Vol. VIII No. 5 - Tuesday
February 3 - February 9, 2009



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Art, Music & Culture • Entertainment • Lifestyles
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The beauty and complexity of Thai Buddhist Art – plus a great meal

Old Chiang Mai in photographs – a unique opportunity

‘Abstract Reality’ at Galerie Panisa

Some Enchanted Evening - Pianists Old and New

 

The beauty and complexity of Thai Buddhist Art – plus a great meal

Elena Edwards
A monthly series of talks to be given at Café Pandau began on January 27 with a fascinating and informative lecture accompanied by slides, given by the highly respected academic and researcher, Carol Stratton. Both Carol, and the lecture series, were introduced to the audience by Carol Beauclerk, who remarked that, ‘Café Pandau is a great place in which to experience evenings of intellectual attainment and delicious quantities of home-cooked organic food.’ What more could we ask for at 450 baht, especially as it included a donation to the Single Mothers’ Project?
Carol Stratton has been researching Thai Buddha images for nearly 40 years, ever since she saw her first Thai Buddha image and was amazed at her own reaction of awe, delight and curiosity. The experience led her to join the then newly-formed National Museum Volunteers, attending their study groups and lectures over the next six years. Frustrated by the lack of solid written information on Thai Buddhist art, she and her friend Miriam McNair decided to remedy the situation, at first envisaging an 8-volume series on the art of Thailand, beginning in prehistory and ending at the present time. After realising that their two writing styles were completely different, a new modus operandi was conceived, in which both travelled together to sites of the mid 13th to 16th century Sukhothai period. This, with extensive research and many photographs, resulted in ‘The Art of Sukothai,’ published in 1976 by the Oxford University Press. In the same year, the two friends began work on their next book, covering the Buddhist arts of northern Thailand. Sadly, before the book was finished, Miriam died at the early age of 45 of a brain tumour. Later, Carol began work again on the manuscript, and completed the book, ‘Buddhist Sculpture of Northern Thailand,’ which was published in 2004 to much acclaim.
In her talk, Carol focused mainly on local images, introducing her subject by asking her audience how many of them owned a Buddha image, which more than half did.
She continued with a brief history of the life of the Sakyamuni Buddha, relating it to the stylised images which have representing him throughout the ages. Slides showing carved wooden window shutters at Chiang Mai’s Wat Buparaj, which depict the Buddha’s life from birth to death, were used to tell the extraordinary story of a royal prince who achieved enlightenment and founded the most compassionate way of life ever proposed as a solution to the problems and dilemmas in human lives.
Next, Carol described the four, postures depicted in all Thai Buddha images; seated, standing, walking and lying down, illustrated by a number of stunning slides of various Northern Thai images, several of which can be seen in Chiang Mai temples. Perhaps the most beautiful of the larger images is the huge Buddha at Wat Chedi Luang, depicted lying down. At Wat Jed Yot, a series of 9 large Buddha images, depicted in all 4 positions, represent the 9 astrological planets. They also represent the 7 days of the week – Wednesday and Thursday each being counted as two days – as used in astrological divination based on birth times and days. Many other beautiful images were shown, all used to illustrate particular styles in use at particular places and times in history. Interesting details, such as the occasional casting and inserting of metal intestines and organs into the bodies of certain images, and the fact that, in Thailand, Buddha images are ranked, as are people, held the audience fascinated until the end of Carol’s talk. The highest-ranked Buddha image in Chiang Mai is the Crystal Buddha at Wat Chedi Luang, which is only shown to devotees during the Songkran festival.
Following the talk, the audience were treated to a generous spread of home-cooked, organic and totally delicious food, served in the peaceful and natural surroundings of Café Pandau’s garden. A time to talk, and enjoy good food, with friends and new acquaintances, and to give some thought to a man who, 2,500 years ago in the foothills of the Himalayas, realised the truth of what mankind could become.

 

Old Chiang Mai in photographs – a unique opportunity

CMM Reporters
Surely, most of us have wondered what our city looked like even 20 years ago, but what about 100 years ago? This February through April we will have a unique opportunity to satisfy our curiosity, as the US Consulate, together with the Lanna Architecture Centre at Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Architecture, are concluding the year-long celebrations of the 175th anniversary of Thai-US relations with a photographic exhibition of local life and scenes from 100 years ago.
The exhibition, sponsored by Le Méridien, and entitled ‘A distant mirror – a record of old Chiang Mai,’ will run from February 21 to April 24 at the Lanna Architecture Centre, located at the intersection of Ratchadamnoen and Prapoklao Roads, and will open between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The photographs to be shown have been carefully preserved in the collection of the United States Library of Congress, and depict life in Chiang Mai during the early years of the 20th century. The official opening will be on February 20, co-hosted by U.S. Consul General Michael Morrow and Dr. Ekkachai Mahaek, Dean of the Faculty of Architecture, Chiang Mai University.


