an oppressed people more easily bear their suffering.
The title, “Bangkok, City of Angels,” refers to a propaganda song from that era of dictators, beautiful, rhythmic, lilting, easy to remember. The organizers of the event still hope to make Bangkok just such a livable place. Manit takes a look at the works of some of the (74) Thai artists and (3) foreign artists who took part.
“Most of the works concern being engrossed in, searching for and trying to solve problems of “beauty” in art, for example, perfection of art elements. Or attempting to consider the Dhamma – the world, hell and heaven – looking for ones Nirvana. The artists have their own world. What do they really need to make art for?”
One of the few artists who addressed contemporary issues was the Chinese, Cai Guo Qiang, in “Century with Mushroom Cloud Event at Nevada Nuclear Test Site.” The artist invited viewers to remember Hiroshima and to consider the plans for building a nuclear electrical generating plant in Pathumthani.
“WC for Bangkok” by Surasi Kusolwong playfully provides a mobile toilet for viewers of the other artworks.
Pishnu Supanimitr’s “Mixed Culture” questions consumerist society, and Chakarphand Vilaisirikul’s “Lost Angel” is interesting and thought provoking.
Does this event help make Bangkok the utopian city the organizers had in mind?
Although it brings high art ‘back down’ to the people, it was the artists themselves, who alienated ordinary audiences in the first place.
The cover of the catalog shows an angel scattering flowers, but what about the angels who committed suicide jumping off buildings, the angels impoverished by the IMF, or those who sell their bodies and get AIDS? Are there no such ‘angels’ in Bangkok today?
As far as Manit can see, this event reflects the ideas of the bureaucracy, men who have, for a day, assumed a suit over their khaki uniforms. This is a meaningless exercise because the roots of thinking never change. Nothing changes but the surface.
Commentary: Manit is in no mood to be persuaded of this campaign by the local government and by artists (many of whom are also civil servants) to celebrate the divine nature of the city of Bangkok. In Manit’s eyes, the effort appears half hearted, insincere and unconvincing. The critic is able to generate a faint enthusiasm over the few pieces he finds that bravely or playfully address urgent contemporary issues.




12. Golden Paintbrush. Kamol Tasananchali- the Eagle of Siam Returns Home
Yr.45, Vol.41, 14 – 20 March, 1999.
’39 Years of Art in Retrospective at the National Gallery of Art’
They called him ‘Busy Boy’ when he was a student at Poh Chang College, a model active student and leader of his class. His teachers were Jitr Buabutr and Chalerm Nakirak. Studying and working in the US for 20 years, Kamol was recognized as artist of the year (1980) and honored by an Oakland art museum. In 1997 he was selected as a ‘National Artist’ of Thailand in the category of visual arts. The critic concludes that, ‘if one considers the valuable artworks which Kamol has made, and his role devoting himself to the arts, the artworld, and beautiful and moral objects, one must say that he is very suitable to receive these honors.’
Kamol’s great happiness is making art. ‘That happiness – in solving one problem after another until he is satisfied – settles in his feelings. And that happiness doubles when someone admires and is interested in the work.’
“I always practice, both my brain and my skill. They are weapons I never allow to get rusty. Weapons must always be sharp, ready to wield on every occasion.” Kamol is quoted.
The critic admires Kamol’s long and steadfast career of developing his art and contributing to the Thai artworld, both in the States and in Thailand. He makes art ‘for art’s sake,’ based on sincerity and a pure heart.
The artist, coming from a family of craftsmen, was enthusiastic about visual arts from an early age. ‘His way of making art is outstanding, i.e. contemporary mixed media – finding what is near him and bringing it to create as an artwork, very interesting, using paint tubes, rollers, palettes and self portraits.’
Kamol went from making smooth prints to graphic art in three dimensions, large sculptures. He took nature as part of the artwork, pouring tempera paint across a desert surface, ‘a philosophy of work which challenges nature’s greatness.’
‘Later, there is more soul of being Thai in the works, using [a traditional] pattern, the wings of insects from Isarn, carved elephant from Chiengmai; bringing Thainess into the international artworld freely and naturally.’
The critic acknowledges Kamol Tasananchali’s work as teacher and lecturer in the US and Thailand, as well as his organizational efforts in the US, creating an art center and a Thai Arts Council to encourage Thai artists to show in America.
The retrospective includes drawings, early oil paintings, pictures of daily life in Thailand, abstract and expressionist images and some early graphics playing with Thai letters and numerals. There are also works using paint tubes in prints and in sculptures. Later, Kamol explored sculpture/ installation using fiberglass and neon lights, and also setting his works in natural environments.
The Nang Yai series uses a great variety of natural and technological materials. The show closes with the Golden Land Series III. The critic warmly and enthusiastically endorses the artist and the show.
Commentary: The critic congratulates a well-known Thai artist who studied and worked in the US for many years, and acknowledges his consistent efforts to open up opportunities for Thai artists in the US. The critic speaks for many of the powers-that-be in the Thai artworld. Kamol has lived up to many of the ideals of the contemporary artworld and has become a model for many young art students who hope to achieve similar success in their careers.

13. Golden Paintbrush. Art for Waterways.
Yr.45, Vol.42, 21 – 27 March, 1999.
‘The Ping River connects with the Wang in Tak Province, flowing on to the mouth of the Po. The Yom joins the Nan River at Chumsaeng district in Nakorn Sawan, above the mouth of the Po. These two rivers join again at the mouth of the Po, giving birth to the headwaters of the most historic waterway of Siam, the Chao Phraya River.’
The river winds slowly across the Central Plain, through Bangkok and the city of Samut Prakarn, busy with all kinds of activities of river dwellers and river workers. How beautiful in the evening are the sparkling lights upon the water, how cooling the breeze. Thames, Mississippi, Ganges, Chao Phraya.
To join in celebrating the rivers of the Kingdom, and to celebrate the Amazing River of Kings, Reurak Chao Phraya school, the TaWiset project, and the Faculty of Painting and the art gallery of Silpakorn University, led by 2 national artists, are organizing an exhibition at the Emporium Department Store. There are 40 paintings in the show by 24 artists who love the Chao Phraya river.
The show includes paintings by Sannarong Singhaseni (a watercolor about the coolness of the flowing waters); Panya Wijintanasarn (a search for goodness in the river); Pichit Tangcharoen ( only a fraction of the frame; looks unfinished); Arkom Duangchowna (beautiful impressionist style); Pairote Wongbon (detailed image of life along the river).
The critic comments on 4 images from the show illustrating the column this week, i.e. works by Prekamol Chiowanich, Worasan Suparp, Sujintn Trinarong and Sompop Budtarad.
Golden Paintbrush scolds his readers for not taking proper care of the nation’s rivers. “We grew up with the Chao Phraya waterway taking care of us. When we grow up, we destroy it, like matricides, without ever showing gratitude…Hope that one day, people will care for this ailing old mother, this waterway, so she can live to see her Thai children and grandchildren for as long as possible.” (Note: Factories are a problem…)
Commentary: Showing an awareness of the geography of some of the nation’s important rivers, the critic, with poetic (and scolding)language, joins with the artists, to make signs to the public that the river is a profound resource and should be respected and appreciated accordingly. The campaign to raise public awareness to clean up the Chao Phraya river continues with the cooperation of local artworld luminaries and a note that (factories cause problems for the river…).


14. Manit Sriwanichphum. If You Don’t Believe, Don’t Disrespect: Phra Suphan
Kaliya. Yr.45, Vol.43, 28 March – 3 April, 1999.
The rotten, tiresome case of toying with legality in the case of the draft status of the son of Chalermchai Yubamroong and news of the harassment of K.Sumali Limbhowat, for citing her constitutional right to see proof of the results of her daughter’s (supposedly failed) test enter Kasetsart University’s Demonstration School.
“In the midst of these melodramas in Thailand, the people’s faces were bright as they enjoyed new faith in Phra Suphan Kaliya, the older sister of King Naresuan.” The story of the great lady was fueled by Dr.Nalinee Paiboon and a monk, Luang Phu Ngon, who were accused, generally, of spinning royal history into a more marketable legend in order to improve sales.
Manit asks himself why Phra Suphan Kaliya should not become another angel in the pantheon. A thousand years from now, will it matter? The Thai people embrace so many deities and so many shrines. Even the 5th King was adored as a deity quite recently. It is not unusual for kings or royals to receive obeisance throughout the Kingdom.
“In our era of materialist civilization, wealth is our protection…Whatever makes you rich, worship it.” Honorable Father, the 5th King has become a symbol of business prosperity for the younger generation. Does anyone care about the burdens of office which he carried? Images of the 5th King are found everywhere, revered as symbols of power, wealth and comfort.
After the economic bubble burst, no one could do anything to help. Perhaps it was necessary to find a new deity. It is not only the government which can rewrite history as it pleases. The people also have the right. Seeing no dignity in the government, the bureaucracy or the law, the people look to angels, divinities and spirits to punish the wicked and bestow winning lottery tickets.
The success story of Dr.Nalinee Paiboon and her cosmetics company is intensely interesting to people. A divorcee with a child who surrendered her business, with many millions, to her ex-husband: it was her ‘sacrifice’ – like Phra Suphan Kaliya, who sacrificed herself so that Phra Naresuan could save the country.
In this IMF economy, a sacrificing woman is just in line with the values of Thai society, but more especially, the part about miracles and getting rich.
The late monk confirmed Dr.Nalinee’s vision of Phra Suphan Kaliya. Later, a painting of the princess was commissioned. The image (created by Chusit Wijarnjorkit) is beautiful in the style of Chakrapan-ism: sweet, peaceful, still, and sad.
Since nobody really knows what the actual princess looked like, there is an opportunity for artists to create a new vision: an oval face, great skin, large round eyes, a small red mouth, aristocratic in bearing. She looks a bit like Dr.Nalinee, herself. “We might say that this Phra Suphan Kaliya reflects Thai women’s ideals in the new era – right?”
She becomes the goddess of self-sacrifice, the angel of the past-bubble-burst economy. A million people out of work, hopeless, despairing, feeling empty, with no one to look to for help, not even Buddhism; they still hope that wealth will return again. Just sacrifice and endure!
Commentary: Cynical, bad-tempered Manit. Compared with his fellow columnists, he seems irretrievably grouchy, a ‘kill-joy’ and a ‘nay-sayer’. Reading only these early columns, one would be amazed to find that he was able to go on writing (very productively)in Silpa/Wattanatham for at least 8 more years.
Though the title of his essay quotes the rule of thumb in polite society (‘if you don’t believe, don’t disrespect someone else’s beliefs’), the critic cannot cast a blind eye on the present depressing situation. By sifting through the story and considering the pros and cons generally, Manit seems to make some peace with himself. Despite his frustration over social injustice with no solution in sight, Manit has sympathy for the people in the face of their overwhelming difficulties.


15. Manit Sriwanichphum. Kamol Tasananchali – The Good Boy of the Thai
Artworld. Yr.45, Vol.44, 4 - 10 April, 1999
We can see a lot about what Thai society admires in the person of ‘Kamol’ Tasananchali (if Thai society is what the National Culture Committee says it is). ‘Kamol’ was a good student, by Thai and American standards, a star pupil at Poh Chang and Prasarnmitr. He did his BFA and MFA at Otis Institute in LA. Following the values of society, he went to the top of the pyramid. So many praise and prizes, Thai and foreign, they fill up his room.
Who is good and charming is rewarded; who has problems is punished. Kamol, however, can get on with everyone in every society, every circle. He connects in every direction. He knows what society is, what is needed – so that is what he gives and receives.
Superficial Thai society, never sincere with anything. Never seeking truth, never testing the value of things. Maybe people feel they are not in the position, do not have the right to decide about values. It’s necessary to follow the advice of ones betters. Conferring value is thus a kind of power (like being a judge of a competition.)
‘Kamol’’s retrospective at the National Gallery of art begins with a room full of news clippings about all that Kamol and been and done. There are many photos of the face of ‘Kamol’ himself, like a great ego, floating around you.
‘Kamol’ has finally become an institution: no one dares to critique his work anymore. The walls carry his words of encouragement to all the members of the Thai artworld.
The next rooms show his big works, made between 1960 and 1999. Manit wonders about the lack of documents to help viewers understand.
‘Kamol’ is praised for using symbols of Thai culture to spread ‘Thai-ness’ in the world. These symbols are cited as the ‘essence’ of what it is to be Thai. (Yes, we have symbols, but we never have the soul.)
The National Culture Office wants to control ‘Thai-ness’ and keep it in the mid-stream of globalization, promoting sales of ‘Thai-ness’. ‘Kamol’ is useful for them.
‘Kamol’ has been a spokesman for the American School of Contemporary Art. He likes to talk about the outstanding American society and the American artworld, its museums, galleries and competitions. He always talks about these things since he went there to become an artist, like a young country bumpkin back from the city, encircled by villagers and telling them how heavenly the big city is.
‘Kamol’ is a picture representing the dreams of many Thai artists who want fame and success in white cities. They can be more, like many other Thai artists who go to white countries. They know what whites expect. (Like the Tourism Authority knows foreign tourists – what whites, Chinese, Japanese and Indians want.)
Commentary: Kamol’s name is placed in quotation marks throughout the essay, suggesting that Manit might be attacking the ‘idea’ of ‘Kamol’ rather than the human person behind the name. As one of the Thai artworld’s ‘good’ or ‘golden’ boys, Kamol ‘got with the program’ and is reaping the rewards of his success. In Manit’s estimation, however, ‘Kamol’ appears to have done little more than carry out the ‘ready-made’ values of his professional caste. Manit resents the institutionalization of ‘Kamol’ in his exhibition into an eerie, disembodied symbol, the lack of documentation and historical framework for important sections of the show, and the shallow citing of ‘the essence of Thai-ness’ when referring to things like elements of traditional Thai architecture. ‘Kamol’s story fits comfortably within the safe parameters of the National Culture Office as a suitable model for young Thai artists, but the model is much too ‘white’ for Manit’s taste.






