Chatchai Puipia I ชาติชาย ปุยเปีย
It is very likely that only a handful of people have had the chance of seeing or visiting Chatchai Puipia’s house. He is a well-recognized artist and sculptor of Thailand and was honored the Silpathorn Award i specializing in visual arts in 2006. He leads a free and contented life and his private world is within the walls of his house situated on a 300 square meters in Soi Yen Akat, off Sathon Road in Bangkok. He moved there seven years ago and soon began altering practically every part of the house, starting with the ground floor that was elevated and had changes made in the layout for the sake of functionality. He was brave enough to take out several columns on the second floor just to yield more space for his studio. And, the roof was changed to give it greater height suitable for creating large size paintings. Personally, he prefers a cave-like dwelling with dim lighting and likes light to flow into particular parts of the house only with the exception of his studio, where he prefers natural light coming from different angles – just enough to keep the room from becoming too dark. According to Chatchai’s concept, such are the conditions suitable for working. This is Chatchai’s world. Looking from the outside, it is hard to distinguish his house from that of his neighbours; moreover, it is not easily recognizable as a house belonging to a National level artist. And, this is exactly how he wants it to be as he cherishes his privacy greatly. Upon entering the house, the decorative items inside include Chatchai’s own creations, as well as several pieces of priceless antiques such as furniture, lamp shades and even knobs for doors and windows that are all meticulously arranged. Encountering this, one readily starts to embrace the feeling of the house, and his style and bearing are evident through his powerful creations. Established are corners for relaxation where one can sit back comfortably and listen to the lyrics of the sixties, for instance, to the music of ‘Suntaraporn’ ii on an old record player. To Chatchai, listening to music on an old record player helps set the mood via recollection of the old times. Chatchai is particularly concerned about the location of his house since it is situated right in the center of Bangkok. In actual fact, he prefers large spaces with natural surroundings; he loves trees and has a dream of owning a house in the suburb with wide, open spaces
adjacent to a lake and forest. It is his wish to have a large studio and an up-to-standard storage space for his art works. This will be realized soon as he recently bought a plot of land of several rai in Nakhon Chai Si iii where he plans to build a house and a studio of his dream, and where both indoor and outdoor exhibition areas for his work, especially large pieces of sculptures, can be created. In pursuit of his imagination, he wants to create a small village reminiscent of an old market place inspired by what he has seen in Nakhon Chai Si where, this very old and lively market will soon disappear giving way to a newly constructed one. Chatchai will be completing another masterpiece soon and this time aound it is his own ‘funeral biography’. The biography reveals important incidents in his life, his beliefs, and untold ideologies, and he hopes that his art patrons will be able to share and understand his true self, especially the conditions leading to the creation of his art pieces. The book will also serve as a retirement farewell when he will no longer have to hold exhibitions or create art pieces just to please his patrons. He wants to be free from any social obligations and work to fulfill expectations of others. My visit to Chatchai’s house was a rewarding one. The conversations we had are emotionally inspiring and most significantly of all, this provided me with a chance to embrace the unseen beauty of many of his art pieces. i
Silpathorn Award, an honor awarded to living Thai contemporary artists, is presented annually by the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture, Ministry of Culture, Thailand.
A famous contemporary Thai band during King Rama VIII’s period, was founded by Eua Sunthornsanan who was honored as the “Important World Historic Figure” by UNESCO.
Nakhon Chai Si is a district of Nakhon Pathom Province in central Thailand. Hundreds of villages are located along Nakhon Chai Si River, which is fed by the waters of the main Tha Chin River.
HOUSEs & STUDIOs DESIGNED BY ARTISTS IN THAILAND
Chakrabhand Posayakrit I จักรพันธุ์ โปษยกฤต
Awarded National artist for visual arts in 2000, Chakrabhand Posayakrit is one of the highly recognized painters of Thailand. Being a very private person his personal and work life are not known to the public, he neither likes entertaining nor receiving guests and is not open to having people visit his studio which he regards as a highly personal space. His studio is where he paints, stages dramas and ‘Hun Krabok’ i rehearsals, and where his art works are stored. It is also the place where his puppets and puppet costumes are made. Here, everything is systematically stored away, and just one or two assistants know exactly where these priceless art works are located, some of which have been kept for well over 50 years.
of his house was converted into a rehearsal and stage production house and storage for backdrops and technical equipment. Moreover, this is a space where Chakrabhand can imagine a puppet show of perfection.
