Sunday, March 22, 2009

Final report on The Art Critics and Art Criticism of the Silpa Wattanatham Column in Siamrath Weekly News Magazine 1997 - 2007

The Art Critics and Art Criticism of the Silpa Wattanatham Column in Siamrath Weekly News Magazine 1997 - 2007
A Bibliography with Summaries

Janice M. Wongsurawat, Researcher.
Kiriya Chayakul, Achara Nuansawat,
Supalux Suwandee and Uthai Asana,
Assistant Researchers.

Introduction August, 2008

The Silpa Wattanatham (Art & Culture) column first began appearing in Siamrath Weekly news magazine in 1977. It is Thailand’s oldest regular column of art criticism. The collected writings by the art critics for Silpa Wattanatham constitute a long, lively, and intriguing historical record which reveals much about the development of the modern artworld in Thailand.

To date, Silpa Wattanatham has an oeuvre of more than 1500 articles by many critics with diverse points of view. This column is an important early (and contemporary) example of the attempt to open up and connect the Thai artworld with the nation’s reading public, via mass media. The critics of Silpa Wattanatham have given, and continue to give their own distinctive voice to emerging aesthetic and critical thought in Thailand today.

Four Critics from SilpaWattanatham’s Third Decade:
Parinya Tantisuk and Sutee Kunavichayanont
Manit Sriwanichpoom and Paisarn Plienbangchang

Parinya Tantisuk

The most equable and gracious of his generation among the art critics of Silpa Wattanatham, Parinya Tantisuk, wouldn’t usually peer with delight into a leering face whose gaping mouth suggests reeking breath and dental caries. This face, however, is special, as the critic says:

The color and the eyes are abnormal, unnatural. But when you see the image, you have to look and look again, because the taste of the color is delicious. Red which is so red, splashing, shining, in the giant face, which has a wound and a smile. The broad grin and dirty yellow teeth are even more satisfying. The brushstrokes are also pleasing. Altogether, this is truly good feeling, exploding out.

Thoroughly enjoying the paintings in Chatchai Puipia’s solo exhibition at the gallery of Bangkok University, Parinya finds that the artist is still a thinker whose work is bold, playful, hot, spicy and delicious, and who hasn’t given up satirizing life in Thai society.

Chatchai and Parinya studied in the same university faculty. Chatchai chose the life of an independent artist. Parinya became a government officer and art teacher at Silpakorn University. A successful artist in his own right, Parinya has become a respected critic as well.

Many of the writers who contributed articles to Silpa Wattanatham in its first decade (1977 – 1987), and indeed, most of the artists they reviewed, were, like Parinya, closely associated with Silpakorn University and the artistic traditions of the Faculty of Painting, Sculpture and Graphic Art.

Not surprisingly, the critical values and beliefs of that particular school imbue Parinya’s essays throughout the period in which he was writing for Silpa Wattanatham. By comparison, Parinya is warmer, more benign, and never as strident as Pishnu Supanimitr, one of first leading critics of the Silpa Wattanatham column. Pishnu was one of Parinya’s mentors at the Faculty of Painting ; later, the two became colleagues. In the complex network of interconnecting relationships that characterizes the Thai artworld, Pishnu studied under Parinya’s father, Sawasdi Tantisuk, a teacher and later head master at the Chang Silpa College of Arts and Crafts. Sawasdi, in turn, was a student of the iconic founder of Silpakorn University, Professor Silpa Bhirasri, the Italian sculptor from a Florentine academy of art, who was originally hired by the Royal Thai government to train craftsmen in royal service.

The Thai artists and artworks discussed by Parinya in Silpa Wattanatham mostly belong to the artistic tradition and school of the Faculty of Painting at Silpakorn University. Parinya’s writings include many articles about life in the faculty with a keen awareness of the programs and courses being taught there, the students , their activities, field trips, examinations, and student shows.

