It was a major social event of a different calibre at the Hall of Mirrors, Siam Paragon, when high profile art personalities and collectors gathered to mark the launch and charity auction of the Suriyaphumijakavan (Solar Universe) Medallion by National Artist Thawan Duchanee.
An exhibition of work by Thawan Duchanee to mark the launch of the ‘Suriyaphumijakavan’ Medallions.
From left: Tinakorn Asavarak, Chalermchai Kositpipat, Bongkot Kongmalai, Vichai Bencharongkul, Thawan Duchanee, Panya Nirankul, Rolf von Bueren and Nagara Sambandaraksa.
The special medallion was made to mark the artist's 73rd birthday.
The exhibition and event area in the Hall of Mirrors was cordoned off for invited guests, while crowding the perimeters was a group of collectors ready to buy the limited edition medallions. And why not? This was a rare chance to buy a piece of artwork by this legendary artist of international stature, and also donate to charity, since proceeds after expenses will go to the establishment of a foundation for conserving art, culture and education, which will provide funds to the artist's Baandam Museum, Baandam Art Space, scholarships for outstanding art students who need financial support, a fund for supporting and improving artist houses in Chiang Rai as learning centres and art and culture destinations, and a fund for conserving art, culture and education.
The evening began with a musical performance of the piah lute, a rare northern musical instrument which is played with the body of the lute held closely against the musician's chest. This was followed by a contemporary Lanna dance depicting the hunt of the buffalo. The propagation of this musical instrument, and other disappearing Lanna art forms, was the objective of this charity drive.
The National Artist was then interviewed on the specifics of his life, the Baandam Museum and this special project. He recounted how his art teacher, Silpa Bhirasri, founder of Silpakorn University, berated his work as a second year at the Faculty of Painting Sculpture and Graphic Arts.
"Your fish lacks the fishy smell. Your bird can't soar in the sky. Your horse can't gallop. You are just an imitator. This is not art."
Special ‘Suriyaphumijakavan’ Medallion in gold and diamonds.
This criticism, and the score of 15 that Thawan Duchanee received from Silpa, fuelled his passion to improve until he discovered his true style, and he has remained on the path of art ever since.
Today, Thawan is a well-rounded artist, skilled in painting, sculpting, architecture, literature and creative design. He infuses Buddhist philosophy into his art, which often plays on Western and Eastern features. He was recognised as a National Artist in the Visual Arts (Painting) in 2001.
Known as the "Emperor of the Canvas", Thawan has left a mark of Eastern elements in places around the world, especially his ceiling decoration Suriyaphumijakavan at the heart of Crottorf Castle, Friesenhagen, Germany. The centuries-old castle with more than 450 rooms was admired by an Italian artist in 1661, whose description appears on the portico of the castle: "Crottorf is a piece of paradise that fell from heaven."
In 1977, Thawan was invited by Count Hermann Graf Hatzfeldt as artist-in-residence to paint the ceiling, for which he was paid "a blank cheque", which received widespread attention at the time.
"When I arrived at the castle, Count Hatzfeldt simply said to me, 'You are my Michelangelo. Please work wonders on the wall of this castle for me with your hands, your dreams and your imagination.' While working, I placed my faith in Mars, the god of war, as my inspiration. I demonstrated the strength of stone and steel, the power of mirror, German mystique and power, Italian suaveness, and the delicate and breezy nature of Thai kanok design.
"I chose the circle and triangle as the main elements of the work. The circle represents the infinite universe, and the triangle represents the atom and nucleus of life ... swimming around in the circle of life. This work is the draft of a royal emblem, Suriya Prapakoltol, which demonstrates the power of the god of the sun.
"In this work, the god of the sun is on a lion's back saluting the sun and his hand is touching the edge of the universe. Both sides are decorated with symbols of the four elements _ earth, water, wind and fire, through elephant, naga, eagle and lion. The design is the heart of poetry, a legend of art, decorating the wall of the castle. It took me three years to complete this work," said Thawan.
To celebrate his 73rd birthday, the artist has revived his legendary masterpiece Suriyaphumijakavan as medallions in gold, silver and bronze, which can be bought individually or in sets. There are nine sets of Suriya Rungpraisaeng, priced at 3.9 million baht; 22 sets of Suriya Jaraeng Nopadol, priced at 2.9 million; 33 sets of Suriya Thakol Krerkla, priced at 1.8 million; and 55 sets of Suriya Berkfa Aisoon, priced at 1.4 million baht.
Individually, the 4.5cm gold medal is 390,000 baht (222 medals available), the 4.5cm silver medal is 20,000 baht (5,555 medals available) and the 4.5cm bronze medal is 5,000 baht (9,999 medals available).
Sculptured medals are also available. Suriya Tultangai Ravivarn, 99cm in size, is 3.9 million baht (nine medals available), Suriya Kangsadal Tossatis, 69cm, is 1.9 million (nine medals available) and Suriya Pichit Jakavan, 39cm, is 900,000 baht (nine medals available).
The launch event also featured a fashion show by Nagara Sambandaraksa, with models wearing the flowing silk Nagara gowns accessorised by 12 sets of spectacular jewellery made of animal horns and silver from Baandam.
The evening ended with an auction of the special medallions _ gold with diamonds, silver with rubies and bronze with topaz _ with Dr Amnuay Viravan, one of the artist's earliest patrons, bidding one million baht, followed by fellow northern artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, who bid 1.3 million baht, and Dr Prachin Iemlamnow, who bid 700,000 baht.
For more information about the medals, visit www.thawan-duchanee.com.
About the author
- Writer: Usnisa Sukhsvasti
Position: Features Editor