16. Manit Sriwanichphum. Miracle Day of Observance.
Yr.45, Vol.45 11 - 17 April, 1999.
Going through Paritat Hutangkul’s show at Tadu Gallery, Manit is wondering. What will happen in Thai society if the image of the Lord Buddha is presented as a woman? Paritat’s show is all about Buddhism. He puts a simple yellow linear image inside a traffic symbol, forbidding any parking. Simply put: No Parking for Lord Buddha. If the Buddha came today, he would be asked to move on. Buddhists only practice on high holy days now.
Paritat ridicules people who call themselves Buddhist but who are very selective about their practice, especially in today’s consumerist society where religion is just another commodity. Monks are only interested in sales figures and how to market their brand.
In “Give Back the Yellow Cloth,” Paritat shows a number of failed monks turning in their robes after piling up sins of the flesh, of greed for wealth, of lust for pleasure. Though so many people are swept up in the mad search for wealth, using money to buy ‘ready-made Nirvana’, no one would say they are not Buddhist.
“Capitalists are the greediest merchants. They can turn everything into money, even former enemies of worldliness like Buddhism.”
“Paritat thinks very straight, very simply. He talks straight. That’s why I have trouble with his work. He takes the point of view of a very old-fashioned Thai male, a villager, who looks at desire and the evils of lust as problems caused by women.”
Women have been portrayed by male painters in traditional temple paintings as perfectly in order or totally wild and sex-crazed. Women are presented as enemies of male virginity.
Manit is sorry to see Paritat presenting a very ugly, disgusting image, mocking the faces of pretty young starlets nowadays in “A New Face Comes Out.” The critic urges the artist to consider how women are typically targeted in Thai society where males rule. Women are sold as commodities, prostitutes and men count the money behind the scenes. In picture after picture, Paritat slams women as evil, for example, in “Got Her from Karaoke,” and “Got Her from a Magazine,” and “Ass- Take One, Ass –Take Two,” reminiscent of pornographic magazines, images of enticing naked women who lead young men astray.
“Paritat paints with anger, hate, rejecting the distortion of today’s society, but with good intentions. Still, the stark polar divisions which Paritat presents do not help us understand the real problem clearly.” Manit mentions some old wrong ideas which should be discarded, for example, using women as symbols of desire and lust, thinking that religion is about male purity and perfection being hindered by women.
In Paritat’s “Whites Beat the Likay Actor,” three whites in suits beat a likay actor bloody, suggesting how Western culture swallows up local culture insatiably.
“Paritat is brave, well-intentioned and very determined. But he may be rash, not figuring the problem carefully, from all aspects. Some of his symbols are incorrect, [causing a confused meaning.]”
Manit closes by admiring “Taking Yellow Robes to the Laundry,” in which the Lord Buddha delivers some yellow robes to an old Chinese man in jeans standing smiling by a washing machine. This work is very jolly, and very appropriate where monks today are concerned. Paritat uses some old Thai painting techniques very effectively in this work, bringing old and new together as part of his expression.
Commentary: Manit admires the lively ingenuity of some of Paritat’s images, for example, the spiritual ‘No Parking’ sign , the ‘turning in of robes’ by various failed monks, and the idea of the Lord Buddha overcoming the sins of his followers by taking dishonored robes to a Chinese laundry. He also appreciates the artist’s critique of Buddhist practices distorted by consumerist values. However, it is difficult to accept the logic of Manit’s assessment that “Paritat paints with anger and hate, rejecting the distortion of today’s society, but with good intentions.” Manit has keen perception, indeed, if he can find good intentions behind the other, even more aggressive works by Paritat which are not only misogynist, but also racist and xenophobic, according to the critic’s own descriptions.


17. Golden Paintbrush. Narrow World View of People in the Artworld –
Unchanged in Years. Yr.45, Vol.46, 18 - 24 April, 1999.
This April the weather is hotter than ever, frighteningly hot, in fact. The critic urges readers to seek some cool spot in nature, in a forest, on a mountain, by a stream.
Sometimes people go astray and follow, not nature, but illusion. The same is true in the artworld. Having a self, being jealous, looking down on others, being hypocritical: some people forget their roots, their old teachers. They get to the other side and abandon the boat. Some don’t work much, but like to criticize. They step on the heads of others in order to become famous. They are like worms reborn on a dunghill who spit on older worms. Some people in the new era have souls like animals.
But works of art should build the soul, stimulate and warn, stir us to imagine, awaken us to beauty, tell the heart to love life and care for culture and the environment…
The forms and elements of color in art can relieve tension. These things have value in a simple life. They are not old-fashioned, as some are claiming.
On the occasion of the 88th birthday of Acharn Kukrit Pramote, a master artist, a great philosopher of Siam and a pillar of Thai democracy, founder of Siamrath newspaper, I would like to put forward some of his ideas. Mom said that artists should follow their own ideas and satisfy their own need to express themselves. They should be patient and make the art which they think is right and beautiful. The immortal works of Kru-Inkong and Soontorn Phu were revolutionary…
Whatever Mom did, he did sincerely. He was a doer, not just a talker.
Artworld people should not be like politicians fighting. They should not be limited to narrow ideas. Open your minds! Accept each other!
Let the people enjoy and collect what art they like. They have varied ideas and tastes. Art is not a chain to drag people, forcing them to walk this path or that.
One art movement is not better than another. What is new today will be old tomorrow. We shouldn’t be overly attached to our institutions; we shouldn’t disrespect each other. Artists are ordinary, not super-natural people. The world is big enough for all kinds of artists.
Commentary: One wonders what prompted this impassioned statement by the Golden Paintbrush! There must have been some controversy arising in the artworld in the hot April weather of 1999.


18. Golden Paintbrush. The Power of Nature in Wacharin Rodnit.
Yr.45, Vol.47, 25 April – 1 May, 1999.
“Warm golden light pours everywhere in the forest. Mingled leaves and stalks with sharp thorns have woven dense shadows overlapping and breaking the golden light. You see the cluttered solitude of the forest, mingling, as if soaked,with the echoing boisterous, meditative sounds of small animals. Moist branches. Eyes stare at whoever passes by or enters in. The sound of tramping feet on piles of musty leaves and dry branches, rousing all the little living things from the subconscious. It has been a long time since we have see paintings which turn beautiful brushstrokes decisively. The marks of the brush become a flickering surface. Using the subject of nature and the forest, emotion and feeling are mingled and expressed in semi-abstraction.”
Wacharin Rodnit, an artist from the forests of the South, studied at the Faculty of Painting at Silpakorn University.
“The light of art which smolders brightly and brilliantly, luminously, in Wacharin’s heart reflects from the frame and canvas and cannot be hidden. He is a master of technique and texture. This is an important part of his work, slippery and flowing…”
“Wacharin has reached the universal language of the artworld, the profound roots of the old culture. The concept of his work is, ‘everything in nature mingles together in unity and is filled with mysterious power.”
The critic describes 6 paintings by Wacharin: ‘Green Waterfall’(the cool wetness of the streaming waterfall takes leaves on an endless journey); ‘Kongkarng’ (a deep, mysterious forest in a blue atmosphere, silent, tranquil and unpolluted); ‘Pai Preu’ (Floating Bamboo – The wind blows, branches sway. The crisp sound, dry and crackling, of brown trees in the warm yellow light); ‘Thorny Forest’ (he gradually fights his way through sharp places to find the flower and fruit of a little plant blossoming in a thorny wood); ‘Rain Forest No.2’ (the damp coolness of the forest floor after a rain); and ‘Northern Light,’(feelings that faintly move in the midst of the deep forest, a bright light beyond the darkness).
The critic mourns artists who hurry to abandon the creative possibilities of realism by rushing on into abstraction. Their work ‘is like a song with no words. The images look too simple, though it takes a long time to explain the concept. Some people change again and again till they can’t find who they really are any more.’
Wacharin joined in the event to honor Mom Kukrit Pramote on his 88th birthday at the Rattanakosin Hotel. That great man expressed his hopes that Thailand’s artworld ‘should be in unison, making artworks sincerely, not pretending, not dividing into opposing camps, whether they share the same ideas or not.’
The critic mourns the passing and loss of one of the Thai artworld’s highly respected senior figures.
Commentary: The melodious language of the critic’s admiring descriptions of Wacharin Rodnit’s work seems like music to the ear after the rattling and banging of Manit Sriwanichphum’s fuming and complaining. Even so, a steady diet of all one or all the other would be tiresome and oppressive. It’s great to have these distinctively different critical voices in the discourse of Thailand’s contemporary artworld.


19. Golden Paintbrush. A Hundred Birds, a Thousand Blossoms, Ten Thousand Insects in Scientific Drawings. Yr.45, Vol.48, 2 – 8 May, 1999.
Making illustrations is one aspect of applied art, and something which is very near to children in school. Pictures in textbooks have an important role in indirectly capturing the student’s interest. Without illustrations, many texts would lose much of their charm.
Scientific illustration is part of this. Scientific illustrations, besides being beautiful and realistic in form and color, must also make clear the important characteristic of their subject. The beauty and reality of nature is the core of scientific illustration.
This kind of art is not very well known or understood because there is no branch specializing in this field of illustrating.
Photographs cannot show inner organs and structures because of overlapping parts. Scientific illustration can emphasize the desired details more clearly. The picture can be realistic, broken into parts, focusing on one part or look through a cutaway view without destroying the natural reality.
Scientific illustration helps scientists all over the world communicate with each other. Detail comes into focus to serve the purpose as photographs cannot.
The critic introduces three such illustrators, Kamol Komolpalin, a well-known painter and illustrator of birds, and an advocate of bird conservation in Thailand; Ekachai Ort-amphai, who specializes in illustrations of flowers, especially orchids; and Wichai Malikul, who made a career of doing illustrations of all kinds of insects, especially butterflies. He worked for many years at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, where he has also been teaching watercolor painting in the institute’s entomology department.
These three painters volunteered to share their experience for those who are interested. A.Sasiwimol Sawaengpol in the botany department of the science faculty is the facilitator.
The critic urges that scientific illustration receive more attention in the curricula of applied art, visual communication design and commercial art circles in Thailand.
Commentary: Useful, interesting and stimulating for potential illustrators and those developing curricula in applied arts.


20. Golden Paintbrush. Somjai Rice: From Watercolor to Thai-ness.
Yr.45, Vol.49, 9 – 15 May, 1999.
“This week, let’s relax with some watercolor painting, cool and damp, with very simple Thai subjects to cool the heat and loosen up [in the face of] the Wat Phra Dhammakai case.”
From the little hand of a child drawing pictures of things along the Chao Phraya, has come today a bold hand which firmly reflects those early impressions. The artist has taken 10 years to reach this exhibition.
Somjai Rice, a Thai woman artist whose name fits her skills and ideas. Her heart and mind are forward looking and powerfully expressive.
“The traces of watercolor flow in a long stream, pictures of the temple, Thai style houses, women selling from boats on the river, markets, stores selling from six in the evening till morning in the dark, lights sparkling; rented houses, fishermen, all kinds of flowers and plants, stems and branches. The water colors are never still, myriads rushing to meet together like lovers who have to part.”
When making watercolor pictures, one wants them to be comfortable; no need to emphasize collecting details or to be realistic in every way, says the artist, to people who ask for advice.
Q. Some people wonder about your ethnic background.
A. I’m an authentic Thai, but I married a German.

Q.Why is your character like a white?
A. Probably because I am tall, and I like sports. My character is rather tough. Not like Thai women generally. I’m very dexterous, so that’s why [I seem like a foreigner].

Q.What is your primary career?
A. Painting is what I do primarily. I get up and paint and draw every morning. Some have accused me of not being a serious professional artist, but I don’t think about that because I work at it every day. Sometimes I give my works to friends as gifts…

Somjai did not graduate from art school, but studied with Ari Sutiphan from Srinakharinviroj University, Prasarnmitr, and later with Suchart Wongthong. Her first exhibition was around 1989, at the River City Hotel., about 135 pictures.

Q.Why don’t you show at a gallery? Like the National Gallery?
A. For Bangkok people, for business people who come and go, it is more convenient at hotels. The queue at the National Gallery is very long.


Q.Why does your work [sometimes] emphasize ‘Thai-ness’?
A.” Because I am Thai and I grew up along the Chao Phraya. When I paint, I try to communicate being Thai for the people of the world to see. Beauty is charming. Even the people from abroad are charmed. They want to keep these pictures as history. They want to see the real thing. And it supports the Year of Thai Tourism.

Q. Do you feel you are a tough Thai woman artist, having a solo show?
A. “You might say that. Because there aren’t that many Thai women artists. Actually, we women have a tough time, it’s true. Because of the burden of the family. My family burdens were lifted 10 years ago. All my kids are graduated and working, so I have full time to invest in making art, as I do now.

Q.What kind of pictures do you like to make most?
A. I can tell you right off, I like to do pictures of market places very early in the morning. They are my favorite subject. The dim lights inside the shops contrast with the sun, which is just coming over the horizon. I like the atmosphere of a market with the vendor-women. The people bustling; it looks so lively. After that, I like to do temples whose shadows fall on the river at sunset. These two, I really like.

Commentary: The case of women like Somjai Rice, for whom art is a favorite past-time and a second career is most interesting, one of those still unexplored areas of art history. Her comments about exhibiting in hotels are noteworthy. The artist’s life and work seem to exemplify those interesting and very lively ‘in-between’ worlds which often escape notice because they are between official categories.


