Monday, October 11, 2010

Paisarn Tirapongwit, ' Fireworks Signal the Announcements of This Year's Annual Art Exhibitions: the Annoucements Begin'

Paisarn Tirapongwit, ' Fireworks Signal the Announcement of this Year's Annual Art Exhibitions: the Announcements Begin,' in the Silpa Wattanatham Column of Siam Rath Weekly News magazine, Yr. 57, Vol.52, 17 - 23 Sept. 2010.

The second half of each year in the contemporary Thai artworld is more or less the regular period during which the 4 - 5 art competitions in our country are organized annually. These competitions are the 'regular customers' who begin sending out their calls. After the selection of entries and the assessment, analysis, considerations, and judgment by the various panels of experts at the several venues, the public is duly informed and the winners announced. After that comes the task of bringing together the winning entries and some of the other works selected for a public exhibition.

Just like last year, as 2010 enters its final months, the results of judging and awards ceremonies begin to be announced in succession, heralding the opening of the exhibitions to visitors from the general public. These competitions demonstrate and show off to the public the skills, knowledge and ability in art, and the experience, all brought together by the imagination, point of view, ideas, emotion, and individual feelings of each of the artists who are showing their works officially.

The 32nd Bua Luang Painting Competiton, a show organized and sponsored by the Bangkok Bank Foundation. Bua Luang has been going on regularly for quite a while. It is the second oldest art competition in Thailand. (This show was initiated in 1974, 36 years ago. There are some gaps in the exhibition cycles by reason of various problems and cases.)

For this 32nd Bua Luang Competition, the Bangkok Bank Foundation set the official awarding of prizes ceremony for the evening of Tuesday, 31 August, 2010, at the Queen Sirikit Gallery on Rachadamnoen Avenue. Interested persons were welcome to come to see the show from that day on until the Tuesday of 28 September, 2010.

On Tuesday, 7 September, Silpakorn University held the opening ceremony for the 56th National Art Exhibition in line with the annual schedule. (The national show is considered a basic must for those who want to boast of their competitive artistic skills. It is the oldest staging place for contemporary art in Thailand. The first such show was held in 1949.)

As to the entries in this the 56th National Art Exhibition, there was a selection process, dividing the works which receive prizes from those which did not. The winners are shown widely to interested audience in many venues, i.e. first in Bangkok, the capital city. Some are exhibited at the National Gallery on Chao Fah Road near the Somjej Prapinklau Bridge. some are shown at the Bangkok Metropolitan Gallery at the Patumwan Intersection near Siam Square.

After showing at the National Gallery and at the BMA Gallery, these works are brought together again and carried from the national show to the Sanam Chan Gallery of Silpakorn University at the Sanam Chan Palace campus in Nakorn Pathom. From there, they successively make the rounds, showing in Chiengmai, Khon Kaen, Mahasarakham, Songkhla, Pattani and Chonburi, in turn.

Speaking of the general picture of the works which were judged and which have been shown in these two competitions, the 32nd Bua Luang and the 56th national show --which I had the chance to visit and see - most of the entries sent in for judging were not that varied, because the entrants belonged to pretty much the same group of artists.

That is, the artists who sent their work to compete in the selection process under the panel of judges for the 32nd Bua Luang also sent their work to the 56th National Art Exhibition as well.
They will also meet in two or three other competitions receiving entries this year such as the Brings Good Things to Life and the 27th Contemporary Art Competition for Young Artists.

If the works appearing in the 32nd Bua Luang have any clear-cut differences from the works in the national show, they should appear in the field of traditional Thai painting, for which artists strongly prefer the Bua Luang to any other contest.

In any case, it is well known among people who do art in Thailand that the Bua Luang is the only competitive venue in the field of visual arts which emphasizes works of art anchored in traditional Thai art.
This is the source, the standard accepted practice, the essential principle in creating and building, and mingling and joining, of imaginative ideas in order to improve and adapt Thai traditional art and the art of individuals who adapt traditional art or traditional approaches, but changing them in unusual new ways. This is a search to unravel and develop works of Thai painting nowadays, and to develop in ways different from the past, mixing the contemporary with Thai art to make it more in step with the present.

