Arts - Entertainment
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Northern Thailand at Its Very Best

A Piano Extravaganza - Jonas Dept and friends

 

Northern Thailand at Its Very Best

New Exhibition in Gallery 116

By Jai-Pee

Gallery 116 has done it again – after a stunning exhibition featuring the glorious colours of four local artists earlier this year, Gallery 116 has opened a new exhibition of northern Thai art which is nothing short of spectacular. The pictures on display come from the creativity of twenty-six northern artists who belong to the Salah group overseen by master teacher Boonrat who has presided over this prestigious company of fine artists for the last ten years.

Asst. Prof. Salaboonrat Vichai, Chairman of the Lanna Salah Promotion Club shows a piece created by artist Salaboonpun Pongpradit at the Gallery 116 exhibition.

The Salah group comprises around five hundred artists from eight Northern provinces. The word Salah means apprentice, but there is nothing either na๏ve or amateurish about this display of original work. There is a large variety of style on display – from rural scenes (by far the most popular) through some wood-carvings and a portrait – and we are led into the rural life of the north as seen through the eyes of these talented artists. But the most striking things on entering the exhibition itself are three paintings that are over seventy years old, done on board at a time when struggling artists could not afford the high price of canvas. These are the only works of art not for sale and were completed by the founding fathers of the Salah group, artists Jamlat and Boonpun between 1937 and 1940. Boonpun was later to give up all notions of work like this so instead he turned his significant talents to painting the murals in many of the local and rural temples which can still be seen around Chiang Mai today.

There are just under fifty wonderful works of art to admire and hold your attention, which they do with a curious kind of attraction. The most appealing and interesting at first sight are the sets of rural scenes that capture the spirit and essence of northern Thailand in the twinkling of an eye. Large and small canvases, some oil paintings, most acrylic, but with some painted wood carved pieces as well depict Thai life in all its glory – lanterns at Loy Kratong, Buddha statues, hill-top temples, Lanna houses, rice fields and woodland scenes – a magnificent appreciation of nature showing northern Thai life in all its glory - night or day, rain or shine, old or new. Along with several abstracts that in themselves provide the perfect contrast to the rural scenes, this is an impressive collection. Mrs. Wanthip, the owner of the Gallery and her manageress Margaret Bhadungzong can be justly proud of achieving this imposing display, tastefully arranged and so inviting to the visual and spiritual senses. Apart from the three historic pictures mentioned above, all the works are for sale and what a fine addition they would make to any living room, bedroom or entrance foyer in a hotel or apartment block.

 

A Piano Extravaganza - Jonas Dept and friends

By Jai-Pee

Wednesday July 28th was the final recital in the Piano Marathon series led by Belgian-born pianist Jonas Dept. Attendance at this mini-series of recitals has been very poor, dropping to below a dozen on two occasions but this final recital saw a rallying of the troops and a decent sized audience of around sixty in the recital room at Payap University. The numbers were quite an achievement since by my calculations there have been a total of fourteen musical events in one month here in Chiang Mai. Given that almost thirty per cent of the foreigners living here are away on vacation, that there was also a series of very attractive concerts in Bangkok and that the weather has generally been foul, it is a miracle that there was an audience at all. How many times have I written in this newspaper or talked to those arranging concerts and recitals asking for some kind of co-ordination and planning? It is sheer folly to arrange so much live music in such a short period of time, total and utter madness. And, due to the total lack of forethought and planning, a number of recitals have clashed with each other so the potential audiences have been thinned and people prevented from attending some of them. I know that few, if any, of the organisers will take notice of this, but when an institution advertises a recital of its own knowing full well that another one has already been scheduled for the same night, it is nothing short of sickening. It is about time these so-called organisers recognized their professional responsibility towards their performers who must feel very let down and disappointed by the poor turnout resulting from abysmal lack of planning.

All this aside, the three young performers, all under thirty years of age, gave us a splendid night’s entertainment of a very unusual and different kind. Six hands played an arrangement of the overture to Mozart’s Magic Flute as well as a Fantasy on the celebrated aria Largo Al Factotum from Rossini’s Barber of Seville. There was no hesitation and no fumbling as the three pianists sat alongside one another and played with spirit and panache. But the highlight in terms of professional accomplishment was the wonderfully lyrical and tuneful Romance by Rachmaninoff followed by one of his less notable but pleasant Waltzes. The interpretation of the Romance was magical and the melody with its gentle accompaniment seemed designed for six hands, although it was not originally written this way. There were other particularly impressive moments, however, when four hands joined together to play works by Ravel, Bizet and Gershwin, the latter being a real favourite with the audience and played with considerable mastery. The third and fifth pieces in the Ravel Mother Goose Suite were outstandingly beautifully played as was the first piece from the Jeux D’Enfants suite by Bizet. Some classical composers did write music for four hands, Haydn and Schubert being foremost amongst them. But the piano evolved as a one- person instrument and as such, once several hands arrive on the keyboard, inevitably some of the instrument’s features are lost – how can six hands perform some of the dazzling arpeggios of Liszt, Chopin or Beethoven when the hands race up and down the keyboard in frantic movement? The answer is that they cannot and so an important feature of this glorious instrument vanishes and this was all too evident in several of the pieces played. Other composers, Ravel and Richard Strauss among them, actually wrote large-scale pieces designed just for one hand! Nevertheless this was a great finale to an interesting and unusual set of recitals and our young performers should be congratulated on being able to work together so harmoniously in such a cramped space!