A Revolutionary Artist
Thailand with its long history has a rich cultural heritage and a delightful blend of colorful traditions, cultures and religions. While remaining largely unrivalled, the Thai arts include fascinating mural paintings adorning the walls of temples and palaces and treasure troves of antiques and ancient artifacts found in archaeological sites, museums and temples.
But to fully appreciate the legacy of traditional Thai arts from the earlier periods of Thai history, it’s important to understand the mindsets of our dedicated artists, too.
National Artist Chakrabhand Posayakrit, 75, is one of Thailand’s renowned artists. Ajarn Chakrabhand (Ajarn meaning respected teacher) lives in a sylvan house on Ekamai Road in the heart of Bangkok. The family home, which doubles up as the headquarters of the Chakrabhand Posayakrit Foundation, is currently hosting a rotating art exhibition. Since its opening recently, the exhibition has attracted lots of art lovers including the artist’s longtime fans and friends as well as academics from various institutions.
The exhibition displays the artist’s collections of artworks across genres and disciplines including paintings, drawings, sculptures, puppets, theater sets, ornaments, and garments. Captions and descriptions for each art piece are provided via a QR code.
Vallabhis “Tong” Sodprasert, the deputy director of the foundation and the righthand man of the maestro, is on hand to introduce the exhibition.
“Ajarn Chakrabhand is one of the most extraordinary and talented persons that I have ever known. He has a strong will, yet he himself is very humble in his conduct especially toward other people. He is strict and very much disciplined. When he’s into something, whether it be a project or a piece of art, he’ll put all of his effort into it. For example, he spent months practicing his wrist-movements just to make the puppets’ dance look more natural,” says Vallabhis.
“His paintings are lively, tidy and very clean. While drawing, Ajarn Chakrabhand would clean the brushes often and change the water quite frequently,” he says.
A graduate from Silpakorn University’s Faculty of Painting, Sculpture and Graphic Arts, Ajarn Chakrabhand has retained his unwavering love for the traditional Thai arts. Yet his technique is not restricted to the traditional methodologies, but rather adaptive for better results.
“He is a rational person and is willing to try new things to improve his art, and would hold theories and beliefs just for reference. He is a man of practice. He doesn’t believe in the phrase ‘No one has ever done that before,’” Vallabhis adds.
“The materials used in each masterpiece have all been thoughtfully studied. Ajarn Chakrabhand doesn’t use only wood or wax but mixes a range of various materials to create his works as well. For example, his puppets can bend hands, point fingers, and even draw a sword thanks to the use of elastic materials. Normal puppets cannot display such agility,” he says.
Before creating any piece of work, Ajarn Chakrabhand would study the history behind the art and put it to good use to connect the art and its story. Vallabhis adds, “For instance, the backdrop scenes used in his puppet shows are inspired by his imaginings and they invariably represent real places. For example, the principal backdrop for the puppet collection Taleng Phai (aka Defeat of the Mons) depicts the landscape of the Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in Kanchanaburi province because after meticulous research, he believes that the battle mentioned in this historic epic might have happened in this area.”
The foundation is constructing a new spacious museum that houses a theater on Saimai Road, which will soon serve as the new home for the artist’s priceless art collections and puppetry performances. The construction project is funded by donations and proceeds from the sales of ancient Buddha images from his collection.
Ajarn Chakrabhand is recovering from a stroke that has left him partially paralyzed. But that doesn’t stop him from carrying on with his work.
“Though his right part is paralyzed, Ajarn still draws with his left hand. This exhibition not only shows his works and great artist talent, but we hope it will inspire new-generation artists to pursue their dreams and overcome any obstacles on their paths. It’s a pity that Ajarn doesn’t have many students, but hopefully, the art itself can inspire more people to take on these Thai arts,” Vallabhis enthuses.
The first of a rotating series of his exhibits is open daily to the public until Dec 25 including on weekends from 1pm to 4:30pm. The entry fee is THB 100 (THB 50 for students with IDs).
The Chakrabhand Posayakrit Foundation
49/1 Sukhumvit 63 (Ekamai)
Tel. 02 392 7754