Thai Paintings – Mediums of Mythology

April 14, 2015

 

Art of art’s sake is the rage of the day!

Paintings of red dots on orange backgrounds fetch 6 figure prices and no one really seems to know why!

I have yet to understand the intricacies of that pricing but I have heard that there is more than meets the eye there. A friend – a  highly placed tax official – mentioned that such exorbitant prices are not really about the object of the transaction … the object is merely a conduit for making financial transfers …it could well have been a blank paper but then, to keep up appearances the red dot of paint becomes necessary to deem that paper a “work of art”

The mind always seeks explanations – whether the explanation is easy to digest or not, doesn’t matter. But an explanation reveals the logic and that logic calms the ruffled mind that must have an explanation.

As I simply could not see the worth of that red dot on the orange background, the  explanation offered by my tax official friend made the world seem sane again. The world may be tainted but it is logical.

***

Fortunately that kind of bewilderment and tormented sense of “what is happpppennnning???!!??” does not occur when I see old traditional paintings.

On the contrary not only can I understand their aesthetic appeal, I can also see their worth.

My reaction to an antique traditional artwork by anonymous painters is a whole spectrum of emotions. For instance when I look at an a 13th century Jain Painting, I am first overwhelmed by delight & awe.  Then, I experience debilitating but delicious greed “I want want want that”.  And finally as it dawns upon me that  I can not have it I move on to feeling dejection. In the end I move on, caressing it with the blessing with which one remembers an old love – somewhat like the parting in Casablanca.

So much drama – in all of 5 seconds!

[This trauma is the reason I find it difficult to go to museums]

**

In these traditional Thai paintings, there is not only the art – which is in itself very stylised & pretty – there is also content. They depict the Jataka tales which are 550 stories of the previous incarnations of Gautam Buddha in various animal forms and each story holds a moral teaching.

Actually it might be correct to say that in works such as these, where the art & the culture come together, the primary factor is the culture while the art is just a secondary factor – a mere tool of narration. It just so happens that a few centuries later, i.e. today, it is the art that is appreciated more than the culture contained within.

The stories told by these visuals teach virtues such as charity and compassion.

Monks painted such stories on walls, wood, cloth and paper to act as inspirations to the common people.

A few examples:

ANTIQUE THAI PAINTINGS

 

ANTIQUE THAI PAINTINGS ANTIQUE THAI PAINTINGS ANTIQUE THAI PAINTINGS ANTIQUE THAI PAINTINGS ANTIQUE THAI PAINTINGS ANTIQUE THAI PAINTINGS ANTIQUE THAI PAINTINGS ANTIQUE THAI PAINTINGS ANTIQUE THAI PAINTINGS ANTIQUE THAI PAINTINGS ANTIQUE THAI PAINTINGS ANTIQUE THAI PAINTINGS

These are pictures of paintings collected by Jim Thompson before he disappeared.

More about him in another note.

jm

April 2015

antique textiles, antique Indian textiles, antique asian textiles, antique tribal textiles, antique paintings, antique asia,

Thai Paintings – Mediums of Mythology

 

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