When I approached him to especially talk about his life and work for our forthcoming book ‘Houses & Studios Designed by Artists in Thailand’, and to arrange a photo-shoot of his studio and house, he agreed to meet us. He was friendly and took us around to different parts of his studio, some of which our readers may have not seen before.
The house is sectioned off into three large functional areas, one situated by the road side serves as a puppet production house, a workshop for sculptures and a place where various art works are made, it is also the stage for rehearsals. The gate to his residence is opened monthly for 250-300 spectators who come there to watch his puppet rehearsals. Another area is the studio, which is a private world, a place where outsiders are not allowed to intrude; it is a sanctuary of absolute peace where also valuable works of art are stored. Here, there is proper control of cleanliness, moisture, temperature, and natural light, and, most importantly, protection against theft. A section of the studio is used as a large fully equipped photo-shoot room where pictures of finished art works are taken. Further away from the studio is his private residence, where he lives with his family; this area is out of bounds to outsiders.
Chakrabhand’s residence is situated on over 1,600 square meters of land on Ekamai Road in Bangkok. He has lived in the area for a long time, going back to when Ekamai was just a narrow two-lane road lined by canals on both sides. When he first moved there, Phetchaburi Road was not yet constructed and there was no bridge linking Ekamai and the surrounding areas were mainly rice paddy fields. But fifty years on, Ekamai Road has become a congested business area also crowded with houses and tall buildings. Withstanding the passing of time, Chakrabhand’s house and studio remained perfectly preserved with only a few alterations to meet the change of time and demand, changes which took place as a result of Chakrabhand’s creativity during different phases of his life. When we visited him during the middle of 2009, he was in the midst of preparing for a new puppet production which may be his last as Chakrabhand said he is getting older everyday. The puppet show ‘Taleng Phai’, will likely be regarded as one of the biggest cultural events for Thailand because it involves hundreds of people including puppeteers and a production team. The production has so far been 20 years in the making and monthly rehearsals are opened to the public for the past 5 years; we went there to see a rehearsal, we have yet to see the big finale. One section
Though situated right by the main road, Chakrabhand’s house is neatly hidden deep within the plot of land and behind large trees, which form a natural barrier against dust and noise giving its owner the much-needed privacy. Once inside, it is an entirely different world where peacefulness prevails, most importantly it is the place where the artist creates his great work of art.
Though the old wooden house may well be over 50 years old but every area has been given an artist’s touch, and every inch of the walls is filled with valuable works of art displaying the results of creativity and craftsmanship. Puppets in different poses, stage backdrops, Thai musical instruments and even the replica of a smiling Buddha designed by the artist himself, adds an ambience of peace and contentment to workers and visitors alike.
Hun Krabok is a type of puppetry that first appeared 117 years ago. It is regarded as a high art form for it emphasizes the expression of moods, action, and dance styles. The Hun Krabok performing troupe by Chakrabhand is the most celebrated in current times. He incorporates different postures or movements from various masters to create his own form, which has gained in popularity since 1975.
Connected to the studio is a storage room where he keeps his most cherished treasures collected since the time of his forefathers; superior Thai art pieces can be found here.
HOUSEs & STUDIOs DESIGNED BY ARTISTS IN THAILAND
Saiyart Sema-Ngern I ไสยาสน์ เสมาเงิน
Those who visit Saiyart Sema-Ngern’s studio will find that it is not a typical artist’s studio one might see in Thailand. For, in actual fact, Saiyart is a carpenter who has an architectural background, especially more so in the area of structural design. After graduation, he worked at an architect’s office for several years. Having spent nearly ten years working there, Saiyart decided that he no longer wanted a desk job that confined him to working during office hours. And, he soon began pursuing his dream and ambition to follow his instinct of an artist and a designer. As a typical native of Ayutthaya i, his main interest is in carpentry. He is well acquainted with wood warehouses and boat builders, and knowledgeable about the nature of many kinds of local woods. With such a background, Saiyart decided to open his own wood furniture factory; he is against damaging trees and forests so his furniture is made from wood left-over from old boats or ox-carts. His work is therefore unique, and this is one reason for our visit to his studio where he designs innovative furniture pieces, including wooden and cast-iron sculptures and other characterful decorative items.