Coming to maturity and flourishing within this elite circle, Parinya is part of its network of seniority and tradition, masters and students, in which the teachers are government officers, many of whom have for decades dominated the roster of the nation’s most famous artists. Parinya’s views as a critic reflect his lifelong immersion in the traditional atmosphere of a university art faculty which has tended to view itself as an art academy. An eloquent contemporary spokesman for this distinctive aesthetic point of view, Parinya’s writing is vivid, moving, and imaginative. The English summaries of his writings in the bibliography do not do justice to his essays in Thai, which await much more adequate translations. The lyricism and poetry of Parinya’s writing is moving and persuasive, as his introductory passage to a discussion of traditional Thai mural painting suggests:

When I drove out from home about 5am last Wednesday, Bangkok had a heavy fog. It was as if in a dream. The overhead walkways seemed literally to hang in mid-air as the fog obscured the stairways leading up and down. Only the bridge crossings were visible and the figures of the people walking across them. That dreamlike atmosphere made me think of old Thai painting, our Thai painting about heaven, earth and deities at various levels. I think dreams have an important part in Thai painting. Thai artisans like to dream, and they are good at it. Thai artisans in every era have created images dreamed up from stories in Buddhism, their subject…the stories of the Ten Incarnations, the life of the Buddha, the Triphumi. Thai artisans brought these things to think about, to distill, to dream of, mingling with things in nature, society, the environment and daily life…creating new forms, special, unique to Thailand, unlike anything else in the world.

Parinya presided in Silpa Wattanatham during the great economic crisis that shook Thailand in 1997, an avalanche of debt, out from under which the country would be digging itself for the next 10 years. The pressure to put culture to work earning tourism dollars became greater than ever. How was the high art sector to lend a hand in rescuing the nation?

True to the creed of his school, Parinya explains art as essentially a spiritual matter, but he knows well that serious artists generally learn to deal with markets, too. In the early years of the crash, in mid-1998, the government’s debt restructuring plan for the finance sector included an auction of the artworks in the asset portfolios of the bankrupt companies. Many works by luminaries of the Thai artworld went on the block. A senior professor from the Faculty of Painting at Silpakorn, Chalood Nimsamer, was appointed to head a sub-committee (which included Pishnu Supanimitr ) to consider the properties, give median price estimates, and set the manner of bidding. The Rama IX Foundation and Gallery, and Christies International Auction House also took part in the auction.
Parinya recorded the historic event from his insider’s vantage point. The auction must have been a painful shock to Thailand’s high artworld, but Parinya is a patriot. He commented:
The auction of fine art on 13 – 14 June was full to capacity at 400 persons. In a day or two, the results of the auction will have many repercussions in the Thai artworld, especially in terms of values and prices, of things bought and sold, of each piece by each artist. There will be things that people accept and do not accept…especially in terms of value vs. price…
But if you think that what has happened here is not something normal, it is one way of finding money for the state. Works of art and artists have a role in finding income to help the nation. If you look at it this way, as a principle, you can let go of conflicted feelings and accept what has happened.

It was his last year at Silpa Wattanatham. Finishing out his term, Parinya produced a stream of meditations on artists and on the fine art, beautiful or bitter, which continues to appear in the Thai artworld. Parinya bows out in January, 1999.

Sutee Kunavichayanont

Four years later, one of his colleagues from the Faculty of Painting, Sculpture and Graphic Art, Dr. Sutee Kunavichayanont from the Art Theory Department came forward to take part in the ongoing public critical discourse. Sharply contrasting with Parinya in terms of approach and style, Sutee’s opening assessment is clear:
Thailand does not lack artists; it is not short of art. There is much that is good, but we manage it badly. We mistake our understanding of ourselves. Society today, therefore, stands isolated, cut off from what has gone before, like a people who have no past, no history. (Or if you speak of the past, or of history, it becomes propaganda, nationalism, spoiled every time.)

Between February of 2003 and November of 2005, Sutee pens a series of 30 intense articles discussing the modern history of Thailand and analyzing the nation’s high artworld, its past achievements and present challenges. His approach is comprehensive, with a broad scope. For example, he raises the issue of long-term public access to and preservation of the nation’s scattered and vulnerable artistic heritage in traditional and early modern art. Sutee notes the increasing number of art exhibitions, nationally and internationally , and the growing influence of foreign funding and foreign buyers.

Pishnu Supanimitr and Parinya Tantisuk occasionally focused on aesthetics or history in their columns for Silpa Wattanatham; Sutee’s articles are consistently didactic. He lays out a historical and theoretical overview of the development of modern and contemporary art in Europe and in Thailand, touching on many aesthetic issues such as the alienation of artists in society and the gradual accustoming of society to high art’s predilection for the shocking and new.

Between September and December, 2003, Sutee wrote four articles on the modern Thai artworld ‘before and after the 14th October event,’ including mention of critical controversies and public debates about art in which Pishnu Supanimitr played an active role. Sutee focuses on art history and aesthetics in 2003, finding many parallels between the development of modern art in Europe and in Thailand.

