Thai women through thai contemporary arts




Lugpliw Junpudsa


“Wealth is underneath land and water" is a local Thai and realistic proverb pointing to the country's fertility and its great natural resources. Besides spectacular nature, Thailand is also very rich in traditions, arts and culture. Generally speaking, Thai people's way of life is influenced by and associated with the teachings of Buddhism, which play a great role in cultivating a caring and compassionate nature in Thai people. More than anything, the Royal Institution of the King has played a great role in uniting Thai people together for centuries. Thailand has actually remained independent due to the Kings' modern vision and hard work; they have dedicated their whole life to the country and sacrificed themselves for their people’s well-being. Every Thai King has performed endless works for their people. For example, King Rama V traveled to many countries in Asia and Europe to build up friendships, learn new things and apply ideas and techniques in his own country. He founded many fundamental infrastructures and systems, such as education, transportation, science, medicine and telecommunications, besides having a strong influence on Thai art: during his reign, art underwent a huge transformation. He first visited European countries in 1897, and during his second visit between 1906 - 1907, he attended the international Venice Biennale art exhibition in Italy. He was so fascinated by the artwork he saw that he began collecting the works of many artists such as Girolamo Induno, Achille Gilsenti and Eduardo Gelli. He also hired an Italian architect, Mario Tamagno, to design many palaces and buildings in Thailand: for example, the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, Parutsakawan Palace and the Thai Koo Fah Building-Government House.[1] King Rama VI, who was very interested in arts, hired Corrado Feroci, also known as Silpa Bhirasri, an Italian artist who had been working in Thailand as a Thai civil servant. Eventually, Feroci became a very important person in the Thai art community. He was the first person who implemented the learnings and teaching methods called “academic” in Thailand and founded the Art school called Praneetsilapakorn in 1935, which was later developed into an Art University called Silapakorn in 1943. Silapakorn University is the first art university in Thailand. Initially, it had two departments: Painting and Sculpture.[2] Many students who graduated from those departments have played a great role in developing and progressing Thai art and artists, and have become known internationally. Besides being very successful artists, Feroci’s students also helped to expand art education by establishing more art departments in universities all over Thailand. Another important contribution to art by Professor Feroci was the organization of the first National Exhibition in 1949 to support and promote Thai artists; the National Exhibition has been going on successfully for the last 72 years. King Rama IX was the main patron of the events. Furthermore, in 1962 he presented his painting at the 13th National Art Exhibition’s opening ceremony.[3] His patronage and participation in art exhibitions represented his interest, talent and his excellent artistic skills. Besides painting, he also exhibited his talent in other kinds of arts such as photography, music, song composition and creative inventions. His paintings were appreciated by artists, art professors and most of his people. In addition, his inventions were copyrighted at the international level. His talent in all areas allowed him to be the most beloved king of Thailand. For Thais, he was not only a king but a father; they always called him "Royal Father" or "Father of the Country." The Thai National Exhibition is one of the platforms where Thai artists express their skills and aesthetic experiences. On top of that, it is the way artists can get supported and recognized. For example, in 1995, Misiem Yipintsoi was awarded to be the first excellent artist by the National Art Exhibition [4]. Misiem was a female artist whose works were a combination of painting and sculpture, and were inspired by the landscapes and the people which surrounded her. Her success encouraged latter female artists to express their talents and creativity. Likewise, Chianapa Lapajarn was a sculptress who graduated at Silapakorn University. Her art represented the inequality of women who in public appeared to have equal rights and opportunities as men, but in private were actually passive followers who had no rights and could not express their voices. Her attitude towards women's rights was represented through her art called “SATEEPHOP,” in the form of sculpture and mixed media art, and exhibited at the National Art Museum in 2020. In 1989, Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook depicted Thai women as sexual objects through her sculpture called "The Journey of Thai Women.” She got her inspiration when she stayed in Germany as a student and realized that men there thought that all Thai women were prostitutes. Their general idea about Thai women was not based on reality, as only a small group of women, due to necessity, were in this sexual business. Accordingly, she suggested that we should not generalize and come to a wrong conclusion about Thai women, and we should respect all women because everyone deserves to be respected as a human being. Traveling abroad makes artists gain new experiences, chances to broaden their art ideas and to exchange their experience and culture with other artists. Sudsiri Pui-Ock’s traveled to the Netherlands to exhibit her work at Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten to represent how she combined history and friendship between Thailand and Netherland into her art. The Netherlands and Thailand have had a long diplomatic friendship for 417 years [5]. This fact inspired the work called “The Dinner, My Blue: Drawing my life with the Blue on The White,” which was made in 2005. In this work, she painted the history and story of trading and traveling through Thailand, China and The Netherlands in the 17th century on white ceramic bowls using Delfts Blauw. This technique represents how the three countries were connected in those days. Moreover, Sudsiri used food to express her collective background and culture; according to her, food is not only something to fill up a person's stomach, but also a means to express one's love and compassion for others. She invited foreign teachers and friends to a meal at her place. The Thai food she cooked was served on painted ceramic bowls: her artworks. She filmed the meal she ate and later on, used that video to be her VDO performance art. In addition, cooking also represents womanhood and motherhood, as we shall see in a work by Pinaree Sanpitak called “Breast Stupa Cookery,” created in 2005. Pinaree is a female artist who designed kitchen utensils such as bowls, plates or cooking molds in the shape of a woman's breast. The cooking mold she designed also looks like a Buddhist Stupa, the sacred and religious monument of Buddhism. She then invited her friends who were housekeepers, bakers, and artists to cook together using the utensils she designed. The idea found in “Breast Stupa Cookery” was advanced in the work called “Breast Stupa Cookery: The World Turns Upside Down,” exhibited at Contemporary Nova, Bangkok in 2020 and “House Calls” at 100 Tonson Foundation in 2021 [6]. The role of mother and wife is also represented in the work of Isaree Baramee. She questioned the subordinated status and encumbered duties that some women have to endure. She is of the view that taking care of a husband, working full-time and being responsible for all chores are done to please the husband, expecting in return, that he would love his wife and appreciate her hard work for him. She depicted her concept of women in her work called: "The turning point view of an ideal family," which were semi-surreal sculptures illustrating the mix of women's shapes and animals. Her work was satirical and had a great impact on the audience's emotion. Lugpliw Junpudsa is a female artist who is continuously representing various perspectives on motherhood through sculptures. Her semi-surreal sculptures called “After the Rain,” made in 2006, portrayed the love and connection between her and her mother. In 2014, she exhibited the solo exhibition called “Mother Value of the Adorable Person.” She used the shape of the hip bone (ox coxae) as the symbol of mother and birth, to be a core element in many of her works. For example, “The First House" was a 2-meter-tall hip bone sculpture. Its shape was tall and thin, and there was a space at the center where the visitors could enter, sit, sleep and interact with the piece of art. The aim was to make the visitors feel warm and protected as an infant in the mother's womb. Similarly, Lugpliw’s “Mother’s Loved Boat” also used the hip bone as the element of the boat. In local belief, the boat is a symbol of conveying hope. She used the boat metaphor to narrate her mother's hopes and expectations toward her. Her mother had been working hard for her children's good education and success. Thus "Mother's Loved Boat" illustrated the love, hope and good wish of a mother. In 2020, Lugpliw also represented a women’s perspective on love and change through the exhibition called “A Daughter’s Love?", which comprised 14 pieces of sculpture. Many of her works represented pregnancy and wedding, and persuaded the audience to doubt the role and status of women. As we shall see in "Bride and Groom?", (Love? 1, Love? 2, etc.). From the details of the works and artists demonstrated above, we see that Thai female artists often represent their art in relation to the cultural and religious context in which they are living. Interestingly, their works do not identify or interpret the culture from a positive or negative perspective. What they have done is merely represent the fact or question some existing phenomena. They hope that their works will reflect some facts and inspire audiences to think about it and feel.