but, once completed, they represent functional and unique works of art that attract attention from those who see them. Saiyart’s works have been exhibited in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Several exhibitions of his works have also been held here in Thailand, and he is now much recognized in the media and by various institutions. Saiyart’s studio reflects his character, everything is placed naturally and in an unpretentious way. The appearance may be messy and the lighting insufficient, unlike other artists’ studios, but upon close observation it is a beautiful sight inspired by the imagination of a carpenter and a wood artist. This quality is not easily encountered in the world of today. We are grateful that Saiyart allowed us to visit his studio and tell our readers about it. i
Ayutthaya or Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya is 76 kms north of Bangkok. It was the capital of Siam for 417 years, a historical fact and the related heritage including arts and culture, which the people of Ayutthaya are proud of. “Ayutthaya Historic Park” is a UNESCO Heritage Site.
Saiyart received the Distinguished Silpathorn Award 2008 from the Ministry of Culture in recognition for his Creative Design. He began designing furniture over 20 years ago before deciding to build his own studio on a 2,800 square meters of land in Ramkhamhaeng Road, Bangkok. The studio, which serves as a workplace and a production house is simply built with no frills, and from the outside it may appear like any other furniture factory with old wooden planks strewn just about everywhere. But once inside, one can see many different design pieces, some have been completed while others are in the process of being designed. There are tables, chairs, cabinets and sculptures which are displayed in different areas of his studio. Creating furniture from old wood in the style of Saiyart is a heavy job as the wooden planks are large, heavy, and come in different sizes. Saiyart and his carpenters need to have a sharp eye to identify the right pieces for a design, bearing in mind that every piece of wood must be fully utilized and there should be no wastage. As a result, most of Saiyart’s furniture pieces are large in size and heavy,
Distinguished Silpathorn Awards are awarded to senior artists for their outstanding work and continuous dedication towards creativity.
Itâ€™s hard to imagine this work space belonging to one of the famous artist in Thailand. In fact, this is where he creates furniture and sculptures long known for their great beauty. It is here where superior carpentry is taught and where great works have been created and exhibited both, locally and internationally.
HOUSEs & STUDIOs DESIGNED BY ARTISTS IN THAILAND
Somluk Pantiboon I สมลักษณ์ ปันติบุญ
Though ‘Ceramic of Doy Din Dang’ may be widely known amongst ceramic lovers in Thailand, including foreigners who have had a chance to purchase and own them, but it is rare that people would have visited Somluk Pantiboon’s house and studio at Pa Or Village, Nang Lae Sub-District, Mueang District, Chiang Rai Province. i Twenty years ago, in pursuit to find a piece of land in Chiang Rai he came across a plot in Pa Or Village, and was impressed with its unique characteristics and geographical location on the mountain edge with natural rolling hills. And, most importantly, the ‘rouge’ soil condition was unsuitable for a plantation but from experience Somluk was able to foresee the benefits to be gained from this soil in pottery, tile and construction work. The result is the uniqueness and originality evident in buildings within the plot of land owned by Somluk. Even though he is a ceramist by profession, but being an artist he possesses the natural instinct of a designer, craftsman and an architect, and his house and studio at Pa Or Village is a true work of art resulting from an artist’s instinctive creation. The house is a permanent place where he lives with pride and happiness with his family, including interaction with the villagers residing within the vicinity of Pa Or Village. He named it the ‘Doy Din Dang’ which soon became widely recognized amongst the residents of Chiang Rai and neighboring provinces. Popularly known as ‘the ceramic of Doy Din Dang’, his works come in beautiful natural colours and unique shapes and style very much influenced by the surrounding environment. I was invited, together with our team, to visit Somluk’s house situated roughly one kilometer away from the cluster of studios where he works. Designed and constructed by him, the house is situated on high ground at the foot of a mountain. Old wooden planks collected 3-4 years in advance were used so the construction took several years to complete. His ideas and dreams brought forth the design which he himself sketched, and the structure was a result of consultation with his builders and the knowledge gained during the construction process itself. The end result is a house that is beautifully and flawlessly constructed.
