Thai women artists: Doin’ it for themselves (1997)

artdesigncafé - art | Published 08 August 2010
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Other cultural influences

While Thai women artists have made great strides over the past three decades, development has not occurred in a Thai national vacuum. As Bangkok and Chiang Mai can be places where foreign arts professionals spend significant periods of time, input from outside has been important. Varsha Nair, an Indian painter and printmaker, has been actively involved with supporting various exhibitions and artistic activities, such as the Maga City Project in 1996 and Womanifesto the following year. In her art work, she approaches figurative female forms reflecting dualities of women in Hindu culture. Helen Michaelson, a German woman raised in Thailand, and professor of Art History at Chiang Mai University, has been active in curating a variety of alternative shows including One day of my life in a box in 1996 in Bangkok and Deserted and Embraced in August 1997 in Chiang Mai. Art gallery owner, Atsuko Suzuki-Davies has opened her gallery to a small number of Thai female artists, most recently Nitaya Ueareeworakul, as well as an unexpected show of landscape paintings by the usually social-political artist Vasan Sitthiket.

Art administration

Sparking fire on the art scene,a younger generation of women have created and gained art administration roles. Over the past year, two spaces have opened reflecting a new phase and added diversity to the art scene in Bangkok. Project 304, headed by [co-author Gridthiya] "Jeab" Gaweewong, is an alternative space devoted to presenting multi-disciplinary work including performance, film, video, and more traditional media. This space has provided strong discussions in the Bangkok art community in its attempts to challenge the local audience. Meanwhile, with partner, Noppadon Kaosamang, Meo Yipintsoi has generated excitement with the opening of the two spaces, About Photography Gallery, and About Cafe. Each space has a different vision: the Gallery focuses on photography, which is a relatively new art form in Bangkok, and the Cafe offers artist talks, performances, films, art and design-oriented shows, in addition to food and drinks. Her intention is to bring more people to art. "Within one show we try to deal with all sorts of audiences with all sorts of backgrounds," she says. "If you generate enough of a general audience, art is more meaningful, not only to the artists and those who already appreciate it, but to society as a whole and they will see it as something really important." Also, earlier this year, Luckana Kunavichayanont was hired as manager of the high-profile Tadu Contemporary Art and recently presented a significant show of current works by Kamin Lertchaiprasert in Normal and Nature.

Yet with success and opportunity, there have been setbacks amidst the well-documented economic difficulties affecting Thailand this year. Over the summer, the Western art-oriented Galerie Kyoko Chirathivat, which had put on important shows for Bangkok featuring the work of Ross Bleckner, Julian Schnabel, and Francesco Clemente, abruptly closed and left a void in the scene difficult to fill.

While Thailand may be experiencing the growing pains of an aspiring Asian tiger economy, it is encouraging for Thailand’s women artists and art professionals to know that their male-dominated society can provide opportunities for professional advancement at the end of the century. Is the chapter closed? Almost certainly not, but women artists and art professionals are not complaining.

Researchers please note that within editorial processes during the previous publication of this article, Gridthiya Gaweewong was mistakenly deleted as a co-author—and this error has traveled into indexing of this article in referencing resources. Gridthiya was an instrumental part of developing this article and should receive credit for her co-authorship in future referencing. If there are any questions, feel free to contact either Gridthiya directly or artdesigncafe.com editorial. In fact, this experience is just one example showing how incorporating a critical media analysis approach can provide a richer understanding of texts that we read on art and design.