21. Manit Sriwanichphum. Bored with Dhammakai; Met St.Francis of Assisi.
Yr.45, Vol.50, 16 – 22 May, 1999.
“I was gone from Thai society for more than a month while the scandalous Dhammakai case boiled over. I hoped there would be some conclusion, one way or another, though I know very well that temples and monks, generally, are very Dhamma-greedy. The difference is, Dhammakai does it better than anyone else.” Manit slams the professional marketing, advertising, selling of merit and fund-raising practices of the controversial sect. “They will probably be very powerful in the future…the Vatican of Thailand.”
Every order of the Thai Sangha is experiencing intense, critical deterioration, using the Lord Buddha to earn money and become filthy rich. And they destroy those who would defend the faith.
Manit’s visit to the pilgrimage site of Assisi (about half an hour north of Rome by train) during the Easter holy days was like a cleansing of depression and gloom, going to meet God, seeking Dharma, ‘finding real goodness in one blessed person the world has known, St. Francis.’
Manit takes great interest in the story of St.Francis, and how he was called upon by a voice from heaven to ‘repair’ the Church. As a brother, Francis lived simply and in poverty. “His was ‘a priesthood according to Dharma” in the true sense of the word… [By contrast] the Vatican was exceedingly wealthy, forgetting the objectives of religion. Even making war…destroying other faiths…building giant churches…controlling the people from birth until death with the repressive refrain, ‘In the name of the Lord.’
Francis saw the Church as a house falling down and made efforts to repair it by setting an example of simplicity and a return to nature. He was the forest monk of Assisi, the Ghandi of Italy, one of those who set alight the wave which became the Renaissance. He rebuked the Middle Ages and was marked by the stigmata, a mystical sign of his sainthood. Manit went to see the church of St.Damian, where Francis began his work, the first church he rebuilt. “It really is a beautiful temple, in my feeling…to reach it, you have to walk on foot about 4 kilometers. It took me back to nature, something I really missed in my life.”
“ Visiting Assisi and meeting St.Francis was like a dream, a kind of healing dream for a wounded faith in beauty and goodness which was beaten down on every side. I had then to go back to the real world which has no St.Francis in Thai Buddhist society – and if there is someone, Thai society remains indifferent, letting the destruction continue. It’s very sad.”
Commentary: In an exploration of the culture of religion, Manit draws parallels between the excesses and need for reform in the Church of Rome in the Middle Ages and the corrupt state of institutional Buddhism in Thailand nowadays. The critic, discouraged and worn down with frustration, finds some solace as he wanders through the town of Assisi, pondering the life and work of St.Francis. A walk through the natural vistas of the Italian countryside quiets the moody thoughts of the Thai critic, just as it must have lifted the hearts of countless pilgrims of art and religion through the centuries.


22. Manit Sriwanichphum. Perfectionism: A Virtue Lost From the Thai Artworld.
Yr.45, Vol.51, 23 – 29 May, 1999.
“Not that I am shameless, affected or arrogant like whites, or am boasting and bragging. It’s just hard for me to come back and try to admire works of art, or Thai artists, after traveling for a month or so admiring the art of Italy in Rome, Florence, Napoli and in many little towns.
“Let me ask a question: how was it possible for the Italians to create works like those?”
Many times, Manit, like other tourists, felt too filled with art, feverish, ‘giddy with beauty.’
“The Italian government has to station a nurse beside the churches and big art museums like the one next to the Duomo in Florence.” The beauty is over-powering.
The critic was surprised to find himself needing a break, recovering his breath for a moment in a public park..
“I went to the marketplace, looked at houses and buildings and at people on the street. Then I was able to go back to the museum. Even so, what I found outside was also art. It was living art in Rome, Florence and Napoli – these cities are living art museums, it’s true.”
‘Perfectionism’ [a word which, admittedly, imperfectly translates the Sanskrit idea] “has to do with determination, devotion to doing it, giving it your all, an eye for detail so your work will be best, the most beautiful, pushing it to the farthest one can push, to the limit, beyond brains and skill.”
Thai people might once have been seekers after perfection in the Sukhothai era, or in the work of Nai Kong Pae, or Kru In-Kong, or Acharn Fua Haripitak, who devoted his life and intellectual energy to recovering the scripture cabinet at Wat Rakang, or even in the work of K. Chakrphan Posyakrit in recovering a famous Thai puppet theatre. When Thai people seek perfection, mediocre work will not be admitted. This is not a matter of narrow-mindedness and nothing to do with seniority.
Manit points to the work of the Italian, Michelangelo, who went to the marble quarry and selected the exact piece of marble he wanted. Not that he finished every block which he began to carve, but even his discarded attempts, history has regarded as masterpieces.
Though Michelangelo did not want to paint the Sistine Chapel, when he accepted the work, he did it to his furthest capability. It was beautiful and full of power. “But before it was finished, he quarreled with the Pope many times.” Why was Michelangelo not content to do just enough to satisfy the Pope and no more? Because he worked “to please God – or as we say in our parlance, to offer to the Lord Buddha.”
Manit was happy to be able to see the restored Sistine ceiling during his visit. It was just opened after a 15 year period of cleaning. He admires the way the Italians take care of their cultural heritage, using technology to preserve these treasures for future generations, this ‘brain-food,’ this ‘nourishment for the soul.’
The critic notes that Michelangelo, unmarried and a man of simple habits, was an important financial support for his parents and siblings. At the same time, the artist “never referred to this burden as an excuse or a problem that impinged on his perfectionism as an artist till the day he died.” Manit mourns the lack of the perfectionist habit in the Thai artworld. When Thai artists reach a peak of creativity, they begin mass-producing – turning out ‘reproductions’ for sale like factories, losing their potential, their skill and their creative vigor. They compete for riches. The virtue of perfectionism seems to dry up and nothing remains but mediocrity. Only in the advertising industry do people with artistic flair go on challenging themselves to stretch their creative potential…in service to the gods of underwear, sweets, laundry detergent and condoms – not to gods of the soul.
Commentary: A trip through Italy and a heavy dose of Italian Renaissance art deeply impresses Manit. He sums up his praise by describing the artists of Italy as tireless seekers after perfection. Seeing so many fine original artworks in their home context, preserved for the enjoyment of Italians and countless visitors from around the world, Manit marvels at this ‘nourishment for the soul,’ and grieves at the short-sighted and shallow goals of too many contemporary Thai artists.



23. Golden Paintbrush. Thai @rtNet www.thaiartnet.com
Art Media on the Internet. Yr.45, Vol.52, 30 May – 5 June, 1999.
Many people are interested in Thailand’s artworld today, but information is scattered and time-consuming and expensive to obtain. There are more commercial galleries than sources of knowledge about art. The Thai Art Net website was created to provide information and news about visual arts for students at all levels and for any interested persons. Artists and their creative works can become better known round the world through these good examples for educational purposes.
Thai Art Net was created by Bangkok Darawat Ltd. and Darka Tantiwiwattanaphan, an art lover and collector, and her computer adept husband. The target group is members of the public between the ages of 15 – 45 who use computers and are interested in art.
Thai Art Net has been going for 2 years but is just now announcing itself. Enjoying art off a computer screen, of course, is not like seeing the original objects, but is better than not being able to glimpse the artwork at all. There is also news, history of artists, and other information. Silpakorn University has a website with details only on art teachers at the university, but Thai Art Net contains information about Thai artist generally.
Recalling the death of Professor Silpa Bhirasri on 14 May, the website is honoring this pillar of the modern Thai artworld.
The article gives details of the various ‘rooms’ at the website, eg. the Welcome Room, the Artist’s Room, the Visual Arts Room, etc.
Commentary: The Thai high artworld gets a boost from computer-savy admirers and reaches out on the Internet.



24. Niran Ketutad. Nude: The Feeling of Nitaya Eua-Ariworakul.
Yr.46 Vol.1, 6 – 12 June, 1999.
“Peel and denude the idea. Open up the raw world of instinct of Nitaya Eua-Ariworakul. Womanifesto – with artworks in mini-frames, raw, nude (headless) women, nameless. They all risk their fate in this gloomy world. Raw color and lighting, shallow space. No exit. Most of the works seem to have been torn out of a sketchbook. Very fresh indeed, with many techniques and subjects. It is like hearing the blues and rock mingled, hoarse and groaning, with a solo guitar for feeling…”
In the lonely night, there seems to be no way out for anonymous young women, judged and punished by society. The women seem to be dragged, without rights, bowing to their fate because of tradition, custom, values, whatever, like slaves.
It is a dark prison of the mind which becomes ordinary and acceptable in a consumer society.
The sketches are very simple. Simplicity is a taste that should not be denied. Some of the drawings are like cartoons, with very free lines. Sometimes the pictures are hard to understand. If there were some note of explanation…
Let me encourage her, says Niran, she who has chosen this path. It is her happiness to use her freedom in her work. She uses her instincts, both cultivated and raw. And she tries to understand herself and her fellow human beings.
I really wonder who the lady in these pictures is, shy and hurting, alone in a dark room. But who would want to know more? Why make such depressing pictures?
The picture “She” is a person with no right to protest, with no one to call upon for redress. This could be real life for many people.
The picture “Release Me” looks like a young woman in chains.
The picture “Beautiful” is the Buddha. The lines move more freely, the color is fresh.
These images are neither nice nor mannerly. We seem to be peeping at a private sketchbook. The ideas are still confused, between abstraction and reality.
It is very hard to communicate sometimes. Is something universal needed? Like a suit and tie. Speak English. There is a mask, as in a ‘Kohn’ play. It’s something we want to remove from ourselves (masks). Remove it or wear it till you die.
All who are interested in art, give this woman support. Nitaya Eua-Areworakul – one strong woman in the exhibition, ‘Nude Empty’ – opening Sunday, June 27 at Chandioh Gallery at Fun-Sunday Plaza in back of the Chatuchak Market.
Commentary: Through the years, the Silpa/Wattanatham column put many women briefly into the spotlight. The critic is very sympathetic with the voices which seem to come from the images in the ‘Nude Empty’ show in a gallery gamely located at the back of the weekend market. Intimations about the life and experience of the women in the pictures by artist, Nitaya, contrast starkly with the works and experience of Somjai Rice, another woman artist, who was interviewed a few weeks back by the Golden Paintbrush in ‘From Watercolor to Thai-ness, Yr.45, Vol.49, 9 – 15 May, 1999.

25. Manit Sriwanichphum. The Faith of the People of Bahn Krut..
Yr.46, Vol.2, 13 – 19 June, 1999.
Manit tells how he was invited by friends in the ‘Ukabat’ group to take part in an exhibition of paintings at Bahn Krut in Prachuabkirikan. They wanted to express their support for a group of villagers fighting to stop construction of a coal-fired electricity generating plant by a government sponsored private firm, Union Power Development Co.Ltd.
“I have been feeling bored and disgusted with myself, with the country, with society in general, so I wasn’t excited much when contacted to go and see ‘protest art’ this time. I had organized such activities myself and pretty much knew what to expect. And probably little would be accomplished. Why fight? Why protest? It will all be over soon. As my elders used to warn me,” says Manit, “ Who are you to think you can fight these biggies? Take care of your life. Do your own work.
“They warned me a lot,” says Manit, “ until my morale was utterly crushed because eventually, I knew that just knowing how to survive is best.
“Risking death for ones own ideals or fighting for the right is a joke in a society without ideals or faith in goodness like Thai society today.
“Meanwhile, the Ukabat people are brimming with faith and hope, all 3 of them – Wasan Sittiket, Mana Pupichit and Paisarn Plienbangchang, and an invited artist, Anurak Chachanand.
The group nails up their paintings to the trees along the beach. Manit records the comments of villagers who see their way of life being destroyed and jobs in factories being offered to them instead. Once happy in their community, the people are now divided in opinion and no longer trust each other. They regard each other with bitterness and pain.
Khun Jintana Kaewkao, one of the leaders told how they planned to close the highway in protest. Some leaders were arrested, but the protest did not fade away, and the villagers armed themselves, preparing to fight the police.
“We kept on demonstrating and protesting. We refused that electricity generating plant.” She tells how a group of 300 villagers went to the home of Anand Banyarachun (president of Saha Union Company) and begged the former prime minister to stop the project, but the discussion failed.
“He has a corpse in his hands and some holy thing in his mouth,” she said bitterly.
Manit sees a strategy of ‘divide and conquer’ in the ability of the authorities to set the villagers against each other. It is a tactic that works well in Thai society, he says.
The public hearings that were organized were not genuine in the peoples’ eyes.
“It has been a very tiring time, using time and energy and what little money they have, going back and forth to Bangkok so many times, fighting their way through the tricks of the cruel government. The more I saw, the more I respected them as fighters. They are, all of them.”
Manit is deeply moved by the people’s attachment to the land of their birth, their readiness even to die to stand their ground…old Uncle Somkid Sondhi, K. Jintana Kaewkao, K. Jurawidt Jaewsakul and the others. Manit finds himself deeply encouraged by the villagers’ example. “The villagers are like a greater fire of faith for people like me, whose faith is flickering out.”
Commentary: Not long after staring up in wonder at the murals of the Sistine ceiling in the Vatican, Manit is back in Thailand, standing on the beaches of Prachuabkirikan, looking with sympathy and respect into the fiercely determined faces of Thai villagers at Bahn Krut. They are fighting a desperate battle to protect their homes against the encroachment of unsympathetic officialdom and private sector investors. He finds himself uplifted and his courage rekindled by the determination of these poor country people. The morale of the art critic is thus strengthened and revived..

26. Manit Sriwanichphum. A Refreshing Burden.
Yr.46, Vol.3, 20 – 26 June, 1999.
“A small white room, not larger than 5 x 12 square meters in the Bangkok University Art Gallery has ‘rubber dolls,’ rather yellowish, life-size, four or five of them, seated on red cushions. Their eyes are closed in meditation. Similar cushions are placed before each figure, and each ‘doll’ has a red rubber tube attached to its navel. [A sign instructs:] Please sit on the red cushion, blow into the red tube and see.”
Manit takes a catalog and looks quickly at the statement by Suti Kunawichayanond, the creator of these works.
“While Thai people are weighing their hearts between joining the current of globalization or being satisfied with holding the line of yellow-skinned farmers of SE Asia; when everything is weak and weary, the former value of beauty has declined and deteriorated. The people become increasingly dried up and withered. Just breath, very delicate, helps extend life and liveliness in so many things. Adding breath is a great burden…but even though it is a burden that appears to have no end, it depends on patience, endurance and mercy. But it’s not a boring or painful burden…We should hold that it is a duty of the soul, a holy duty, which must be done happily…it is a refreshing duty of humanity.”
The works are a tease on the present social crisis, but Manit finds himself wondering why he does not find the presentation refreshing. Usually, he likes Suti’s works, but this time is no fun.
Manit calls them ‘rubber dolls’ instead of ‘sculptures.’ They are modeled from the body of the artist, himself. Why use a human figure? Why bald? Why is the figure sitting in a meditative position? Why did the artist use his own body as the mold?
Manit feels like the work involves ‘blowing up the ego of the artist.’ Puffed up, it becomes a sort of holy reverend acharn.
Breath in, breath out; this fits Thai Buddhism very well. If there is a crisis in life, go to Dharma. Manit sees in the rubber dolls the ‘body’ of Suti. The blowing up is a problematic symbol. (“Could the rubber doll be a Dharma riddle by which Suti is ridiculing or insulting Thai society?”) Manit mentions an inflatable female rubber doll which sailors took to sea with them…
Manit concludes that Suti’s work lacks imagination, and he is not pleased with the artist’s dense philosophical musing in the catalog.
Manit liked Suti’s earlier work, “When it rains, pig shit runs,” which also dealt with ‘breathing’ but was really much more fun for the participating audience. Manit liked the rubber elephant dolls and the rubber tiger dolls which Suti asked visitors to inflate with their own breath, “though in the end, one finds that these efforts [to inflate the rubber tigers] are meaningless and hopeless. No matter how much you try to help…it can only be temporary, and then they fold again.”
“Or even dolls like the 10 cute little elephants on which Suti fastened wheels, making the elephants run as if alive. They tried very hard to get out of the box which confined them, out of the glass case containing them. It was very sad to see.”
Commentary: Suti is an artist whose works Manit usually admires, but this set was not successful in the critic’s estimation. Manit’s analysis is concisely reasoned and without malice, citing earlier works which were much more refreshing. This negative critique makes the reader appreciate the artist’s efforts all the more by showing how difficult art is, and how even the most carefully constructed concepts can slide disastrously off the mark.