The house’s special feature is the ventilation and one can immediately embrace the crisp cool air upon entering the interior. It is probably the owner’s intention to design a high ceiling and position the house in line with his carefully thought out design principles. Only nonthermal conducting materials suitable for the climate are used. This is a good example of a self-sufficient and energy-saving house, or ‘green house’, which so many architects are striving to design. Natural materials are used for the interior and exterior of the house, which includes wood work, stone finishings, and the plastering of walls achieved from an experimental combining of ‘rouge’ soil together with straw and cement. Nothing artificial can be seen in this house and natural colours that blend in with the surrounding mountains and forests are evident. The interior is inspired to a certain extent by Japanese art as Somluk completed his studies from Japan; and his wife is Japanese. Within the rooms, a blending of two cultures is visible and lots of details are evident in every part. The owner’s creations can also be seen in distinct areas of the house, such as his sketches, drawings, ceramic works, furniture and other household items. We also paid a visit to Somluk’s studio built several years before. This is a cluster of buildings which serve as a studio, ceramic production house, reception, exhibition area, pottery, soil and machinery warehouses, and a glazing factory. Doy Din Dang presents the complete process of creating ceramics and the studio is visited by both Thais and foreigners alike. Undeniably, it is a place of learning, a ceramic museum, a work place for a teaching artist and a place for true relaxation where different species of large trees give cool shade to those who visit the place. Without doubt, visitors, much impressed by the creations of a master artist like Somluk will find it hard not to bring a piece of his ceramic creation back home. i
Chiang Rai, the northernmost province of Thailand, is home to various hill tribes who follow fascinating ways of life. Chiang Rai is also a tourism gateway into Myanmar and Laos.
HOUSEs & STUDIOs DESIGNED BY ARTISTS IN THAILAND
Sumet Jumsai I สุเมธ ชุมสาย ณ อยุธยา
If one happens to set sail along the shoreline between Bang Phra and Si Racha in Chon Buri Province,i the sight of a modern two-storey box-like building stands out prominently on a 6-7 meter high cliff. This is a bare concrete structure with a touch of bright colors of red, yellow, green and blue, the unique characteristics of its owner, Sumet Jumsai. One of the highly recognized architects of Thailand who is also internationally well known, in 1998 Sumet was recognized as a National Artist specializing in Contemporary Architecture. After retiring from architecture he turned to art and took up painting, happily working from this small one bedroom house. The ground floor has been designed as a bedroom, a pantry and a dining room, and the top floor is the studio where he paints. The studio has an open space design with a high ceiling, with a folding glass-panel door and window on the side of the room facing the ocean. The glass-panel runs the full length of the building and can be folded away completely as desired. This is the most utilized section of the house as it serves as a work place, a reception area for friends, or as a place to sit back, relax and watch the evening sunset. Sumet enjoys watching the beautiful scenery from the wooden terrace on this floor of the house. And, this is especially true on a day like today when the sky is clear and when you can see the distant islands of Chon Buri Province. At night, flickering lights from local fishing boats and large merchant ships dance brightly over the waters. The house is designed with a flat concrete rooftop in anticipation of a rooftop garden where grass and ‘Karawek trees’ ii are to be planted. Once fully grown, the Karawek trees will spread out to form a natural protective layer over the roof, thereby cooling the house. However, due to strong monsoons of the past 2-3 seasons the trees were badly damaged, leaving the rooftop lifeless and preventing Sumet from realizing his dream. This house and studio are built on a plot of 1,400 square meters land purchased over 30 years ago, and as the surrounding area is still empty there is peace and quiet day and night. This is Sumet’s weekend retreat where he spends time alone painting; the peace and serenity gives him the much needed focus to finish his work without any
interruptions. To be able to spend the twilight years of his life in a studio overlooking the ocean has been a longtime dream of his. Sumet is passionate about the ocean, he likes watching the sea, listening to the sounds of sea birds and the sea breezes brushing against the trees. The musical sounds of nature give him boundless inspiration and imagination, and allows him to paint with much happiness. When he first moved in to the house there was a military coup in Thailand, and there were soldiers and tanks everywhere in the city. The only news covered on television and radio was of the coup,iii including pictures of army tanks and military weapons in the printed media. This event set his mood and he started painting pictures of warplanes, tanks and warships, which somewhat helped release the tensions arising from the coup. As soon as the political situation returned to normalcy, instead of tanks he started creating paintings of flowers and, depending upon his mood, of the ocean at sunset. Sumet let his imagination freely roam the emptiness of the wide blue ocean. Together with my team, I paid a visit to Sumet’s house from morning until dusk; we were able to take impressive pictures at sundown. As daylight started to fade, we saw domestic boars running to and fro on the beach with Sumet’s Thai bred dogs barking excitedly at each other. It was a lively evening for us all. Sumet bade farewell to our team with a big bottle of wine. We got carried away and failed to notice the time, it was dark and time for us to depart for Bangkok. I took leave from Sumet and left the house fully impressed with my day spent at his studio. i
Located on the Gulf of Thailand, about halfway between Bangkok and Pattaya.