Undaunted by the challenges of globalization, Sutee is nonetheless aware of the mixed feelings of many Thai people toward the intrusive Western presence. He compares Thai society to someone standing with his feet in two boats, one boat belonging to ‘whites’, one belonging to Thai. Sutee may himself be that man, but he manages well enough.
Citing the intransigence of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration regarding a pledge to build a new metropolitan contemporary art gallery, Sutee lauds the Rama 9 Art Gallery Foundation and for moving ahead with an on-line gallery which can help bridge the gap. In the face of Bangkok’s hardboiled politics, Sutee looks to the North for more amenable society.

In the 4th quarter of 2004, he applauds the decision by some leading young artists to live and work in the provincial cities of Chiengmai, Chiengrai or Lamphoon rather than remaining in the capital. Pishnu’s hopes for Chiengmai recorded almost 30 years earlier in Silpa Wattanatham seem to resurface and flower in Sutee’s writing.
In his 3-part final series late in 2005, Sutee joins Manit Sriwanichpoom in a consideration of the theme of nationalism and neo-nationalism. Sutee surveys the nationalist politics of the 6th King, the regime of Field Marshal Plaeck Pibulsongkram in the era of World War II, the rise of the military dictator, Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, and the return of monarchy and traditionalist spirit. Sutee’s overview includes the period of popular activism for democracy surrounding the 14 October event of 1973, as well as the bloodletting at Thammasat University in 1976.
His survey concludes around 1986, when some groups of Thai artists reflect their own nationalist spirit by opposing the influence of foreign culture, reviving Thai art while bringing it in a contemporary direction.

Both attached to the Faculty of Painting at Silpakorn, Sutee Kunavichayanont and Parinya Tantisuk have contrasting styles and spirit, reflecting their great difference in outlook and values. The landscape of Parinya’s writing shows him staying pretty close to home, at peace in his own fraternity, whose creed is the redeeming mission of artists and art objects for mankind. Parinya tends to see contemporary art as an individual exploration, with society as the moral context. Sutee’s writings – in a comparatively brief campaign of around 30 articles – emphasize rather the historical and political context in Thailand and the West. Sutee takes inventory of the great number of modern and traditional artifacts scattered round the country, and sees the dilemma of the need to preserve art objects vs. the public need to access them. Though his approach is historical, academic and didactic, Sutee resembles Manit Sriwanichpoom in emphasizing the importance of seeing art as one of the players in the larger social and political context.

Manit Sriwanichpoom

Manit Sriwanichpoom, who began writing for Silpa Wattanatham in 1999 just as Parinya was stepping down, is as likely to review a show negatively as to approve of it (quite unlike Parinya), and he often lashes out at what offends him. Still, when Manit warms to something he likes, he is generous, even outspoken, in his praise.
For example, Parinya very clearly admires Chatchai Puipia, but Manit goes further, unhesitatingly accounting him the greatest modern Thai painter. As he states matter-of-factly :
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.

When he first began writing for Silpa Wattanatham, however, Manit’s reviews were mostly grouchy and bad-tempered. Despite the buffering effect throughout 1999 of his mild, earnest, and more lyrically-inclined fellow critics– the Golden Paintbrush , Niran Ketudad and Pen Pakta – Manit’s vitriol and ill-humor seem like an endless torrent, a rage that cannot be appeased.

Manit begins by protesting destructive IMF interference in Thailand’s economic affairs, lamenting the loss in 1997 of 700,000 million baht by the Thai authorities’ ill-conceived currency policy. But his most bitter attacks are aimed at American economic imperialism, which has replaced US military adventurism in Southeast Asia. He parodies famous photos from the era of the American war in Vietnam, remaking them into images of Thai yuppies being hounded by their foreign creditors. The critic then blasts an American film company for destroying an idyllic seaside landscape during the making of ‘der beesh’ (The Beach).
Manit’s fierce polemic against Leonardo DiCaprio, the star of the film, suggests nothing so much as a dog savaging a rat. Closer to home, Manit assesses as a boring, superficial stunt, the so-called “Bangkok Art Project.” Billed as a cooperative venture by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, and a host of artists from the local high artworld, the project is dubbed by Manit as the ‘Great Make-Up Job with Powder and Rouge to Create an Image.’ In April, he criticizes as spineless, Kamol Tassanchalee , recently named a National Artist and regarded as a hero by much of the rest of the local artworld (and also by one of his fellow critics at Silpa Wattanatham, who called Kamol ‘the eagle of Siam.’ )
After slamming Kamol, Manit comes up with a guarded but basically sympathetic assessment of the works of Paritat Hutangkul. Manit’s descriptions of Paritat’s vigorous, expressionistic use of color and witty, searing images suggest an artist who has real creative power. At the same time, however, Paritat’s crusading depictions excoriating corrupted Buddhist practices in Thailand also appear to be misogynist and xenophobic.