[1] Suthee Kunawichayanon, Modern and Contemporary Thai Visual Art. (Bangkok: Chulalongkorn University, 2020),25.

[2] Jittima Amornpichetkoon, 5 Decades of the National Exhibition of Art, (Bangkok: Amarin Print and Publishing, 2001), 21.

[3] Art Museum of the King Rama IX Foundation, Art in the Reign of King Rama IX 6 Decades of Thai Art, (Bangkok: Amarin Print and Publishing, 2010), 196.

[4] Jittima Amornpichetkoon, 5 Decades of the National Exhibition of Art, (Bangkok: Amarin Print and Publishing, 2001), 25.

[5] Relationship between Thai and the Netherlands, retrieved in 5th May 2021

[6] Usawadee Srithong. “Thai female artists with conceptual in Thailand.” MFA thesis, Silapakorn U"


Lugpliw Junpudsa " Engagement Ring" 2, 2020 Sudsiri Pui-Ock "The Dinner, My Blue: drawing my life with Blue on The White," 2005 Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, "The Journey of Thai Women," 1995

Lugpliw Janpudsa "A Daughter's LOVE" ARDEL's Third Place Gallery art exhibition, Bangkok, 2020 Misiem Yipintsoi "Leap-Frog Girl," 1974, Bronze "Breast Stupa Cookery, The World Upside Down,” Art exhibition by Pinaree Sanpitak at Nova Contemporary, Bangkok, 2020 Lugpliw Janpudsa "The Mother," 2013, Bronze Lugpliw Janpudsa “After the rain," 2006, Bronze


Lucie Rie the grande dame of ceramics

I would like to initiate my contribution in this inaugural issue of “MATRES, World Women Ceramics” not only affirming that Lucie Rie was an important ceramist […]

Matres Korea

Hi, I am Gumsun Kim, the President of the KWCA. I am pleased to introduce the KWCA in the first issue of MATRES. […]

Infinity is reflected in the visions of the shipibo women

The story of the Shipibo-Konibo women is a fascinating one. They are great masters of ceramic and textile art, heirs to an artistic tradition combined […]