‘Abstract Reality’ at Galerie Panisa

Elena Edwards
The next few days will be art-lovers’ last chance to view an exhibition featuring works by a well-known local artist, Auxchanok Chirakul. The show, ending on February 9, is being hosted by Galerie Panisa on Mahidol Road. The chosen works illustrate the artist’s appreciation of the power of nature in a developmental way. From the impressionistic ‘Ang-Kaew,’ an oil on canvas of a lake in which is reflected the surrounding rich green of the hills and the soft purple of the distant mountains, to my personal favourite ‘Outside my window,’ again a large oil on canvas, serenely abstract in its composition and colour.
Auxchanok Chirakul is an artist who, like many before him, has been energised by the power of nature. At a young age, he was inspired by the French impressionists, later to be further spurred on by the scenery – inside and out – of the Chiang Mai University campus where he studied. He was astonished and thrilled to be part of the Faculty of Fine Arts – all the while, wallowing in the natural beauty surrounding the campus and the city. Because of his appreciation of what he saw and felt, Auxchanok has since travelled to seas and beaches, fields and paddies, and mountain ranges throughout Northern Thailand. In every place, he found colour and exquisite beauty unmatched by anything man-made. More than that, he discovered an inner serenity that inspires his work, along with a simple way of life that brings him joy and happiness. His realisation was this: Man is nothing, compared to the huge, natural world. Human beings are inconsequential – unimportant in the big scheme of life. Nature rules.
Auxchanok hopes that his artistic renderings will inspire us to find peace and contentment, uniting each person with a natural beauty that is so much bigger than we are.


Some Enchanted Evening - Pianists Old and New

On Saturday 24, the he Saisuree Hall at Payap University was the fine setting for an extraordinary evening of talent, enchantment and delight. In conjunction with the University, the Piano Club of Chiang Mai presented a wide range of classical music with pianists old and new spanning 60 years. The youngest of these were two kindergarten girls who astonished the audience with their piano duet arrangement of the old American folk song, Turkey in the Straw. Earlier, two 8th grade high school students had delighted us with three Dvorak Slavonic Dances – with the young performers themselves attired in traditional Czech dress. Other soloists performed pieces by Beethoven, Millward, Bach, Schumann, Brahms, Villa-Lobos, Mompou and Chopin. This was a real feast of music, spanning approximately four times the age span of the musicians themselves. And, in the middle of the concert, came the maestro and teacher himself (quite naturally the oldest, but most distinguished of course), Dr Bennett Lerner, who gave us a polished and exciting rendition of Alexander Tcherepnin’s Sonatine Romantique.
The real enchantment of this wonderful evening was centered on the fact that all these performers are students (barring a couple of teachers), who live and study here in Chiang Mai. In this instance, they were all students of Dr Bennett or a couple of his friends and they performed with outstanding vigour, confidence and determination. Their total devotion to their instrument was obvious from the first strident chords of the opening Beethoven Sonata to the gloriously intricate fingering and performance of the closing Chopin Ballade – and what a marvelous interpretation this was of that great piece of romantic music. The playing of the waltz-like main melody evoked the elegance of the 19th century splendour of the Place des Vosges in Paris, where Chopin lived for most of his creative life, painting a clear picture of its noble architecture and Napoleonic grandeur.
Overall, the choice of music for the evening was an astonishing mix of moods. The hauntingly beautiful nostalgia of Brahms set against the eerie moodiness of Villa-Lobos and Mompou, the leaping rhythms of the Dvorak and Millward complementing the lyrical beauty of the Schumann and the directness and forcefulness of the Bach. And each performer, whether solo or in duet, had not only rehearsed and practiced these pieces so well, but also gave us delightful insights as their own interpretations of the music shone through. This really was ‘some enchanted evening’ and, for once, I am happy to say ‘across a crowded room,’ with a large, appreciative and highly supportive audience, making this event such a rewarding experience for these fine performers, young or old.



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