27. Niran Ketutad. Two Vision from Bordeaux and the Graphic Art of Toshiya Takahama. Yr.46 Vol.4, 27 June – 3 July, 1999.
“If the art of the world today goes beyond skill, delicacy and detailed care toward presenting mostly ideas, our world will be full ideas crashing together, crowded both in the air, on the water, in the wind, on the land, every hour of the day and night, because ideas are very mobile. Hundreds and thousands of ideas are born and die every day…
“The modern world in the era of the end of the millennium may be filled with thinkers. Bodies of humans may change – the forehead may stretch as the brain enlarges. The number of fingers might decrease, like crabs’ claws, from lack of use. “All these things are possible. When intellectuals and thinkers use their brains actively, there will be no doers, no one to carry things out after that.
“You think you want something – use your brain to think of it and Peng! It takes form, really exists.
“Think a lot. Think in measures. Think nonsense. Think well. Think evil. Think stupidly. Think fantasy. Think creatively. Think of that, of this.
“Better come back to the real world!!
“Looking at the works of art this time, I looked closely at ideas of 2 exhibitions with feelings of quiet, cool, still and silent. Nothing to impact feelings…
“Both events were works of someone who had crossed the waters from afar to show images of things concrete and ideas to people who have ideas or don’t. How much people absorb depends on the individual.
“One of those from the land of raw fish, Toshiya Takahama, presents ‘Bangkok Lotus Project 1998-1999’, at the Faculty of Painting, SU.
The other event is by two French women from the land of Bordeaux wine: ‘Two Visions from Bordeaux,’ by Marie Celine and Leticia Bourget at the Wityanitat Gallery, CU.
“Toshiya Takahama communicates his work in abstract form…an unreal, formless world, simple forms and lines, as if drawn by a child, denying visual reality, not attached to anything, like a world of ideas which cannot be seen. Let the viewer decide. Or it looks like a picture with no subject or message, made to decorate a room. “It has nothing to offer. The graphic technique has many complex stages before the images are complete. When you look at it, you have to read the name of the picture to find out what it means. Otherwise you might not get to the heart of it. Here! This is the world of abstraction.”
“Crossing over for a sip of Bordeaux wine at Chula, this set of works has photos, mixed media, video art. Marie Celine and black and white photos, pictures of little girls who look free, plump, innocent, in various poses, not wanting to look at the camera.
“Letitia Bourget, her work looks powerful and bold in some pieces. Perhaps too bold. (For example, she uses her own excrement sculpted into a piece of conceptual art.) Boldness is needed by people who make art, but it must be done right…Colonialists like the French, they don’t respect propriety in these cases.
“Big black and white photo portraits entitled ‘Friends Joining the Show’…’The Sleep’ is a composition that surprises the eye with extreme close-ups of the face of a sleeper. ‘Sewing the Line of Life’ …I think it mocks fortune by setting the lines of the hand anew.
“It’s not strange if the artworld today lacks skill. But ideas or wisdom are the central principle. If the idea is not good, or muddy or unclear, that’s another matter.”
Commentary: The Faculty of Painting at Silpakorn, ever interested in technical expertise, hosts a show of abstract works of graphic art by a Japanese artist. Chula, giving coverage to gutsy foreign women, hosts an exhibition of black and white photos by two French artists.
Judging from the diffuse and labored character of the critique, the two shows were not particularly inspiring for Niran.
The illustrations in the article include a reproduction of ‘Sewing the Line of Life,’ which is labeled ‘photocopy’ and another of ‘The Sleep,’ which is labeled ‘photo of photocopy,’ but the critic does not comment on the implications of the use of photocopying to create these high art images.

28. Niran Ketutad. ‘Flaring Emotion,’ the Expressionist Art of Yongyuth Damsri. Yr.46 Vol.5, 4 - 10 July, 1999.
The critic begins by explaining the aims and character of expressionist art generally, the use of distortion and raw color to express what the mind feels rather than what the eye sees. He briefly surveys the history of modern German expressionism since just before the first World War, mentioning Die Brucke and Der Blaue Reiter as examples of the emergence of the movement in the early 20th century.
Expressionism has never had much of a following in Thailand; expressionist painters are few. A vocalist and artist from Nakorn Srithammarat, where he studied at the College of Fine Arts, Yongyuth Damsri, is one of them. Taking his BFA from Poh Chang College, the artist exhibited for the first time in the 3rd Thailand Art Exhibition. Later, he organized 4 solo exhibitions and joined group shows with the Le Group, the Darmkwan Group, a group of graphic artists, and a group of ‘Artists for Nature.’
Niran quotes Yongyuth’s advice not to ‘draw according to the expectations of others.’ Aware of the constant need for compromise in daily life, Yongyuth noted that ‘only painting made him feel like himself.’
Asked about artistic influences, Yongyuth mentioned admiring works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Kandinsky, Amnart Yensabai, Ari Sutiphan and Wasan Sittiket.
Though Yongyuth’s works are not ‘virgin fresh’, Niran finds them bold and sincere.
Analyzing his oil paintings this time, the critic sees two patterns or styles, one more realistic, the other more symbolic. Niran suggests the artist might try working in black and white, however, because, “in some pictures, the form and the color are much in conflict. It looks intentional rather than like the emotional flaring up of which [Yongyuth] speaks.” The critic briefly surveys 7 paintings in the show, for example:
“I don’t destroy forests,” – a tree trunk with no branches. The leaves are indicated with simple marks, but the light is soft and indistinct, lonely and sad, reflecting the swampy recesses of the artist’s state of mind.
“Can you not know just one thing, please?” – The idea refers to persons who interfere with the [artist/singer’s] work, to the media society that wants to know everything.
And “Can you Hear Me?” – in which the artist tries to give the picture more voice, like music whose colors you can see. In actually, there isn’t any, but we seem to perceive it.”
The artist admits that these paintings are ‘a total mess,’ but promises to present a new series in the coming year which will be more enjoyable. The critic expresses guarded optimism.
Commentary: Silpa/Wattanatham gives coverage to an aspiring local talent with interesting reproductions of Yongyuth’s work illustrating the article. Judging by the review, Paritat Hutangkul’s show (Yr.45, Vol.45 11 - 17 April, 1999), despite that artist’s crudely misogynist images, was much more powerful. Manit’s review was, accordingly, much more interesting. It may prove the old adage that stronger art elicits more vigorous criticism.


29. Manit Sriwanichphum. Private and Public.
Yr.46, Vol.6, 11 - 17 July, 1999.
Manit describes his experience making photographs for a living for more than 10 years. He worked for magazines and advertising companies. He was always very aware of the need to make a polished professional composition. Indeed, the look of his photographs tended to remain within the ‘professionally photographed’ genre. To change his style, he eventually bought himself an ‘idiot’ camera with the automatic focus and light control which is so popular with the public generally. This so-called ‘idiot’ camera then becomes the boss, leaving nothing to the user but to point the camera and click the shutter. Even so, Manit didn’t get the pictures he wanted. Some were blurred, some very dark, some over-powered by the flash.
Most people are not too concerned about these imperfections as long as they have the keepsake image they need. They do not consider themselves as artists, nor do they regard their personal photos as artworks. They just snap what they want to preserve in memory – their friends, loved ones, relatives or images of themselves on holiday in famous places. Later, advertising and fashion photographers and artists in other fields borrowed this ‘candid’ mode as a stylish hit all over the world. Then you had ‘real candid’ and ‘fake candid’.
“Like so many other people, I believed that ‘every picture has a story, every picture has meaning, thought this many not always be true. But at least, it must be true of the photographer. The photo records a journey of [the photographer’s] life, no matter how small or big. On this journey, there is no turning back. That’s why we have photos to let us remember.”
Manit confesses that he has never given much importance to [photos of] his own private life. Though he took tens and hundreds of thousands of pictures for other people, he never has collected any photos of his own personal world. Though he likes to look at other people’s photo albums, he has none of his own!
Sompong Tawi, by contrast, has hundreds of personal photos on show in his “Once is Never Enough” exhibition at Gallery 253, with Tanom Chapakdi. Most of Sompong’s pictures are of friends, people at parties, pretty girls, former girlfriends, new girlfriends. Dogs and cats at home, bedroom, bathroom, toilet. Sompong presents his personal world for the world to see.
There are 800 photos, postcard size, all mixed up in time, place and subject, dangling from strings tacked to the wall. The strings serve to connect friendships and various close relationships from his past. Though the people in the pictures smile back at Sompong, they now smile back at us. Sompong’s private world has dissolved into the public world.
It almost seems as if Sompong should be honored for sheer ‘exhibitionism’. He has had so many shows, one after the other, sometimes with little to offer, of poetry, performance art and painting. He did many things with little skill and little determination. (“If anyone took him seriously, they would be crazy.”)
Even so, Manit finds the latest show at Gallery 253 to be quite worthwhile. “It is a(n ego) breakthrough for him. With this show, the audience is able to have some rapport, to perceive one person’s fate and fortune. Manit is much more interested in Sompong’s show than in the images from tourist spots round the world, the landscapes and art galleries in the photos by Tanom Chapakdi.
“Tanom still doesn’t dare to bring out his real personal life, to ‘undress’ for us...unlike Sompong, whose personal life seems to be his public life, in which we are able to have a part of his feelings and his story.”
Commentary: Manit’s article on Sompong Tavi and Niran Ketutad’s article on Yongyuth Damsri (Yr.46 Vol.5, 4 - 10 July, 1999) make an interesting contrast. Manit is fascinated with photography and intrigued by Sompong, an artist, somewhat ‘on the fringe,’ who can realize, in the public eye, 800 glimpses of his personal history by stringing up hundreds of old snapshots. Compared with Manit’s autobiographical confidences, Niran’s introduction of Yongyuth by reference to the history of German expressionism and the artist’s inspiration from Picasso and Van Gogh seem rather ponderous.

30. Manit Sriwanichphum. The Wisdom of the Snail.
Yr.46, Vol.7, 18 - 24 July, 1999.
Manit comments on the ‘Thai Wisdom’ fashion which is presently sweeping the media in television advertising and even in theaters before the playing of the royal anthem. The critic casts a cold eye on the unconvincing media images of students hurrying up-country to keenly study the way of life of country people. “The music plays, flowers bloom all over the background, and the segment closes on an image of a mobile phone logo.”
Last year, the same mobile phone company advertised with a youth in a hi-tech shiny suit like an astronaut. The sudden swing back to romantic agrarian images is confusing.
The critic’s dismay grows when he visits a special exhibition celebrating the preservation of Thai Heritage 1999. The show was at the National Museum of Bangkok, entitled: Regional Thai Wisdom and Technology. And there was a question tacked on at the end of that, too. “[Will we] Join in global competition, or move forward, uniquely Thai, in the world society?” Not bad.
The museum’s exhibition room, not much bigger than a temple hall, was broken into lots according to basic factors: Thai food, lodging, weaving and cloth, medicine and medical care. The show begins with a house on stilts with an open space beneath. There is a bench with pillows, large water jars and a cloth hammock in the back. Walking further in to the ‘food’ section, we see examples of a Thai kitchen. There are pots, ceramic pots, wooden cooking utensils and Chinese decorated dishes. Looking at the way they set it up, it looked more like the way of life of cavemen. Keep walking and you find small baskets with examples of Thai rice, and explanatory pictures.
There are also model houses in the old Thai style, adapted Thai houses, and models of houses provided by the National Housing Authority from some of their old projects. This section closes with a Thai home beside a swimming pool.
The Thai clothing section shows white models wearing ‘adapted Thai clothes.’ The local Thai people are represented in miniscule photos of uncle and auntie, resting in their sarongs. It was a very sad sight, that the values of local folk are shown this way.
Manit feels weak-kneed in the section on traditional Thai medicine. “I felt I was walking through an atmosphere of nationalism, as in the era of Field Marshall Plaeck and Luang Wichit Wattakarn. Perhaps it was the atmosphere of the place – the museum –and civil servants looking after the rooms. Or maybe the sayings on the ceiling, “Preserving the legacy of the Thai is preserving the Thai nation.”
Since the economic crisis of 1997, the ‘Thai folk wisdom’ theme has become a propaganda tool. Many private companies also use this theme to show how much they care for Thai society. When the economy is good, however, they go with hi-tech satellites (which they buy instead of developing themselves). They are not interested in Thai wisdom at that point. On the contrary, they scorn it.
The exhibition of local wisdom and rural technology arranged at the museum by the Fine Arts Department was very bureaucratic, and very silly, in Manit’s view, because the country people in Laos, Khmer, Vietnam and Burma and many other countries in the region have a way of life very similar to the way of life in rural Thailand. Manit agrees with his friend’s assessment: Thai people understand the value of a lie, and they know how to survive very well. That is the true Thai wisdom.
Commentary: Pity the poor officials in the museum and the Fine Arts Department when Manit decides to visit their exhibition. The critic has no mercy, playing the gadfly to bureaucratic mediocrity as he outlines the extremely lame display. The pictures accompanying the text illustrate some of the exhibition’s inadequacies.