At mid-year, Manit is in Italy, finding solace in the example of St.Francis of Assisi, and feeling almost giddy in the presence of so much beautiful art: it literally made him feverish, he writes. Seeing this beauty everywhere – in Rome, Florence and Naples – Manit thinks of Thai artists such as Nai Kong Pae, Kru In-Kong, Acharn Fua Haripitak and Chakrabhand Posayakrit and his puppet theatre. These masters represent true seekers after perfection.
Inspired by the Sistine Chapel, Manit judges by comparison that too many talented Thai artists nowadays have shallow, short-sighted goals. Back in Thailand, bored and disgusted with himself, Manit allows his friends, Vasan Sitthiket, Mana Pupichit and Paisarn Plienbangchang, to drag him along to the village of Bahn Krut in Prachuab Kirikan. The group hopes to encourage and give moral support to the local people in their fight to halt construction, in their neighborhood, of a coal-fired, electricity generating plant. In the end, the depressed critic’s morale is lifted by the spirited efforts of the courageous villagers.

For whatever reason, before mid-year 2000, Manit’s fellow critics at Silpa Wattanatham have all cleared out, and Manit is left with a sympathetic, new colleague, his friend, the adventurous, back-packing critic and performance artist, Paisarn Plienbangchang. For a long time after that, other than the writing by Sutee Kunavichayanont, these two will generally have the column pretty much to themselves.

As a critic for SilpaWattanatham during the decade of 1997 – 2007, Manit wrote about 200 articles. He speaks out repeatedly against the censorship which narrows and flattens the intellectual and creative vigor of the nation. The state, for example, firmly monopolizes the interpretation of history, as when censors banned the film Anna and the King but fully supported Suriyotai.

The critic also protested the failure of Chiengmai University to host discussions on censorship and social criticism in response to the scandal of complaints that works by Vasan Sitthiket and Michael Shaowanasai exhibited in the CMU gallery were pornographic. It is the very role of universities to analyze and explore issues such as the difference between art and pornography, Manit writes, but in this case, CMU shirked its responsibility to the community. Who then will be an intellectual light to the public if the universities refuse to speak? Late in 2001, reviewing a show by Sutee Kunavichayanont at the Wityanitat Gallery, Manit protests in two articles the official tendency to ignore and forget the repeated calls and sacrifices made for democratic reform throughout the modern history of Thailand. Describing the works in Sutee’s show, Manit notes that the less history we have in our children’s textbooks about calls for democracy, the clearer it is that our country is not democratic at all.

A professional photographer himself, Manit reviews many photography exhibitions in his columns for Silpa Wattanatham. His critical eye makes him doubly sensitive to photography’s many roles in society, for example, in wedding photos, in the world of high fashion, in magazine coverage (‘Child Molestation’) and in politics.
In one article, he celebrates the history of photography in Thailand as a triumph of the use of acquired technology to defeat colonialist incursions. Describing his work as a professional photographer on a freelance job for a bank, Manit considers the role of uniforms in Thai society. The preference for requiring uniforms in the Thai business and industrial sectors Manit sees as Japanese aesthetic influence.

The critic’s notes and impressions from photo exhibitions visited in Germany and Spain reflect Manit’s cosmopolitan sensibilities, and show, as well, that China is often on his mind. His essays in Silpa Wattanatham on the works of some non-Thai photographers are outstanding – for example : a Japanese schoolteacher in Bangkok looking at his students (‘Ghost Children’) ; a show by David Stuart of old people in New York City (‘Wilted’) ; the ‘Dark Memories’ of Antoine D’Agata ; and Richard Avedon’s disheartening images of ‘American Democracy, 2004’ . Manit presents equally moving accounts of exhibitions, in Bangkok or in China, of works by Chinese photographers.

Manit is generally ahead of his time in moral discernment when defending the rights and dignity of women. But he is also of his time, present at politically inspired art exhibitions, street demonstrations in Bangkok, and reporting on an official art exhibition in response to events in the bloody civil strife in Southern Thailand. Manit devotes two columns to the full draft of a new funding act which will promote contemporary art, a milestone for the future of Bangkok’s artworld, and later, after the 2006 coup against the Thaksin Shinawatra government, to proposed articles promoting art and culture in a new or revised constitution.