As for the works which were judged prize winners at various levels in competitions such as the 32nd Bua Luang and the 56th National for 2010, there were the familiar faces, former winners from these competitions in years past. And there were many more new faces.
The number of prizes at these competitions - like the National Exhibition nowadays, has increased in a most unusual way from times past. And the size of each prize is much bigger. This aspect is one which helps inspire the ambitious to some extent.

There is financial support for prize money and this pushes the National Art Exhibition ahead. Support comes nowadays - in addition to Esso Corporation (Thailand), support also comes from Krung Thai Bank and the Office of Contemporary Art in the Ministry of Culture. They have contributed to the 56th National Show, making it possible to award prizes to 44 entries.

Large or small, these changing factors of increase must have some impact to liven up the old national show
. If catches the looks and eyes of many people in the arts. But they should invest to the best of their ability their skill and energy to create their artworks before entering the competition and judging. The event is much more lively and much more crowded.

Even so, taking a long look back over the National Art Exhibition and the Bua Luang, I doubt that these old competitions should be carried on under the art institution model. Silpakorn is going to have to improve and change the rules. The form, methods and mechanism of supporting art by personnel in our Thai artworld will have to develop in ways different from the repetitious monotony of the old entrenched system.

Although the organization of annual exhibitions and the awarding of prizes is a way of offering support and moving forward, more supporting and promoting mechanisms are needed for personnel in our art circles. They need help to develop and progress more efficiently - more than by having annual art competitions.

From broadcasting prizes each year, 30 to 40 prizes are handed out to around 40 people. We could rather emphasize supporting youth who are consistently outstanding and interesting in more concrete ways. The support I speak of need not extend to dozens of people, but helping some to fully invest in clearly conceived works of art, supporting them with to completion with exhibitions. Simply speaking, give them block grants so they can fully and wholeheartedly devote their time and their thought, skills and abilities to creating a set of works of art to show.

Or help promote the setting up international level exhibitions, selecting outstanding works of art with creative ideas and approaches, art that has clearly been developed over a period of time. These works could be printed up in books of a good size and number of pages for distribution. This would be a clear and lasting investment, something concrete, much more so than this business of hemming and hawing at yearly exhibitions which pass away all too quickly.

In all the long time that has passed - more than 40 years of exhibitions which we have been watching - most of the young men and women who took part and won prizes have disappeared. They simply cannot last as creative artists for the rest of their life. So many times, the works of art of many people have been recognized as creative and interesting and deserved support and promotion.

But unfortunately, these works and these artists have been sorely neglected and allowed to fade away in time. They have not been looked after or supported as they should have been. One can't see how long it is going to be till some part of this neglect is overcome with new ways for getting support for the arts in our country which is still wrapped up in the exhibition system with annual awards of prizes, still stuck in the same rut, year after year.

Besides the two art exhibition venues which I have discussed in the foregoing, on Thursday, 9 September, 2010, there will be an awards ceremony and the opening of the 27th Young Contemporary Artists Exhibition at the Art Center in Honor of His Majesty the King at Silpakorn University, the Sanam Chan Palace Campus in Nakorn Pathom. It is the third art major exhibition opened to the public this year. And if you count till December, there are more shows announcing awards and awards ceremonies at many other venues as well.

For example, the Brings Good Things to Life Exhibition, sponsored by the Toshiba (Thailand) Corporation. It looks like they are set to present awards and to open their show in November. The Panasonic Contemporary Art Exhibition เอย and the PTT Art Exhibition with PTT hosting and funding monetary awards for winners. The dates for these show have not been confirmed yet. As to announcing results and setting the awards ceremonies in 2010, we will have to wait for the announcements, which should be out soon. So long.

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