I have the honour and pleasure
to be here today for the opening of the art exhibition – aseanARToday
Thailand & Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar. The exhibition will be on display 4 – 28 June and is
jointly organized by Thavibu Gallery and the ASEAN Art Associates.
The exhibition in Thailand is
one of several national shows which will be held prior to the regional
exhibition which is scheduled to take place at the National Art Gallery in Kuala
Lumpur, Malaysia 21 October – 24 November 2002. The ten participating Thai artists plus two from Cambodia, three from
Laos and two from Myanmar are all well recognized for their quality works.
Thailand has a large number of
artists, and the styles, media and subject matters chosen by Thai artists are
among the most diverse in the region. The
country has a long and solid indigenous foundation for painting through
traditional mural art in its temples, though artists now have gained new
confidence and are willing to explore new ways of expression.
Many Thai artists have moved
away from dealing with rather simple, beautiful subjects to embrace the world of emotion. Talented painters
have been successful in expressing the emotions of depicted subjects through the
use of colours and composition. The
emotions may relate to love and happiness, though most artists seem to prefer to
focus on despair, loneliness, sadness and other problematic aspects of life.
The exploration in contemporary
Thai art of abstraction and the use of mixed media shows that the
artists are not afraid of taking up new challenges. Compared to many other countries in Asia, Thailand has one of
the most dynamic art scenes producing some of the most cutting edge works of
There is fortunately a high
degree of freedom of expression in Thailand, hence the censorship which plagues
many other countries in the region does not limit what Thai artists can show. This often leads to expression of issues related to social awareness and
social criticism, which is a refreshing trend.
The future for contemporary Thai
painting seems bright. Artists,
education, inspiration and economic success - for the few perhaps – are in
place. The challenge is not to be
complacent and rest on current success, but to continuously strive for new ways
The contemporary art scene in
Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar is rather different from Thailand in many aspects. Although the three countries share much of the same cultural heritage as
Thailand, they have not enjoyed the same amount of freedom of expression and
interaction with outside communities as Thailand has. Freedom of expression and interaction with other communities is often
seen as an advantage for artistic development. The isolation the three countries has led to a focus on traditional
values in their paintings. Most
contemporary visual art from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar hence depict village
scenes, temples and situations relating to people’s daily lives.
There is nothing wrong in
featuring traditional subject matters in paintings, and some of the artists are
very skilful. However, it will be
highly interesting to view the development of contemporary visual arts in these
three countries after some time to see what direction it will take.
About half the paintings which
are on display in Bangkok will be shown in Kuala Lumpur together with works from
other ASEAN countries. A total of
eighty leading artists will showcase their works at the National Art Gallery. This will be a rare opportunity to view some of the best visual art
produced in South East Asia today. An
art symposium is scheduled to take place for three days to coincide with the
exhibition in Malaysia.
The two exhibitions will
hopefully contribute to an increased interest in and understanding of
contemporary visual art among the peoples of Thailand and the other ASEAN
countries. It may also raise the
awareness of contemporary Asian painting among the many foreigners who reside in
Bangkok and the tourists who visit. Visual
art speaks a language which transcends borders and boundaries and appeal to
peoples of all nationalities and groups.
This exhibition is a result of
collaboration between many partners, including the artists, Thavibu Gallery, and
ASEAN Art Associates. I would like
to extend my sincere thanks to the artists who have created the high quality
works which we see here today. I
would also like to thank the organizers of this exhibition, Thavibu Gallery
represented by Jørn Middelborg and ASEAN Art Associates represented by Jaffee
Yee Yeow-fei. The exhibition would
not have been possible without their dedicated efforts.