Artabotrys Siamensis is a large woody vine that can climb on a trellis fence or roof. When in bloom, the flowers are yellow and very fragrant. It is a very popular vine that can be found almost in every house in Thailand.
The 2006 Thai coup d’état.
The stairways have been designed with great intelligence using minimum space, thereby suitable for this house which also serves as a studio. The red stairway gives the house a magnificent brilliance upon every encounter.
HOUSEs & STUDIOs DESIGNED BY ARTISTS IN THAILAND
Thaiwijit Poengkasemsomboon I ไทวิจิต พึ่งเกษมสมบูรณ์
It has always been Thaiwijit Poengkasemsomboon’s dream to own a house and studio in Chiang Mai Province. Though not a native of this northern city, but he fell in love with the local art and culture, the appeal of lush green nature, surrounding mountains and the friendly disposition of the Lanna people, all of which attracted him to it greatly. He bought a plot of land but the design and perception of his new house remained vague for a period of time thereafter. When he finally decided to settle down in Chiang Mai, Thaiwijit wanted everything on this piece of land to be created in tune with his mood, timing and the environment. Most significantly, it had to be a house where changes can be made as desired by its owner. The house is situated in Soi Wat Pa Chi, Muang district in Chiang Mai and at first sight it already appears different from other houses in the surrounding area. It may look like a simple two-storey house but once you get closer many interesting features become evident. Unusual materials are used, such as bare concrete or sculptured concrete in various forms in different parts of the building. The colours have been artistically and uniquely applied on the building reflecting the character and imagination of its owner. Also, a combination of cast-iron, glazed ceramic, wood work and some parts from different kinds of left-over materials, have been utilized. Upon entering the space, his creations are evident throughout such as in the garden, on tree tops, in the pool and even on the roof top. Art pieces used as decorations can be seen scattered around the house, and different kinds of left-over materials have been neatly arranged in preparation for future use. It is a sight which adds much life to both the house and studio. Thaiwijit leads a simple and comfortable life together with his family consisting of his beloved wife and two faithful dogs. The dogs have a strong bond with Thaiwijit, they are his understanding canine friends guarding and following him around the house from morning until night. They sleep with him in his bedroom and guard his house, barking aggressively if they see strangers approaching. This close and special bond is transformed into Thaiwijit’s paintings and sculptures.
In an exhibition held recently in Bangkok, art patrons were much impressed by his 2-3 meter painting of the dogs that reflected the innocent bond between a master and his dogs. Thaiwijit’s house is constructed on a plot of 400 square meters land situated close to the foot of Doi Suthep Mountain in Chiang Mai. From the second floor windows of the house Doi Suthep can be seen standing tall and majestic. Originally this plot of land was a mango orchard and much impressed by the cool and lush green surroundings, Thaiwijit constructed the house keeping the natural elements in place. He loves trees and nature so it is not surprising to see the house surrounded by trees of varying species providing shade and coolness to the place. It is here that the owner intends to live in tune with nature and the house has been designed with an open space providing good ventilation. There is only one bedroom on the top floor while the ground floor serves as a living and dining area, a single-storey building stands on one side of the land and is used by Thaiwijit as a studio. This is where he paints, and creates sculptures and pottery, and looking inside one can see different kinds of art pieces reflecting his character and imagination. Our visit to Thaiwijit’s house was a memorable one.
