The art I experienced on my recent trip to Thailand completely embodied the culture. The majority of the work I viewed directly narrated Buddhist stories and tales or the lives of the Thai people and their customs. This made the art feel so real to me. Not that modern, abstract, etc. art is not “real”, but its not always literally what you see. Many of the Thai paintings I saw depicted what you could walk around and see in the street. It narrated their day to day life.
One of my favorite pieces was a huge painting – I’d say about 5×6 feet – that hung right above my head at a lovely restaurant on my very first day there. I spent majority of the meal twisted around in my seat, straining my neck and eyes to take in every last detail. I did not want to stand up and start taking flashy pictures of the piece because I did not want to appear rude. Every so often I’d face the table, chat with my boyfriend for a few minutes, munch on something delicious, and then turn back around again.
The painting portrayed Thai people in various settings all on one canvas. The people “in the distance” towards the top of the picture were just as large as the people “in the foreground” at the bottom of the picture. There was absolutely no sense of realistic dimension. All the figures were in the same size category. Different spaces of land seemed to be marked off in a grid like pattern, so that each scene was in its own square per say.
Since I was sitting so close to it I could see the artists original sketching of the figures in a pencil, then the retracing in a red pen, then a black ink pen over top. This was such a special touch in my opinion. Being able to see the process and different steps of the creation of the piece was really heartwarming.
The painting includes elephants, farmers and their farms, dancers, singers, performers, and ordinary people. Some were dressed in normal pants and t-shirts while others were dressed in intricately detailed traditional wear. I loved the scenes of people tending to their crops, probably because I saw it quite often in my travels in Chiang Mai. We would be in the car headed somewhere and look out the windows to see the jungle like terrain open up randomly for wet farms to live. You’d see farmers in their pointed hats, protecting their faces from the blasting sun, keeping their crops in immaculate order.
The painting was definitely mixed media. From what I could tell I saw pencil, black ink pen, red pen, markers, gold paint, and some other kind of thin paint/pigment.. maybe a watercolor?
I really fell in love with this piece. Its a shame I didn’t get a picture of the entire thing but it lives on in my memory. The tiny snippets of it I do have allow me to assemble the puzzle pieces in my head until the entire picture can come alive again. I guess what I love most about it is how it is both so simple and so intricate at the same time. Although it is hard to see in the pictures I have included here, each outfit and costume seemed to twinkle with hints of metallic paints. Little beaded dots from various mediums adorned the costumes worn by many figures. The ears of the elephants caught the light from the sun peering in the windows and they glowed.
The painting was full of life. It was charming, it was captivating, and it is the perfect piece to describe my magical stay in this wonderful country.