31. Niran Ketutad. Tora Matsuyama – Woodcuts from Japan.
Yr.46 Vol.8, 25 - 31 July, 1999.
The artistic excellence of each nationality differs by character, habit, custom and culture. In painting, the French are famous since the Impressionist period. In sculpture, the world celebrates Italy, especially Michelangelo. In terms of graphic art, we must accept that Japan, with its long history and tradition, is best in the field.
The woodcuts of Toru Matsuyama in the classic style present a corner of nature in imagination. He prints them using watercolor rather than oil, making the work fresh, not opaque, full of energy, with distinctive subjects and compositions.
The work of Toru Matsuyama is naturalist in expression, especially images of various plants…all growing in lively fashion, combining ideas and imagination from various angles as in a fantastic, lonely dream.
The artist especially likes the curving smoothness of a bit of moon at night, the moonlight bathing the complex vegetation in the darkness. The outlines are very sweet, soft branches, flowers and leaves, drifting and floating in the air and on the dark and heavy earth.
‘Poetry of Birth’ – little living things being born, bringing freshness to the earth, providing food to others with their own vegetable bodies. Elders from nature give to all humanity and all living things on earth.
‘Leaf Flame’ - the rhythm of leaves dances under the radiant moon.
‘Banquet Under the Earth’ – the surface of the earth is the source of food for plants. The composition is packed and tight, deep space, points lead the eye, peaceful color, emphasis on line and shape.
“We have to accept that Japanese graphic artists have a naturalist point of view, very ancient and profound, living poems with imaginative forms. The ways of nature must be part of [the artist’s] life, like deep roots in the soul and in the reality around us.”
The show is in the gallery of the Fine Arts Faculty of Rachapat Institute, Suan Dusit.
Commentary: Once again, Niran references art history as a way of setting some sort of context and background for the works at hand. The critic focuses on the naturalism and poetry of the romantic, moonlit images. The artist has tried to suggest the profound power and gift so generously given by the plant kingdom to all that lives in the world.

32. Niran Ketutad. A Woman Artist from Argentina and Fantasia Latina.
Yr.46 Vol.9, 1 – 7 August, 1999.
The exhibition “Fantasia Latina” by Lydia Heidi Wieteskid, an Argentinean artist was jointly organized by the Argentinean Embassy in Thailand and the Administrative Science Institute of Chulalongkorn University. The show includes 11 metal sculptures and 20 paintings, mostly abstractions.
The bronze sculptures, relieved of rigidity and hardness, have a soft, gentle look.
The material has a lively, moving appearance, flowing, silky, curving and emotive. The reflective surface of the metal shines and sparkles. Other pieces look serious and tense, solid, showing a rough surface contrasting with a gentle form, like toughness hidden in softness, inviting further investigation.
The paintings and sculptures of Lydia show ideas and dreams in a personal world which finds freedom in abstract forms, communicating feeling through form and composition rather than through realistic subject. Most of the oil paintings are in hot colors, yellow, orange and red.
The artist was born in Buenos Aires and studied art in the US. She gained experience from traveling and living in cities like Sao Paolo, Miami, Mexico City and Bangkok.
Commentary: No commentary needed here about a diplomatic goodwill exchange exhibition.

33. Manit Sriwanichphum. Industry: Recording Personal History.
Yr.46, Vol.10, 8 - 14 August, 1999.
Manit and his darling are enjoying their pleasant little Italian-style picnic with red wine, gazing out over a view of the city of Florence, under the setting sun, when suddenly, ‘as if in a dream’ a groom and bride appear, hand in hand, floating smilingly into the frame, complete with photographer and videotape technician. Thus, the most picnic spot with a view becomes the background for [big time] wedding photos. One wedding couple after another are queued up for pictures.
Manit watches the directing and producing of the photography session with bride and groom: the call from the photographer to embrace, to kiss, to look lovingly into each other’s eyes, sweetly, as if freshly fallen in love. The Italians can do it all very well.
It reminds one of Benjasiri Park in Thailand, where Thai bridal couples like to have their pictures taken. But Thai yuppie bridal couples don’t act as well. Thai grooms can manage the requisite sweetness – perhaps they are embarrassed, or the sun is in their eyes. The photographer becomes impatient and clicks the shutter. Just get it over with!
Manit notes how much wedding photos in Thailand have changed, unlike when his parents operated a camera shop when he was a schoolboy. Ah Hia, the owner of the shop, took the wedding photos. There wasn’t much to it in those days. The pair would dress in their wedding clothes with garlands upon their necks. They stood before a blue screen, smiling at the camera, arms at their sides. Or the bride might take the groom’s arm, to show that she put her life in his care. The pictures were always very gentle and charming.
Nowadays, however, the wedding photo business, following trends from Hongkong and Taiwan, offer a very luxurious program at a high cost for a lavish selection of photos. These photos say a lot about Thai society today, where getting married is not just a matter of two people in love committing to each other for a lifetime. Getting married has become more than a social blessing: it has become a fantasy dream of young men and women in the new age, the age of shameless egotism.
The wedding photo company has the responsibility for coming up with a ‘concept’ which will guide all the photos, according to the selected fantasy.
Manit finds these photos false, insincere, posed, badly acted, inhuman and unnatural. Anyone who sees them will think them rather silly rather than romantic. These photos attempt to let an ordinary couple feel like stars. Hence, these photos are not about love, but rather about image.
The wedding will be an important moment in the couple’s personal history. The media will be involved, especially the social news where someone famous must be listed as having presided over the nuptials. Thai society has gone over the edge: a 10 million baht wedding for little ‘Mangkut’ who is famous for excess. As for the current economic crisis, with the bulk of the population slipping toward poverty, Miss Mangkut and her groom boasted of their riches (not of their love) to make people jealous. Why play at such things?
Manit’s American friend (who speaks Thai very well) had his wedding photo dressed as a Chinese Mandarin, a fan in one hand, his other hand around the waist of his ‘consort’, a Thai Chinese girl. The bride was very beautiful. Like a starlet from an action movie who has leaped from the TV screen and cuddled up to the white as if she were so very happy. In any case, the image said that the groom accepted the ‘being Chinese’ of his Thai Chinese bride. But how can such pictures not be ridiculous?
Commentary: As a young schoolboy, Manit spent a lot of time around a photo shop. He would have seen, from an early age, countless examples of the many intimate and important social roles and services played by photography. Wedding photos are just one of the many photographic genres which have served official and historical functions in society. Manit’s essay takes a dim view of the lavish spending on wedding photos which the critic sees as representing a new extreme in serving personal aggrandizement in the fantasies of yuppie nuptials.

34. Pinit Ninratana. Living Creatures They Call Human.
Yr.46, Vol.11, 15 – 21 August, 1999.
Chart Kobchit made a new page in history by being first to win the SEAWrite award twice, first in 1982 for The Judgment and again in 1994 for Time. This year, history repeats itself again as Win Liohwarin, author of Double Zero, becomes the second, after Chart. Wintr takes a ‘double SEAWrite’ with Living Creatures They Call Human. Pinit writes about the competition and Win talks about the inspiration for the book.



35. Chalong Pinijsuwan. A Masterpiece of Woodcarving.
Yr.46, Vol.12, 22 – 28 August, 1999.
Woodcarving at the Viharn of Wat Phra Singh, Chiengsaen period.

36. Pen Pakta. From ‘The Essence of Nature’ to the Core of Abstraction.
Yr.46, Vol.13, 29 August – 4 September, 1999.
“In my point of view,” writes the artist, Seni Chaemdech, “art and Dharma are the same thing. And Dharma and Nature are the same thing. Nowadays, I live by bringing together art, Dharma and Nature. They are all the same thing.”
Seni has shown his work frequently in the past year, twice on his own and a number of times with other artists and groups such as Si Tassana (4 Viewpoints) and the ‘Save the Western Forest’ group. His first solo show this year was at the Museum of the Suan Pakkad Palace, ‘The Breath of Nature.’ This time, however, the artist insisted:
“It’s time to remove the outer peeling and to pull out the true ‘core of nature,’ whose value humans never see. It must be shown for once for the world to experience.”
There are 30 oil paintings in the new show. They divide clearly into those which ‘make sense’ and those which don’t, in common parlance. The artists would say they divide into pictures of ‘exterior’ and ‘interior’ subjects. Academicians would call the two groups ‘abstract’ and ‘semi-abstract.’
As to those works which make sense, which use ‘exterior’ subjects and are semi-abstract, they may seem easier to understand, but you don’t get the whole idea in a flash. You will just begin to see a trail, a sign, a structure, which somehow resembles nature. All this simply helps one to imagine more and to go on, creating further and further.
One example of this approach is Seni’s Untidy Origins, a canvas divided into a left and a right side, using a striking and beautiful play of green and red tones.
People who insist on stories and subjects may not be very interested in the set of totally abstract works which only suggest ‘the flavor of things.’
The most outstanding point of the pictures in this set, notes Pen, is that each picture is able to shock the emotions or electrify the feelings of the viewer decisively and immediately from the first second. This point, says the critic, we take as precisely the essential principle of making abstract art. If the new symbols created by the artist, already difficult to understand, are insipid and tight when wholly realized, and are unable to stimulate or excite the emotion of the viewer, then that kind of work is considered to have failed.
The critic describes in detail Seni’s ‘truly abstract’ painting, Dark and Light.
The artist’s habit of dividing his pictures into two contrasting parts, like the idea of yin and yang, suggest a Buddhist world view. However, the most striking element in these paintings is the artist’s genius in the use of color. Though some of the paintings have been criticized as being a bit flat, the color is splendid, even ‘angelic.’
At the closing of the exhibition on 30 August, a discussion between Seni Chaemdech and senior graphic artist Ittipol Thangchalok, with Dr.Krisana Hongutain as host and moderator.
Commentary: The critic does a good job of attempting to simplify for readers some basic approaches to appreciating abstract art. Clearly, some model of appreciation is helpful, even necessary, to encourage the uninitiated.



37. Niran Ketutad. Life in the View of the New Wave.
Yr. 46, Vol. 14, 5 – 11 September, 1999.
Five artists and works full of stories of life, content which makes the heart tremble, thinking of dangers from the social problems all around us. They are outstanding works from the 267 sent in to compete in this year’s exhibition of Thailand’s best fine art. In addition to the prizes they received, these works will represent Thailand in the Best Art of ASEAN competition in Kuala Lampur in November.
Ditsapong Boonsanong, using crayon on handmade paper, created a drawing of gibbons packed in a cage in his work About Life. It makes one think of people, too. Humans or animals, all need freedom in life.
Piwat Nophiran’s Siam Smile is another work which expresses human emotion on the dark negative side. Wearing masks which cunningly express just the opposite of ones true feelings.
Panu Saruaysuwan’s Miss Thailand shows a young Thai lady from many close-up angles, mixing ideas and materials which suggest the female sex. The picture suggests the packaging of beauty as a commodity to be enjoyed by the powerful.
Marut Wanthong’s Sankarn (‘the flesh’) shows a paralyzed woman gazing at her care-giver. The room is dark and crowded. Many families struggle to take care of their ailing members.
Wutikorn Kongka’s The Fate of Young Girls, 2000, in chilling tones, presents an image of night-time society which invites all kinds of dangerous behaviors and a sad and depressing state for young women.
Other interesting works include: The Same Destination, by Chakrit Srisongkram, a picture of a traffic jam and the competitive life in Bangkok; Within the Human Mind and a Picture of My Wheels by Rattapol Tiradamrongtanya is both playful and cutting, mocking the behavior of men in suits and in yellow cloth, and naked women.
Tamniap Sira’s picture, Life, Countryside, Earning a Living suggests a friendly provincial atmosphere.
In addition, two artist professors sent in works – Roong Tirapichit and Wijit Apichatkriengkrai. Their works look strange and interesting with their use of materials.
These best works of art in-Thailand –this-time express the particular character of each artist and express the state of society and culture as it is today, from many angles.
Commentary: National competitions in Thailand lead toward participation in an ASEAN art competition at the international level.

38. Manit Sriwanichphum. From the Parthenon to Amarin Plaza.
Yr.46, Vol.15, 12 – 18 September, 1999.
Manit quotes the German teacher of architecture he chatted with in Greece:
“In the olden days,” the professor had said,“ the grandest architecture, fine and beautiful, was reserved for very special buildings only – such as temples and the palaces of kings.”
He explained the old ideas about building residences in the West in answer to Manit’s wondering about why the homes of the Greeks were pretty much the same, rich or poor. Manit couldn’t find any of the exotic residential architecture which is well known in Thailand. Still, Manit found the idea of reserving grandness to be not an entirely ‘white’ idea. The same used to be true of Thai society, long ago. Even in the poorest provincial areas of Thailand, everyone’s dwelling place remains pretty much the same. In areas economically better off, however, there is often an exotic variety of dwelling investments and styles, some of them like mansions, estates, even palaces. On the view of the German professor, in Thai society now, the special and holy places are either quite scattered or no long as important. The special status of some places has been diluted, become pale, as society’s structure, politics and culture changed. Holiness has moved from temples and palaces to the homes of individuals. We bring it into ourselves. Indeed, Manit concludes, we now worship ourselves, the individual egos and ‘being an individual’ above all else. The form and style of the house reflects the ideas, taste, success, wealth and status in society of the resident.
Temples and palaces are still visited, but they have to work hard to survive. They become museums and receive donations from visiting tourists.
People who visit temples are looking for a little luck, knock on a Buddha image’s head and ask for a lottery number. The temples compete among themselves in size and glory so as not to lose face in the eyes of the people.
In Greece, Manit did not see any skyscrapers of 20 stories or more. The buildings were limited to not more than 10 stories. None were allowed to rise above the revered symbol of the Parthenon. By contrast, Thai people don’t think much about respecting old glory. In Thailand, temples, palaces and mosques are all dwarfed by tall office buildings nowadays. Amarin Plaza is a good example. The post-modern eclectic mishmash of architectural parts uses giant (fake) columns to suggest that the building is like a holy place, like an old temple. Manit rejects the claim that he is too conservative. “I’m saying that everything should have limits, should have its own flourishing and balance.”
A Greek girl who was studying a Byzantine image of Jesus and various saints told Manit that the Italian painters had tried to portray Jesus like an ordinary human person, but the Greeks held to a more idealized vision. The Byzantine monks called religious symbols ‘a window through which we see God.’ Pictures were not just for the eye and the surface image.
In a thousand years, the Byzantime image of Jesus did not change. It is an idealized face which has been passed on even today. The artist must be without ego; the style cannot be turned by a Tawan or a Chalermchai.
With ideas and traditions, the style of individual craftsmen radiate out naturally, at the level of detail; how fine is the mind and the skill, not in cunning, determined to make a style. The objective of making the face of God in Byzantine art was ‘ to communicate Dharma’ – a blessing, serving the Lord, not showing off. That is, function was more important than ego.
Commentary: Manit prefers the idea of the idealized rather than the human face of God, and is disturbed by the result of having scattered holiness out from temples into people’s individual residences. The critic is repelled by signs of burgeoning egotism in residential architecture and even in images of the Buddha in contemporary art.