HOUSEs & STUDIOs DESIGNED BY ARTISTS IN THAILAND
Vichit Chaiwong I วิชิต ไชยวงศ์
Vichit Chaiwong comes from a farming family and is a native of San Kamphaeng, Chiang Mai Province. i His studio is situated in San Kamphaeng District, on a plot of land over 14,000 square meters given by his parents. He attended the School of Fine Arts in Bangkok and remained in the city for a while after graduating, before deciding to return to Chiang Mai. There, he began a business selling local decorative items and paintings and the business prospered into one of the art shop in Chiang Mai now widely known as ‘Gong Dee’. It was at this point in time that he decided to sell the business and resume his much loved work of painting, and established his studio as a place to work hold exhibitions.
to looking at paintings. As I watched Vichit sitting in his chair quietly painting and fully focused, I realized that the lighting is as it should be, designed to perfection. His style is evident throughout the room and the colours of the walls, flooring and ceiling blend amazing well together, especially more so when looking at his paintings.
The studio is built on the edge of the land near to the house on the northern side, right next to the rice paddies. It is a peaceful area surrounded by picturesque mountains, with large trees planted by Vichit over ten years ago providing dense shade and a cool environment to all who visit. At the entrance to the studio, a large pond with gigantic leaves of water lilies spread beautifully across the water. The pond adds atmosphere and beauty to the entrance, its surface reflecting the buildings with nearby trees also forming shadowy reflections against the lights, adding life to the surrounding scenery. A narrow winding path leads the way to the studio, the pathway is lined with bamboo purposely planted there to provide natural shade. It is an appealing entrance to the studio, inviting and romantic, typical of an artist.
Walking around the surrounding garden, one can see that this is his garden of imagination and undeniably a realization of his dreams. He has travelled extensively to different parts of the world, especially to Europe where he was impressed by the atmosphere of the gardens in England and the serenity of French gardens. He found these garden settings gave him a sense of focus and much inspiration. As he began building his new studio he wasted no time in surrounding the building with a beautiful garden, especially in the area behind the studio adjacent to the large rice paddy fields. He created a western style garden filled with various species of trees and flowers that also blend well with his sculptures and white-painted furniture. He was able to effectively integrate the different styles and the result is a perfect blend of atmosphere. And, this is not only an artist’s garden but the garden of the people of Sankamphaeng in Chiang Mai.
It has been Vichit’s longtime ambition to own a spacious studio with a high ceiling, which can function both as a work place and an exhibition area. Peaceful and free from traffic noises and people, these are the qualities which he was able to fulfill when he built the space. Vichit designed the studio himself and there was no architect or engineer involved, with the exception of building and structural consultations with local builders with whom he is well acquainted. Through their combined efforts, they created this beautiful house. Aside from building design, Vichit also took charge of interior design, landscaping and designing of both interior and exterior lighting. This studio is the transformation of his dream into reality. Upon entering the studio I felt at ease, which was probably due to properly assigned lighting that is easy on the eyes and conducive
Vichit likes painting large size pictures and some of his work is 3-4 metres high; he has already designed a ceiling which is 5-6 metres high. The height of the ceiling also gives his paintings a majestic appearance and, as such, these paintings are meant to be viewed in this studio and no where else.
As soon as I walked into the garden a sense of serenity griped me. Once I sat on the white-painted wooden bench gazing at the rice paddies, mountains, and blooming flowers, I thought of Vichit’s character. For, the owner of this place is a very well-mannered person who appreciates things he hears and sees and enjoys painting pictures of flowers and the scenery. My visit to his studio was truly a memorable one. i
Chiang Mai is Thailand’s 2nd largest province, located in the north of the country. It is one of the most important tourist destination, and also one of the world’s top centers for cottage industry especially in “San Kamphaeng”, the district of Chiang Mai, which is known for traditional handcrafted umbrellas called Bo Sang.
Inside, the studio, which is also an exhibition area, looks clean and orderly. This is where Vichit paints, teaches and meets his friends; on occasion the room is used for functions and as a music hall.