Paisarn Plienbangchang

The critical perspectives of Paisarn Plienbangchang are in striking contrast with the writings of Manit, Sutee and Parinya. A committed and enthusiastic advocate and practitioner of performance art, Paisarn often reports on his journeys abroad to take part in performance art events or festivals. His accounts are never mere travelogues, but always reflect back on what is happening in Thailand and the larger context of environment, cultural values, politics, and social justice. Paisarn’s writings catalog many performances by artists from all over the world, works which are touching, funny, insightful, sometimes shocking, even chilling, and always expressive of human relationships in the many dimensions of the modern world. For example, in Canada, Paisarn records the performance of Suzanne Joli, a Canadian artist:
She used only one chair, of the most ordinary kind, with sound equipment.
Picking it up and moving it about, turning and rubbing it, she elicited
all kinds of sounds from the chair – groaning, lamenting, howling. She helped
us to see that these objects have a nature of their own.

At a performance meet in Indonesia, Paisarn describes an Indonesian artist’s performance – a political protest:

Isa Perkasa, an artist who took part in ASIATOPIA several years ago, uses water to wash her face and hands, as if she were going to do a Muslim’s daily ritual of prayer. Instead, she sits down and takes out a large Indonesian flag and stuffs it all into her mouth. Soon, she chokes. Tears come out of her eyes and water oozes from her ears. Everything is returning – corruption, dirty politics, dictatorial government, and the question, “Are we on our way back to zero again?”

On a visit to a performance gathering in Rangoon, Paisarn records a performance by a local artist:

Tin Moung On, an artist from Mandalay, did a piece entitled Family Life, simple but meaningful. The artist lies down and chains his neck and hands. Then his assistants mix plaster and pour it over his hands and feet, eyes and ears. As he is plastered up, the artist tells fairy tales such as parents tell children at bedtime. ‘Once upon a time, there was a toad which kept crossing and re-crossing the road till it got run over...’ The stories finish, the plaster dries. The artist struggles to move.

The 3rd Da Dao Live Art Festival is an annual community event organized by performance artists in Beijing. It is put on by artists and for artists: no state agency comes in to organize things, the critic notes. Artists come from many countries to join in. This time, Paisarn and his brother, Mongkol, are both invited to take part. Among the performances recorded on this visit by Paisarn in his series of articles are these two:

Wang Tan, a young male artist, presented the work, Joy is Fleeting, in which he stripped down to his underpants and covered his body with a large piece of plastic. He breathed up all the air inside the plastic covering till it stuck tight to his body and he ran out of air.

In Hu Xing’s performance Hourglass, the artist sits naked in the lower chamber of a large hourglass. His assistant fills the top of the glass with sand. The sand drains down slowly, eventually covering the artist completely.

In Dalat, Vietnam, at a seminar on performance art, Paisarn records two works he witnessed there, the first by two senior artists, Kyan Nyunt Lynn and Aung Mint from Burma, reflecting on the authoritarian regime in their country:

After spreading red roses on the floor and passing them out to members of the audience as well, the artists crawled through the scattered flowers. After a while, however, others came and destroyed the roses, trampling and kicking the bodies of the artists as they crawled along the crimson pathway.

The second of these was by Myriam Laplante, an Italian, who presented a film about war and violence:

Video images were projected onto a table cloth. Myriam pretended to sit and eat, but the food and dishes were thrown on the floor. The picture on the cloth was of an air show in which one of the planes crashed in a great fireball. At the end, the artist put on the mask of an alien from outer space and picked up the pieces of the destroyed meal. It was a bitterly funny scene.

Paisarn has also followed the ASIATOPIA performance event for many years. In some of his descriptions of works from the 2005 gathering, he notes that the artists have many things to express. The works are all different and there are new questions being asked of audiences. Sometimes the performances seem ill fitting and untidy, are beautiful, critical, or violent:
Iwan Wijono is an artist from Indonesia interested in society and politics. He covered himself with a white cloth like a priest. A volunteer dragged him along the road to the railroad tracks. He reached Siam Square, fast food restaurants, fashionable clothing stores, and was stared at by curious passers by. He handed out papers which said (in Thai and English) ‘My religion is not your political tool.’ In closing, he asked people to write their opinions on his white clothing.

Bangladesh Band was a student group of experimental musicians from a Korat technical college. They mingled together the sounds of a violin, an organ, and electric instruments like drills and cutters. The sounds were industrial in a strange way.

