Damrong Wong-Uparaj
จำนวนผู้เยี่ยมชม 718 คน
  • Damrong Wong-Uparaj
    Text by Vichaya Mukdamanee
    The way in which “modern art” was adopted in the Thai art scene is subject to many debates and discussions. Many argue that we should not even call the artworks that emerged in Thailand since the mid-20th century “modern” art at all, despite superficially sharing many characteristics and certain ideas and styles with Western modern art. Western modern art, such as the impressionism and cubism movements, was developed by Western artists inspired by – and responding to – the new scientific knowledge and industrialization that took control over human lives and overthrew many traditional staples of artistic production. Modern art in the West was thus a reflection and manifestation of the existential transformation of society from the traditional to the modern; conversely, in most non-Western areas such as Thailand, modern art and the associated styles such as Thai modern art were imported via art education conducted by Western artists and Thais who were educated abroad in the West. According to many, the Thai version of modern art is not authentic because Thailand itself did not have the critical awareness of science, technology and the development of industrial society that are the fundamental ingredients of modernism. Thai modern art is thus based on superficial aspects of form, styles and technique taught through the use of pictures, magazines and books.
    However, this Thai response to Western modernity in art is itself a feature of modern art, manifested by Thai artists learning and adopting Western perceptions in the context of Thailand. Through the process of creating artwork Thai artists developed an awareness of modernism as it existed in Thai society. Naturally this reflects a profound rupture in Thai culture and the synergy between an ancient and traditional Buddhist kingdom of faith and the influx of a modern, Westernized and industrial culture.
    Damrong Wong-Uparaj (1936-2002) is one of the great examples of how Thai artists learned from Western modern art to develop and establish their own meanings of Thai modern art. When Damrong graduated from Silpakorn University in 1962, his early paintings focused on the landscape of Thai countryside and remote villages, which for him were the quintessential embodiment of the Thai spirit. The artist painted peaceful pastoral scenes that consisted of local shacks, boats, rice carts and trees to symbolize the mood of everyday rural life, although notably no human figures are portrayed in the pictures. Apinan Poshynanda writes in his famous Modern Art in Thailand that “Damrong’s paintings were widely admired. They brought back provincial values and local pride. The content could be easily recognized as Thai, in contrast to the trends and fads of modern Western art.”[1]
    Damrong received scholarship to study at Slade School of Fine Art in London during the period 1962-1963, and later pursued an MA in Fine Art at the University of Pennsylvania during the period 1968-1969. After returning from abroad his paintings changed to a remarkably more abstract style. For years, he experimented with many techniques ranging from expressive brushstrokes, drips and splashes of paints, collages of found objects, and even hard-edge shapes in order to define the balance of his understanding of Western modernist aesthetics and the spirit of Thai culture. After two years (1976-1977) in Japan conducting independent research, Damrong began to apply the ideas of Zen and Buddhism in his practice of abstraction, returning to his landscape painting of Thai rural scenes but this time looking at each part of a picture as a spiritual space. The countryside scenes harmoniously co-existed with abstract elements, and all elements of the pictures got simplified in the austere Zen tradition. The rice fields and roofs of huts were portrayed as flat spaces that consisted of countless dots and small lines with orderly placement to generate a feeling of peacefulness. Layers of colors were neatly filled, washed, and overlapped to control the unity of atmosphere. The painting not only portrayed life, but also represented moments of stillness and calm, manifesting a Buddhist response to material worldliness.
    SIDENOTE: Those who are interested in paintings by Damrong Wong-Uparaj and other artists from the contemporary period may want to visit the exhibition “A Journey to Homeland”, organized by Office of Contemporary and Culture, Ministry of Culture, at 2nd floor of Ratchadamnoen Contemporary Art Gallery, Bangkok. The exhibition will be shown throughout the year.
    For more information please visit www.ocac.go.th and www.facebook.com/rcac84.
    Damrong Wong-Uparaj, Fishermen Village, 1960 Tempera on canvas, 89 x 109 cm.
    Damrong Wong-Uparaj, Kala, 1965 Collection of Office of Contemporary Art and Culture, Ministry of Culture
    Damrong Wong-Uparaj, Back to the Village, 1994 Tempera and acrylic on canvas, 52 x 66 cm. Collection of Sombat Permpoon Gallery

    Damrong Wong-Uparaj, Back to the Village, 1994

    Tempera and acrylic on canvas, 37 x 77 cm.

    Collection of Sombat Permpoon Gallery 

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