39. Manit Sriwanichphum. The Best Got Nothing; the Winners Were Lame.
Yr.46, Vol.16, 19 – 25 September, 1999.
“It’s the judging committee, not the artists who sent in work, who are mediocre.”
“A famous architect and national artist in the field of architecture – that was what he said after receiving my wai in the middle of the hall of the National Gallery. I could only stand stunned and smiling (they [the judges] got what they deserved). What this critic said in conclusion was exactly what I thought.”
They were both uncomfortable with the winners and losers in the show.
“What a pity! So much good work, and it wasn’t rewarded. Look at the work opposite the door. Very strong. OK, it may be like the work of Damien Hirst…but it’s still better than the one that got a prize, he said, pointing at the work of one artist …(I think it was by Daeng Buasaen, but there was no sign with a name to identify it – Let the visitors figure it out for themselves!)”
“In less than a minute, when the catharsis of feeling heavy and heavy hearted, depressed and baffled, had ended, our architect of Siam left with the breeze, leaving me to wander around and consider these works on my own.
“Why did the committee of judges of the 45th National Art Exhibition get slammed as mediocre?”
Manit notes that the circle of artists, academics, art scholars and art lovers who follow the National Exhibition seems to be shrinking. He quotes the catalog article for this show, 50 Years of the National Art Exhibition, by Surasak Charoenwongs from the Faculty of Painting at Silpakorn University. In his article, Surasak points out that the national show is becoming a forum for mostly young artists. ‘Professional artists’ don’t want to compete because of the way the judging committee is selected, according to Surasak. The selection follows changes initiated since 1984. The writer considers this tampering to be the primary reason that the quality of prize winners has continued to fall in this exhibition.
Manit reviews the history of attacks made on the way the National Exhibition was conducted in the years between 1977 and 1983. Many at that time considered it to be a conveniently controlled show, ‘a family business.’ In response, the administrators of Silpakorn eventually changed the rules, opening the selection of judges to include representatives from other institutions as well. This solution seemed more democratic.
Manit notes Surasak’s bitter comment on the results of that historic decision: “The people of that era, rather than helping to create good artworks, simply created a loud noise, like frogs after a heavy rain.” In the aftermath of that decision, the quality of artworks and expertise of the participating artists gradually but steadily declined.
In Manit’s view, Surasak ‘sees the result, but doesn’t understand the cause.’
Manit believes that the quality of the judging improved, but that the process of selecting judges was still unfinished, needed to go forward. The judges should have continued to change, following the changing development of the nation’s social structure.
“But that never happened. Everything just stopped there. The new rules became the old rules, repetitious and monotonous. So, the judges had the same old faces, old ideas, no change. This, in fact, is the problem. How could the show not die?”
In Manit’s view, civil service professors, including art professors, are everywhere equally conservative and resistant to innovation in administration. The private sector must come in to push for change – pressure – then it goes forward.
Manit also takes a swipe at the reference to ‘professional artists,’ asking how much they pay in taxes for the art works they sell.
There has been no research in 50 years, complains the critic, to measure the impact of the National Art Exhibition, whether it weakens or builds up creative thinking in art.
Manit closes with his own long list of suggestions as to how to prevent the national show from becoming as old fashioned and behind the times as the civil service.
Commentary: The history and development of the National Art Exhibition is a fascinating microcosm and mirror of Thailand’s contemporary ideological and intellectual development. The bitterness of the old regime at their ‘ruined’ creation has not been healed by the passage of time. The intentions of the reformers have not come to full bloom. The story of the National Exhibition represents a rich mine, packed with of all kinds of historical case studies which still lie virtually untouched.


40. Niran Ketutad. Thoughts from the National Art Exhibition.
Yr. 46, Vol. 17, 26 September – 2 October, 1999.
“After joining the seminar on ‘Art Criticism of Visual Arts at Bahn Chao Phraya on Phra Ahtit Road, and taking a look at the works in the 45th National Art Exhibition, we could draw some conclusions and make some observations about the structure of the judging committee, the standards in judging, as a group and individually, of the judges, and some of the interesting ideas of people speaking at the seminar.”
The judges were selected from among master artists, independent artists and critics or art scholars.
The principles for judging the artworks (of Assoc.Prof. Kietisak Chanonarodt) were:
1) Establishes a new idiom; outstanding and unique.
2) Uses fresh new forms and approaches.
3) Powerful
4) Has continuity with the artist’s oeuvre.
5) Represents a progressive step for a senior artist
Generally, judges should have wide knowledge about art and expertise in some area, for example, in painting or techniques of graphic art. They should judge without bias. They should know the ideas and distinctive personal characteristics of the artist and the expressive techniques, forms or styles.
Like Manit, Niran also has his own ideas about criteria for selecting judges, and seconds the opinion of Prof. Kamchorn Soongpongsri, that the subject of a work of art is also important, compared to technique (which is only a tool for expressing an idea about the subject).
“A prizewinning work plays on technique, method and form, as in the print entitled The Pagoda, by Tamrongsak Nimanusornkul, which took the gold medal in graphics.
The form is geometrical – like Op Art, but you can’t see any content to make one dream, wonder or follow beyond. The good part is the artist’s determination to do a piece which is utterly distinctive and different.
“ The work entitled Faith and the Invisible by Supote Singhsai, which took a bronze in painting, has a subject and style which many artists have done before, unlike the work, The River Does Not Flow Back Again, by Nucharee Pidech, who also took a bronze, but which has a more profound and moving subject. It is Buddhist in philosophy without using the walls of temples or chapels, like so many artists have liked to do.
Of the graphic work, Movement in the Surrounding State, by Thanasarn Pattanasutichonkul, some said it should not have been a prize-winner – there are more interesting works in the show. But Thanasarn works hard with technique and form.
Mongkol Kerdwan’s untitled mixed media was almost eliminated from the start, but later won a silver medal. He got points for the beautiful form, hard work, innovation, and because the work was a set of 9 pieces.
Niran also takes a look at notable works which did not win prizes – Sirichai Sornchit’s painting-installation, Changing States of Mind; Sirinit Dirujicharoen’s sculpture, The Last Item on the Agenda, 2541, which says something about death. It’s quite different in some ways, but the dead look quite typical. Repressed State, a mixed-media installation by Titi Saengrangsri, protests the destruction of the forests.
Daeng Buasaen’s Method of Controlling Society is enigmatic, bruised and beaten. Not pretty, but bold. And finally, Bandit Poonsombatlert’s Readymade Products with Chromium Kiosk, where parts of human bodies are on sale.
With a hope that next year’s show will improve beyond this one, Niran assesses the weak points of the 45th National Art Exhibition as:
1) Prizes awarded more for technique (craft) rather than for subject or story.
2) The sculpture section was haphazardly arranged and many pieces were not identified.
3) The concept of the works did not accompany the artworks, leaving the viewers to struggle for themselves in making an interpretation.
Commentary: Between Manit’s and Niran’s rather different responses to this show, providing contrasting and useful perspectives, we get a brief, but vivid glimpse of the state of the official artworld in 1999. Both critiques have a number of photos of works from the 45th show.

41. Pen Pakta. Sompop Budtarad: The Picture Declares, ‘Thai Traditional Art, a
New Era.’ Yr.46, Vol.18, 3 – 9 October, 1999.
There was quite a noise all over the city in response to the picture, My Angel, one of the latest works by young painter, Sompop Budtarad, from the highland plateau of Mahasarakam.
“Many years before, Prof.Chalud Nimsamur used to shake up the artworld with his sculptural masterpiece, Lokutra. His inspiration was the symbolic flame of holy fire above the topknot on the head of Buddha images of the Lanna school. He adapted that and put the new elements into a striking, innovative pattern. The sculpture stands before the Sirikit Convention Center. The after-shocks from this image were considerable. How great? A major artist like Angkarn Kalyanapong was compelled to appear, virtually dancing with fury, asking Buddhists all over the country, ‘Is it right? To bring such noble things and to set them on the ground?’ And, ‘What could possibly reflect the Lokutra?
“This case had many like-minded artists coming out to contest, pointing to the path that must be chosen – between ‘new creative ideas’ and ‘ultimate conservatism.’
Since Panya Wijintanasarn made his picture of the enormous head of the reclining Buddha, gazing upon the fortunes of the human world, no artist has shaken the artworld so completely until the appearance of Sompop’s work in the group exhibition at Siam City Hotel.
The critic points out the ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ points to making a contemporary work of art in traditional Thai style. The strong point is that the artist can use all his skill and expressive potential, within a framework of traditional motifs and techniques. The weak point is that the artist is confined within traditional subjects, which have moral teachings already attached. The principle content of traditional Thai, anchored, fixed and immovable, is therefore a daunting constraint for creative artists who choose to work in this idiom.
While Sompop is not famous, he was a prize-winner in the Bua Luang Show in 1983, and he worked on the mural paintings at Wat Bhudda Pratheep in London. In his latest solo exhibition, Transitory (anijang), his installations show some striking new ideas about the mystery of ceremonies and the people’s way of life. In one piece, Sompop presented a child’s cradle with a pair of twins, white and black, and empty – symbolizing the loss of his own twin while still in their mother’s womb.
In Sompop’s latest contemporary/ traditional images, he ‘tears’ a familiar figure of a Buddha image. The top of a pagoda is broken and scattered. The atmosphere glitters with moonlight which shines on the old temple roof. A kinaree plays in a pool of water…
There is a circle of faces, beautiful, serious and dark, but also sweet and gentle, friendly and charitable, clearly a comfortable mixture of Buddha, goddess and Madonna.
Sompop is able to represent an innocent beauty which has no borders; neither Buddhist nor Christian, Mahayan nor Hinayan. Not past, not present, not future. It is not real; it’s not a dream, a state of being born and extinguished, like sleeping and awakened….
Society yearns for a savior, a sacrificing, kind, sweet, caring and unconditionally loving and giving person. We feel, instinctively, that this person should be a mother, but not only beautiful. She must be a leader, as well, like a man.
In fact, Hindu philosophy of art stresses the power of women, the contrasting complements – male and female. Indians believe women have real power, pouring out sweetness to balance the male.
Sompop Budtarad has been able to combine the handsome and quiet character of the male with the sweet gentleness of the female together in harmony, undivided. It is wonderful that a brave artist has broken through the repetitive monotony which has too long dominated the forms of traditional Thai painting.
Commentary: Very difficult reading for the uninitiated, this critique would be of great interest to enthusiasts of traditional Thai painting by contemporary artists.

42. Manit Sriwanichphum. Iron Pussi, Sperm Gun, and Satisfaction.
Yr.46, Vol.19, 10 – 16 October, 1999.
Manit examines the plight of the latest winner of the Miss Queen of the Universe, Thailand, Miss Oh Patira Sirinamwong. No hoards of government and private agencies seek her out as presenter for their products or campaigns. Her mother or guardian is not honored as an outstanding role model for other parents. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any ‘best in the nation’ award ahead for Miss Oh at all, strangely enough…. But why?
Because Miss Queen of the Universe is a position for the ‘Transvestite Miss Universe.’ Everyone avoids it out of fear for their image.
Manit examines the case of beauty competitions generally, where the protocols are very similar. Miss Oh had to wear a traditional Thai outfit, a swimsuit and an evening gown, just like real women beauty queens have to do. The only difference in Miss Oh’s ‘little friend down there,’ which was, in fact a requisite governing this pageant. But she told the media that if there were enough money, she would cut it for sure. Rather than enjoying the limelight, feeling loved and merry, she had to be very discrete about media coverage.
Some months earlier, Khun Ying Supatra Masadit moved to block the appearance of gays and transvestites in various Thai television programs, asking the media to censor themselves voluntarily and not to present images of ‘such persons.’ The Khun Ying urged a campaign against ‘homosexual behavior.’ One academic, and expert in psychology, went public saying that being gay was a mental illness which required treatment.
Manit therefore calls upon the Iron Pussi to put in their place these politicians and narrow minded academics who so selectively oppress the rights and freedoms of gays in Thailand. Iron Pussi makes super-gay the super hero(ine). The many short film episodes were created, directed and starred in by performance artist Michel Shaowanasai. As ‘Mongkol,’ the yuppie hero, Michel wears big, square-rimmed glasses (like Clark Kent) when working at his job in a finance company. But when there is a villain to contain, our hero runs into a beauty salon to transform into the Iron Pussi. “From being a proper male, he becomes she, mighty and powerful, and dressed like Miss Tiffany. (You get the picture, right?)
The Iron Pussi’s most powerful weapon is the sperm gun. Anyone who is hit by her sperm will have a tremendous (probably fatal) climax.
After describing the short film, Manit concludes that Iron Pussi is a fun movie, annoying, maddening, sexually charged, crazy, rude and presenting an image of the sex service industry of Thai society. Very Sad. (It grows as fast as Japanese factories in Thailand.) This looks to be the most successful of Michel’s short films. He shows us the dreams and desires of gays that someone like the Iron Pussi would arise to protect them from the evils of society, just like Superman comes to help real males and females. “Help me! Iron Pussi….help me!”
Commentary: Manit strikes a blow for the rights of Thailand’s gay community generally, giving sympathetic coverage to the most recent Miss Queen of the Universe, Thailand, whose title did not bring her the attention and support that normally reward beauty pageant winners. The art critic doubly champions the civil liberties of gays by giving close and appreciative consideration of Michel Shaowanasai’s short film, Iron Pussi.