Jumphol Apisuk played with the sounds of seeds falling on plates of different sizes.

Valerian Malay and Klara Schillinger, two artists from Austria who have been showing together for more than 25 years, sat at a table with 100 small glasses of whiskey. After lifting a glass to honor someone, they downed the shot and then named someone else, and toasted them, too. Eventually, they became so drunk they needed help from the audience to finish, and to release a bird as a symbol of blessing.

Images in the pages of Silpa Wattanatham of photos from these gatherings are hardly more than ciphers, but Paisarn’s descriptions of the performances bring the events to life for the reader. He writes with charm, humor and insight about his travels to perform and to meet other performance artists. He is gifted in his ability to describe in a very simple way how physically and emotionally demanding performance art can be. Avoiding comparisons with plays and dramatic arts, performance festivals tend to unfold in settings which are, by choice, awkward and unromantic, sometimes with other performance artists as the primary audience. In Myanmar, where all contemporary artists are constantly under official scrutiny, Paisarn describes a performance meet tucked away in someone’s garden space and office, cleared for the purpose. By contrast, in the small Spanish town of Huesca, the performances took place in the center of the town, watched by curious townspeople, with the local fire department standing by to deal with any possible mishaps when the artists were setting things on fire. Paisarn has done the artworld a notable service by recording so many amazing performances, along with the stories of the places and situations in which they occurred. One thinks of the writings of Allen Kaprow in Education of the Un-Artist. Paisarn’s Silpa Wattanatham accounts of his perspective of the world of performance art are contextual, appreciative of the individuals involved, sensitive to the character of the particular environment, and alive to the urgent social, political and psychological issues expressed.
Another distinctive aspect of Paisarn’s criticism is his interest in the plight of the poor who strive to defend themselves against the depredations of the state, as in the tragic saga of the Pak Moon Dam. Paisarn helps us see high art in new perspectives by drawing its discussion into the midst of social concerns. He contrasts high art stories not only with commentary about front-page social and political events, but with descriptions of the courageous struggle of marginalized indigenous peoples, ‘sea gypsies’ for example, whose lives and projects are often obscured and overlooked by the general public. Paisarn prefaces many of his critiques of exhibitions with references to current events, contrasting, for example, paintings and photos honoring the ancient glories of Nepal, Tibet and India with the spectacle of Thai people falling upon each other in violent conflict instigated by the government project to build a Thai-Malaysian gas pipeline. The critic complains that the state creates divisions among the people in order to manipulate them more easily. Practically in the same breath, Paisarn speaks out, as well, against wide-spread, extra-judicial killings during the ‘anti-drug’ campaign of the Thaksin administration. In 2004, prefacing a discussion of art museums in Bangkok, he recalls a visit, made with a group of artist friends, to the embattled villages of Bornok and Bahn Krut in Prachuab Kirikan province to encourage the people who were resisting the construction of a coal-fired electricity generating plant. Later, Paisarn, along with many others, grieves to hear the news of the assassination of Charoen Wataksorn, a local leader in that conflict. In 2007, he reports on the memorial statue created in honor of Charoen Themes such as these are woven into Paisarn’s criticism throughout the period of his writing in the decade of 1997 – 2007. Paisarn’s critiques were the most difficult to study because of his literary style, which sometimes demands a reader with sophisticated Thai language skills. He not infrequently takes a circuitous route in moving to his subject, as in his pensive, poetic and rambling introduction to a show by distinguished artists at the Wityanitat Gallery on the vision of art, faith and religion. Still, he has an intuitive gift for linking things up metaphorically, as when he connects the consequences of environmental destruction with Valentine’s Day consumerism.
In any case, his writing about particular artists and their works is splendid and worthy of further study. A brief mention of some of Paisarn’s typically fine critiques might include: his review of the erotic drawings of Chuang Mulpinit; a description of the performance of Marina Abramovic scraping blood and gristle off bones; his review of a show by Sompop Butrach in Khon Kaen; an admiring critique of the life and work of Jarng Sae Thang; his visit with to the provincial home of SEAwrite Award winner, Saksiri Misomseub; his review, in memoriam, of the life and work of Jirasak Patanapong an account of a show of watercolor paintings by Chokchai Takpot; his review of a show of abstract paintings by Seni Chaemdech; his account of a gathering of old activist artist friends, especially Sanam Chantrkoh, an artist of Buriram; a review of the surrealist works of Pratheeb Kochbua; a description of a group of artists doing conservation in the western forests; and his coverage of a 14 October Memorial show.

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