HOUSEs & STUDIOs DESIGNED BY ARTISTS IN THAILAND
“Do not ask for understanding, in the temple of mysterious. Feel them my friends, from heart to heart. Do not ask the meaning of the stars in the constellation, smile of a baby in the cradle of mother, sweet fragrance in the pollen of flowers. It is a work of art, my friend. In the deepest of my mystic mind, come closer to my spirit, listen to my heartbeat, without words.”
Thawan Duchanee I ถวัลย์ ดัชนี
Thawan Duchanee, November 2004
These may well be the words introducing visitors to the house of Thawan Duchanee, and perhaps many have raised questions upon seeing his paintings that now appear in this book. It is impossible to relate his magnificent works in just these few pages, as Thawan remarked when we began touring and taking pictures of his studio and artworks. Once we embrace his works, do not attempt to seek their meaning as the story is hidden deep within the mind. One needs to be mindful and at peace when observing his art, our imagination and thoughts should be allowed to flow freely for what we see and think is deep within our own imagination. Thawan is the most highly recognized painter in Thailand, he is also a National Artist whose work is widely acclaimed in the art circle in Thailand as well as abroad. Many of his works have been widely exhibited in art museum of various countries. Perhaps many already know or have visited ‘Bandum’ (The Black House) in Nanglae sub-district, Chiang Rai Province. This is where Thawan lives and paints. And, no matter how many times one visits the answers or understanding of the owner’s concepts remain hard to grasp. ‘Bandum’, represents local culture and is an important piece of architecture – a landmark for Chiang Rai and for the community in Nanglae. Soon it will become part of our priceless national heritage and a source of much pride to Thai people. Thawan built this cluster of buildings following his instinct of a local artist, for this is his birthplace as well as that of his family. It took him more than 30 years to design and supervise the construction, the site is an area of 140,000 square meters on the foot of the mountain where large trees provide lush green surroundings. Practically every building is constructed as a wooden structure, some made from recycled wood while others using new wood, which the owner has accumulated over the years. Though some buildings may have been constructed from bricks and cement but still they carry the technical details and workmanship of local artisans. Thawan intended for the design to become a part of the local community while still keeping aspects of Lanna i architecture, at the same time preserving the art and culture of Chiang Saen.ii Undoubtedly, it is an architectural work which reflects the character of the artist.
I had the opportunity to visit this house 6-7 years ago but upon embracing it once again, each building in the cluster gave me enormous spiritual strength. This time around I saw many new buildings when we began our photo-shoot; building number 45 was being giving the final touches. It is a large majestic-looking building with every decorative detail meticulously done in keeping with the imagination and strength of the owner. To Thawan, the building is a place where he stores his paintings and just looking at the wooden structure, still in process and lacking the tiled roof and walls, the sight is already a breathtaking one. ‘Maha Wihan’, the largest building in the cluster completed last year is situated at the entrance. It carries Thai-Lanna style architecture with a solid Teak wood structure that is large and grand in appearance. The building which is his work place and where he paints is a big structure with a height of 10 meters from floor to ceiling, and where everything has been neatly arranged, neatly and beautifully in the style of Thawan. This is where he seeks utmost privacy free from interference from visitors who may disturb his concentration, arising from perhaps the sound of people chattering, or from a radio or telephones. The surrounding area of his studio is peaceful around the year. Other buildings have been set aside as a reception area for guests and friends, while some are used for storing his paintings, antique collection, as well as newly created art works. Some buildings are used as the “sleeping hall” and reception area for various activities. Our team was given a warm reception by Thawan and the staff of ‘Bandum’, and we had the opportunity to talk with him for several hours. We talked about many interesting topics centering on the different phases of his life especially in relation to his experience of painting. Nevertheless, the answer to ‘Bandum’ is yet to be determined by each individual. It is all there for each person to embrace whether it be suffering, happiness, contentment, sadness, disappointment or joyfulness. It is all there to be captured eternally at ‘Bandum’, as Thawan Duchanee once said. i ii
Old kingdom in Northern Thailand that has had a remarkable influence on many Thai culture. A historical city in Chiang Rai, just south of the Golden Triangle.
Thawanâ€™s private studio has a high ceiling of over 10 meters; it is an open space where natural light flows in from the north and south.
HOUSEs & STUDIOs DESIGNED BY ARTISTS IN THAILAND