43. Pen Pakata. Thinking of Waterways.
Yr.46, Vol.20, 17 – 23 October, 1999.
“It shows great and meaningful vision, when architects who are not occupied with their usual work of designing buildings, show friendship and kindness to artists in other fields, becoming patrons of art. We know that no one makes art thinking things through so carefully and managing so well and faultlessly like an architect!
“ Yes, I’m talking about two architects, Wirapan Shinawatr and Dr. Somridt Nierowattanayingyong, who have established the ‘Fund for the Cultural Environment’ in order to give opportunities to artists in myriad fields to come and take responsibility for the environment and for culture as well. Each artist proposes a viewpoint or makes a work of art, doing what he does best, based on the premise that the nation must not be harmed.
The fund focused this year on waterways. Artists were invited to join the first project to ‘Come Down the Maeklong – Remember the Diamond River’ this past 12 – 14 August. Asst.Prof. Wichoke Mukdami, director of the Silpakorn University Art Gallery, acted as liaison to select 30 qualified artists in five groups from retired and senior artist to rising young stars and new faces. The fund provided necessaries and equipment needed to make pictures, arranging transport, lodging and an exhibition forum. Half of the earnings from the sale of any pictures were donated back to the Fund.
The exhibition took place at Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel between 10 -15 Sept. It was very well received in the media. It has been a long time since there has been a coming together of the skills and ideas of famous artists on the same subject (i.e.waterways).
The critic reviews 4 pictures of particular interest. The first, and most romantic is Sujin Trinarong’s picture of a mangrove forest. Images of boats in mid river by Alongkorn Lorwattana and Pisit Panthien are noteworthy. And finally, Mae Klong, My Beloved River, by a young artist from Chaiya, Chaem Sanfran (Wichien Boonmemark) who has studied and lived abroad for more than a decade. With hardly any scent or atmosphere of Thai-ness in it at all, his mixed media work is a complete contrast with the paintings of Alongkorn and Pisit.
The critic invites readers to the special lecture, Remember the Waterways,’ on 17 October at Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel, hoping that the enormous investment by the ‘Fund for the Cultural Environment’ will not come to nothing.
Commentary: A hefty investment by a certain Wirapan Shinawatr and friend hosts 30 selected high profile artists for some days and nights along the river, all expenses paid, with a high end hotel exhibition and lecture to follow, all on behalf of the nation’s beloved waterways.
Not surprisingly, it smells a bit fishy.


44. Manit Sriwanichphum. What Counts is ‘Size’.
Yr.46, Vol.21, 24 – 30 October, 1999.
Manit refers to the article by Worasak Mahatanobol on the subject of ‘size’ in Matichon Weekender, (Vol. 995, Tuesday 14 Sept. 1999).
“It helped me understand more about ‘size’ in Thai society. Acharn Worasak points out that the roots of this [obsession] are in Chinese culture, the Chinese millionaires and barons in Thailand who carry on and pass on this value.”
China, of course, is gigantic with a population to match. Everything there has to be big. Hence, size is naturally an element in Chinese culture.
If Thai society is experience a state of ‘exaggeration of size,’ it is because of the wealthy barons and their socially elite offspring in Thailand. Acharn Worasak related the history of Chinese people coming poor to Thailand and building fortunes. During the last 10 years, their descendents have gained political and economic power. The Thai middle class of Chinese ethnic origins show themselves more fully now, in concert with Western ideas which give importance to individualism, the self. Now they really go over the edge.
Manit sees size as a social value suggesting other things beyond sheer gross quantity. It is used to suggest great faith, political power, etc. as well. The critic appreciates the exaggerated size of temples and palaces, for example, at the archaeological sites in Sukhothai and Ayuthya, or in the reclining Buddha at Wat Khun-Indrapramul in
Angthong province.
“If you take the size of construction at religious sites, large Buddha images, Buddhism is the true center of the soul of Thai people, so that would not be far from the truth. Looking at religious objects, they are full of beauty, finely detailed, with strong intention, great care and skill. The quality comes from true faith, the same piety that the Khmer used in building Nakorn Thom, Angkor Wat. (Nowadays, it’s so hard to find such faith.)
“When Thai society follows the whites (especially the Americans), materialism is the new religion. The new belief is that ‘you can own the world.’ The word ‘freedom’ becomes a convenient excuse to do anything you like. (Even if it is illegal, just interpret the laws as you like.)All the value is measure by size, including the value of people.
Manit sees a mad fascination with size in Thai society, too, for example, when monks and laypeople created a giant incense stick which fell over, crushing some people in the crowd at the Pathom Chedi in Nakorn Pathom. Or the giant chedi of the Dhammakai: it is crushing the faith of Buddhism.
Especially in the year of ‘Amazing Thailand’ 1998-1999, the people are obsessed with identifying ‘size’ with ‘Thai-ness’. The critic quotes the celebration of “The Most” in Thailand, which took place at the Future Park Shopping Mall in Rangsit.
They boasted about the biggest arch made of corn; the biggest broom made of coconut fibers; the biggest silver bowl; the biggest monk’s umbrella, etc. More embarrassing is the tendency to celebrate ‘size’ on behalf of His Majesty’s upcoming 72nd birthday. A spicy sausage 72 meters long… decorative bunch of 72 coconuts? “I beg the public to consider,” says Manit, “how far astray Thai society gone.”
Commentary: Inspired by Worasak Mahatanobol’s article, Manit presents a view of Thai society’s fascination with making things bigger. From the wealthiest barons to the ordinary folk in the marketplace, from monks to businessmen, all tend to get things badly out of proportion, finding it [embarrassingly] difficult to contain excess. Unrelenting in his scathing dislike of aggressive American materialism, Manit is nonetheless romantically indulgent of traditionally oversized Chinese ambitions as well as some of the extraordinarily massive ancient Hindu and Buddhist monuments in Cambodia and Thailand.

45. Niran Ketutad. ‘Tattoo Creatif’ Contest – Art Contested on Tapering Legs.
Yr. 46, Vol. 22, 31 October – 6 November, 1999.
Art is not always something you have to crane your neck to catch sight of. Music is made on the roadside by blind men and buskers. Art students sometimes do portraits on the footpath and sometimes people get together to watch movies out of doors.
With the overflowing current of Western art and culture, or Eastern ways which are still very bold, there is so much to choose from today, thanks to artists and creative people who keep the world from standing still.
Tattooing the body is one kind of art that is said to date back to ancient times, to ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Khmer, Lao and Thai. The Japanese tattoo all over their bodies, both men and women. Some find it very beautiful. In Lanna, Lanchang, the Central Plain, in Isarn and in the South of Thailand, we have had tattooing for a long time. It is mentioned in literature – In Khun Chang-Khun Paen. Mostly, it is mingled with magic and superstition, with art and beauty, and mostly only men use it.
Recently there has been painting on nylon stockings, ‘with charming tattoo patterns for people who love legs.’
In contemporary fashion, women take more interest for the sake of art and beauty. Tattoos are part of the expanding development of body and nail painting and using readymade patterns of traditional designs. Not only teenagers but working age women as well like tattoos, but not all want the design actually embedded in their skin. Besides being painful, it is risky for health. Thus, painting on nylon stockings was born; a new fashion was started, a new way of dressing for women only. This is the way of dressing up in the new cultural era, like ear piercing and strange new hairstyles, etc. Thus, works of art can come down (almost) to the ground. From now on, you don’t have to peer up so high. Look down, and you’ll find works of art that please your desires. Commentary: Acknowledging new fashion trends in body art.


46. Manit Sriwanichphum. Pad Thai Art.
Yr.46, Vol.23, 7 – 13 November, 1999.
“ I’d like to ask the vendor selling pad Thai at the entrance to our lane – does she think her pad Thai is art?” The question came loud and clear from a senior Thai artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat, for the people at an art seminar in Chiengmai in 1996. I remember it very well.’
Rerkridt Tirawanich, famous for ‘performing’[cooking] pad Thai in art galleries and art festivals in America and Europe, was there to answer the question, but at the end of the seminar, his listeners left the room in doubt. The answer as to why his pad Thai was ‘art’ was not so very clear.
“Though Rerkridt doesn’t sell pad Thai on the roadside, but makes it within the four walls of an art gallery, the white critics and curators present it as a work of art. The white world and the Thai world are so very different…Trying to guess what the whites are thinking; how can they treat pad Thai as art?
“Manit answers the question by referring first to the idea of context.
“You have to look at it in a white context…First of all he [Rerkridt] is an artist. This is important, because if he wasn’t an artist, they wouldn’t regard his work as art.
“Second, the work has the character of a performance.
“Third, the gallery or exhibition hall is a place for showing works of art. Rerkridt is able to change the role of the place from exhibition hall to dining room in a twinkling..
“Fourth, pad Thai is not pat farang. The dish expresses the Thai character of the artist. He is bringing Thai culture to the West.
“Fifth, pad Thai is food to nourish people. This is the role of art - to nourish the mind of society.”
And a new book on art in America places Rerkridt among the top 100 contemporary artists in the world today.
Another artist who carries Thai culture abroad in high art is Nawin Lawanchaikul, who handed out traditional Thai loincloths when he showed his work in Japan.
“Art is like religion. Its meaning is abstract, depending on who interprets it. The artist can put any interpretation on it he likes. The basic principles of art never change, like the basic principles of religion.”
The art of Rerkridt seems to be in the mainstream of art today. Manit refers to an exhibit in New York’s Brooklyn Art Museum in which the artist created a dark-skinned Holy Virgin Mary whose right breast was made of elephant dung. A photograph of a female sex organ from a porn magazine represented the angel Gabriel. Another artist, Damien Hirst, suspended a bisected ox and shark in glass tanks of formaldehyde.
These artworks caused an uproar in New York and were widely rejected. One New Yorker said, ‘ From now on, when my dog shits on the ground, I’ll now need to clean it up, because I can call it art.’
Commentary: The question is strangely reminiscent of a riddle from Alice in Wonderland : “How is a raven like a writing desk?” But in this case, the riddle is, “How can pad Thai be high art?” Manit answers that question, which was asked of the artist, Rerkridt Tirawanich, a few years back at a seminar in Chiengmai. Manit’s analysis showing why pad Thai can be art is clear, witty and provocative.
His discussion turns, in closing, on the conservative precept that the basic principles of art, like those of religion, never change. Though Manit can include pad Thai within the province of high art, it is not clear to what extent he accepts the controversial artworks he describes from the Brooklyn Art Museum show.

47. Manit Sriwanichphum. Between the Lord Buddha, Gauguin and Chatchai.
Yr.46, Vol.24, 14 – 20 November, 1999.
Manit unhesitatingly accounts Chatchai Puipia as the greatest Thai painter of the decade.
“Some people would say I exaggerate on behalf of my friends. That doesn’t mean anything to me, because I have talented friends whose abilities are beyond the ordinary, equal to true masters. I count it my good luck to have a chance to know a master artist during my lifetime.”
Chatchai showed Manit the pictures to be shown in his upcoming show (On the Journey to Find the Lord Buddha, I Hesitated, Meeting Gauguin, Coming Slowly Back) at the Wityanitat Gallery of Chulalongkorn University from 29 October to 3 December.
Manit particularly liked Dedicated to the One I Love. “ It was a portrait of Chatchai, with just his big head placed on a golden chair. The head seems dim and withdrawn, as if trying to pull back into the red velvet cloth. It’s the same red which Caravaggio, the Italian artist (1571 – 1610) and John Singer Sargent, an American artist, use in their pictures. It is red full of the power of flesh and blood lust, and trembling. (He attests with his sexual member, which is hard, a stalk, in the shadow of the cloth under his chin.)
“ The face of Chatchai is turned a bit, like someone seated and looking at the world before them with eyes which are gloomy and sad. Both hands, which look like a demon’s hands, [are part of arms which] come out of his ears. Thin, lacy black gloves, like what nudes in Playboy like to wear when they pose for photos, hide the intense blue skin of his hands. On his right hand, he wears a large red ring. If you look closely, you’ll see it has on it an image of buttocks. (When people come in, they bend down to kiss the ring, as when meeting the Pope. So you can know what this means.) This hands holds a dry, faded old garland presented by someone long ago. The left hand pinches an envelope, a white love letter with a pink border. What did Chatchai write in his love letter- or is it a confession of his sins against the world?
“Why does this picture look so very sad and so very real? It held me spellbound, stunned, for a moment. I can’t tell why it has such power to strike the heart to such an extent. It’s the same feeling as when I got to see an original work (not a reproduction in a book) by Caravaggio, which made me think very sincerely about what a real painting really is. It has power…Such images retain the living power and soul of the artist and communicate to the view from across the centuries.
“When I think of going back to that time when I saw the original works, I feel so very happy. I can’t wait for that time to happen again, like a youth waiting for a lost love. Then my heart withers, hopeless of a sudden, when I think of the reality that this is Thailand, where there are artists in name only. No one really understands what real art is.”
Chatchai’s habit of painting pictures with himself as almost the sole subject made many people say he was too fascinated by himself, but Manit compares Chatchai with Frida Kahlo, the respected Mexican artist who did only self portraits. These are very deep images of the artists’ humanity.
Dedicated to the One I love was inspired by Velasquez’ painting of Pope Innocent X.
In 1951, the English painter, Francis Bacon, also made a painting based on this image. But Bacon’s pope screams instead of sitting, tight-lipped. Manit admires Chatchai for taking up the Velasquez painting once more, in an equally interesting way. He also praises Chatchai’s paintings, I Still Feel There is Something Missing,and Beginning, both which he finds very poetic and evocative.
“I’m very happy that Chatchai hesitated when he met Gauguin. Otherwise, his works might be like other Thai artists who make pictures without feeling or emotion – all so still, still, peaceful, peaceful, empty, empty, empty.
“Because artists understand Dharma like primary school children, who memorize everything the teacher tells them during the hour they study Buddhism.”
Commentary: Manit makes a clear, confident assessment, putting Chatchai in the forefront of a whole decade of Thai artists. He reaffirms the meaning and value of experience with original paintings as opposed to reproductions. And he points, using very concrete and specific examples, to the useful tradition among artists of the new generation of looking back to and playing off of the work of older masters. In this way, Manit brings alive and enriches the meaning of his art historical references.

48. Pen Pakta. Destroying the Body is Creative: The Anti-Art Group: Dada –
Relatives of Phra Siva? Yr.46, Vol.25, 21 – 27 November, 1999.
The critic considers the history of the Dada movement and the similarities between Dada theory and practice and Hindu philosophy and mythology.
The Dada artists are a very important modern art source all over the world. They inspired (among others) the surrealists, the expressionists, Pop art and ‘happening’ art.
Dada artists agreed that ‘destroying bodies is creative.’ They had a dark, anarchist view of the world, lacking purpose and direction, which grew out of the suffering and loss of the World War I era. They saw people crippled, homeless, starving, with eyes full of fear, anxiety and hopelessness. They rejected to idea of appealing to some golden age of the past for inspiration. The Dada artists believed that real creativity could not arise until the roots of old values had been destroyed – whether in morals, philosophy, education, culture, art or aesthetics. Thus, they made art of a urinal, a tin beer can, a picture of the Mona Lisa with a mustache drawn in. How satisfying!
Phra Isuan or Phra Siva is the god of destruction from Brahmin scriptures. Most Hindu people round the world pay respect to Siva as the greatest deity. Phra Narai is second. No one pays much attention to Phra Phrom, who seems altogether too forgiving and kindly.
Comparing Dadaism and the worship of Phra Siva, the critic sees them both as welcoming destruction. Their supporters live as hippies, shunning material comfort. Pen Pakata tells the story of how naked Phra Siva came to be dressed in the skins of a variety of wild animals.
In Thailand, the Ukabat group is about the only Dadaist group, and includes Wasan Sittiket, Sompong Tavi, Manit Sriwanichphum, Paisarn and Mongkol Plienbangchang, Jitima Ponsawadke and some others like Soontorn Misiri and M.L.Sakdlin Kasemsan, etc.
Their ideas are actually ahead of their time; they tend either to be loved or hated. The Ukabat group seems resigned to negative responses. Their supporters, by contrast, believe that beauty must be broken down before healing can take place.
The critic had admired the group for many years, but does not see them making any advance. When there is an Ukabat happening, one sees only the same old faces of friends from Na Pralan and Phra Athit Road. What obstacle keeps them from reaching their star? They need not destroy society’s culture, but must destroy evil and ugliness. Before the artists can seek new creative possibilities, they must destroy their own ‘self’ [ego?]. And they should stop dressing like hippies and dress more like Phra Siva, who is kin to them. Right?
Commentary: It is in some ways reassuring to find some profound philosophical and religious support for the value and necessity of destroying things that comfort and anchor us in society. The critic gives a supportive exposition on such anarchism, eventually arriving at the Ukabat group. Offering them a boost, the critic tacks on a homily in closing, suggesting, nonetheless, what an obstacle to progress the members’ egoism can be.

49. Pen Pakata. The Loy Kratong Ceremony. Here! Thai Style Performance Art.
Yr.46, Vol.26, 28 November – 4 December, 1999.
The critic begins with a quote from the Nobel prize-winning American author, John Steinbeck about the secret of success in creating art. In short, Steinbeck urges young writers to hurry and write down the most important things they have to say, for no one knows if they will live to see tomorrow.
Steinbeck’s belief in the freshness and truthfulness of artistic expression reminds Pen Pakata of performance art, a very ‘here and now’ kind of art.
Performance is a kind of face-to-face meeting with the world where all eyes are on the artist. There must be no misstep, no pretending, for audiences quickly feel suspicious behavior.
As one example of ‘performance art’ in Thailand, the critic offers the marriage celebration of Preecha Phanklam, a lecturer at the Faculty of Decorative Arts, Silpakorn University, which recently took place at the Sukhothai Hotel.
The wedding invitations were rather dark, and each card included a little swatch from an oil painting, part of a jigsaw puzzle which the guests would all help put together at the reception.
The groom agreed with the painter of that picture that he (the groom) would, at 7pm sharp, ascend to the stage and read a poem. There was nothing at all on the stage but a microphone. The hundreds of guests were stunned and puzzled.
At the conclusion, pictures drawn by the bride were uncovered at each by the guests. Everyone applauded, pleased and delighted to be part of this exhibition-performance.
The critic then closes with a meditation on the social and natural setting and the charming romantic atmosphere of the traditional Thai ‘performance art’ of Loy Krathong, urging readers to appreciate, take part in, and enjoy their own cultural heritage,
Commentary: The critic brings together Steinbeck’s words of wisdom (basically, ‘Do it now, before it’s too late!’), an example of the creative re-invention of a wedding reception, and a respectful bow to a traditional ceremony that people generally would not conceive of as ‘performance art.’

50. Manit Sriwanichphum. The Confused Life of Wasan Sittiket.
Yr.46, Vol.27, 5 - 11 December, 1999
Manit opens the scene standing, unburdening himself, and listening to a conversation between two other gents in the lavatory. They like and enjoy the exhibition; it was ‘good.’ But Manit finds it confused. If the pictures in Wasan’s series are ‘delicious’ and ‘satisfying’ – is that good?
“What is ‘juicy’? What is ‘satisfying’? We feel it is so juicy and satisfying for someone to throw shit in the cabinet minister’s face, but if you experienced it, you would hate it, right?”
And we have artists like Wasan Sittiket who are braver than the rest, making images of animals in full dress uniform, preparing to drink a toast with a glass of wine. Pictures of ministers of state, drinking and having sex, or monks in postures of ecstatic emotion with young girls.
“These pictures show corruption, cheating, and the quest of politicians and clergy for personal gain, things well known to us all…Wasan scolds all…And everything goes that way (till sometimes it’s almost a workday routine, part of the formula of daily life.)
“In a society where it’s every man for himself, and there is bowing and acceptance of evil in ‘Thai-Thai’ fashion, we may find someone to stand up who is ‘Bold to Scold.” Because ‘hell is other people;’ evil is something caused by other people, not by you or me…We get excited by [the spectacle of] the evil of others…like people cheering a boxing match in a stadium.
“For 20 or more years, Wasan has been showing his work and diligently joining demonstrations, tirelessly calling for various things in politics, in religion, in the environment all over the country. As a result, society has labeled him, put him in a folder. People everywhere and art academics call him ‘the artist who fights for society…It’s very sad that [such labeling] happens to many people, not just Wasan.”
When Wasan did a landscape exhibition, the critics attacked him violently. Even his friends called him a turncoat. In the face of such fierce rejection, Wasan recanted, announcing that he would not show landscapes (unrelated to social protests) again.
The artworld could not allow Wasan to try his hand at the study of nature. They hold Wasan to his coarse linear images of brutal conflict which only please briefly, temporarily.
“Wasan as usual, one admirer told me, and laughed. You can translate that as praise or criticism…Wasan’s pictures must have naked people, must show sexual organs, must have sex together in strange attitudes, with tired looking villagers or a hammer and sickle and violently cursing politicians. These things have become his logo, his brand. Without these, he is not ‘Wasan as usual.’ Not tasty, not satisfying.”
Manit urges Wasan to follow his other desires as an artist, as well, and refers especially to the artist’s unusual picture, Missing Dad. Manit finds the painting moving and authentic.
“Wasan Unusual is different from the expectations or guesses of people – an unusual Wasan who takes the viewer into new dimensions of wisdom, who understands life better. Not stuck with daily political problems. He is Wasan who is multi-dimensional, of flesh and blood and feeling, not an art machine producing ‘anger’ on demand.”
Commentary: Manit points to the habit in society of pigeon-holing individuals and holding them hostage there behind a particular image. This has happened to Wasan Sittiket, and the critic urges the artist to escape the label.
Manit also challenges the cynical social satisfaction generally served by Wasan’s often crude assaults on corruption. Too often, Wasan’s admirers are enjoying his work simply as a kind of predictable but daring and naughty entertainment.

Manit recalls with dismay how Wasan retreated under the hostile fire of critics who could not accept his attempt to paint landscapes. The critic encourages the artist to explore other expressive dimensions which have begun to emerge, for example in Wasan’s painting, Missing Dad, which Manit liked so much.





51. Niran Ketutad. Rage Color.
Yr. 46, Vol. 28, 12 – 18 December, 1999.
The exhibition, Rage Color, is the work of three artists, Adulphan Isarakul na Ayudthya, Mana Pupichit and M.L.Sakdilin Kasemsan. The show was on at the Saxaphone Shop for a month, scheduled to go on to Samui Island and then to Chiengmai.
The theme is ‘communities along the Chao Phraya River.’
The three artists have three different styles. The works of Adulphan center on temples, churches and other such places along the river. The artist uses acrylic color on photo-board. The painting is simple and free, not emphasizing details. The brushstroke is decisive and expressionist. The paintings are in frames which cut glare to prevent reflections from the lighting.
Adulphan was a classmate of Chuan Mulpinit and Nab Sodtiphand, the so-called ‘Three Musketeers of Na Phralarn.’
The works of Mana Pupichit are all watercolor images of the Tha Prachan community and Pakklong Talad Market. He is someone who likes dampness and the philosophy of the river, gently flowing. He emphasizes light and color, the lives of people waiting for boats at the docks. Color and artistic emotion flow together.
M.L.Sakdalin Kasemsan does painting, photography, music, performance art, and magazine illustration. His work here is mainly in acrylics. The artist likes to use his camera, taking photos and then doing the paintings in his studio. All his pictures are small and bright with color and brushstroke. The works are entitled ‘Host,’ referring to the buildings and clusters of stores and houses in which he is a guest or a passerby. He misses them when he leaves. And these places may, themselves, eventually be gone.
‘Rage Color’ in this set is an experiment, doing something strange and new. The venue for the show changes from a gallery to a pub, where the space is strange and different. The change of space creates a new aesthetic taste for viewers in the new venue, not the first in the series – cozy, relaxed, modest and friendly.
The atmosphere of communities along the river is charming the livelong day. The people, the light and shadow, the sound of the waterway, of boats, the footsteps of passersby. Morning and late morning, mid-day, evening and night, life move along with the current of the river which is never still. The article closes with a poem to ‘Rage Color’ by Sompong Tavi.
Commentary: Three artists with an exhibition of watercolor and acrylics on the theme of waterways. The show travels to Samui and Chiengmai as well, moving from gallery to pub. The critic notes appreciatively that the atmosphere in the pub gives the paintings a new aesthetic flavor.



52. Manit Sriwanichphum. Smells like (F)Art.
Yr.46, Vol.28, 19 - 25 December, 1999.
Manit reminisces about playing truant from high school to go out and play snooker, which was badly regarded as a form of gambling popular with drug users and glue sniffers at that time. Then Tong Sitchoi, known all over Thailand and the world, revolutionized Thai snooker, turning it into a respected sport requiring the use of brains, wits, skill, concentration, and disciplined practice, just like other sports.
Tong cleaned up the image and lifted snooker to another level. Though the sport has drifted down again since those days, Manit remembers the honor it enjoyed in its heyday.
The critic recently picked up a snooker cue again, this time at the About Studio(gallery)/About Café, a venue for avant garde art. Surasi Kusolwong, artist and teacher at Silpakorn University, had rented some snooker tables and set them up in the Café. The artist did some redecorating, putting a big red curtain behind the table, painting walls, putting in lights as big as watermelons and changing the library into a bedroom. He brought mattresses to sit on instead of chairs.
In one corner of the gallery was a snooker table; on the floor there was a sign in pink neon letters, “Smells Like Art.”
“So now, in About Café, everything is art, and I am playing in a work of art by Surasi.”
Manit quotes the café’s press release, explaining Surasi’s idea: “It is an attempt to blur the division between sharply allocated spaces for art (art sites) and general areas which are not designated or made to show art (non-art sites). Surasi uses elements in the site to become part of his artworl. Context is important in creating meaning in this installation – the building, the role and function of the various areas and activities arising in the place, as well as the environment altogether… For Surasi, the process of creating art is very important and the importance of making artworks within a context of society more than creating to show in a place specifically for art. For Surasi, art is the common/shared experience of individuals.”
“What is this ????” exclaims the critic. Is Surasi trying to introduce postmodern art, which is presently so popular round the world?
“Just setting up snooker tables and calling it art? And dragging people in to ‘play,’ and responding with circuitous and tortuous answers and academic terms. (We don’t want to know the metaphysical problem – that is really totally nuts.)
“Is art that easy nowadays?” was a comment in the visitor’s book. Kindly Thai people faulted themselves for not understanding the exhibition.
“Though Surasi drags in a lot of logical reasons to explain…I don’t get it. I don’t understand. Don’t get it..
The critic notes that nowadays, one must look at the explanation when looking at art. And the explanation will be very twisted and tricky to understand. The art cannot stand on its own, but depends on explanations. The artist is great at giving reasons …this is the amazing thing about postmodern art.
“I don’t see the beauty of this art,” says Manit. For ‘process art,’ he prefers the beautiful process of creating good cloth in the example given by Mahatma Ghandi.
Manit criticizes Surasi for ‘slicing up’ ideas and beauty, and for slicing artistic practice, knowledge and skills right out of art. Noting that artists are expert art-makers, he challenges Surasi’s complaint that art is being bought and sold and turned into a commodity.
“ Is it true or not, that this is a dark age of intellectual blindness. This is an age of madness for ‘fake art academics.’ They don’t take anyone anywhere … N one follows a path of intellectual enlightenment. You study it and you remain as ‘stupid’ as before. All meaning shrinks into ‘technical vocabulary’ …vocabulary like social areas…culture…community… These are just decorations, which look impressive but lack meaning.
“ The final result which society gets is art which is thoroughly soaked, simple, crude (both in idea and skill) which the audience hates. Should we see this as a victory or a defeat for postmodern art?” Quoting his friend who accompanied him to see the show, his assessment is, ‘Smells like fart.’
Commentary: Manit’s complaint about Surasi’s art being ‘too easy’ and showing a lack of skill reminds one of the criticism of abstract modernist art, which ‘any 4-year old would be able to do’ (or so it was commonly said). His critique records a very familiar historical experience, i.e. the artist is unable to convince his critical contemporary of the validity of his (the artist’s) new direction. The fact is that profound change catches most of us by surprise, and it is extremely difficult to explain what is happening while in the midst of the metamorphosis.
Certainly, Surasi was completely serious in his intent, and, years later, it is not difficult to find many interesting things to say, in retrospect, about the show.
Manit’s annoyance at the unpersuasive explanation of the show in the press release contributes to his anger, along with his perception that this is just another ‘scam’ being perpetrated, a familiar fraud that has become all to common in academia.

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