There is an interesting issue regarding tropical orchids in Thailand. It could be said that Thai orchids are the most well-known and their market shares are the highest in the world. Educational institutes and relevant organizations support genetic development and preservation of more than 1,000 wild orchid species. In general, Thai farmers have develped sufficient knowledge and experience for growing orchids for a long time. Newer technologies were developed to improve the genome of orchids and tissue culture in order to improve the export of orchids. The prices of orchids in Thailand are much lower than other countries. The splendid beauty of Asian orchids is somewhat different from Latin American orchids. Annual income for exporting Thai orchids is over 1 billion Thai baht.
Most orchid species in Thailand originated from wild tropical orchids found in the forests of Thailand. There were several notable people who documented and classified Thai orchid species: Professor Tem Samitinant (1920-1995) was a remarkable Thai botanist from the Forest Department and Mr. Gunnar Saidenfaden, a Danish ambassador who explored and identified species of orchids in the Southeast Asia region. During this time the document “Orchids of Thailand and Preliminary list” was published. The ambassador Gunnar also publicized the Thai tropical orchids to the world.
I would like to mention another important individual, Professor Rapee Sagarik, who made Thai orchids more famous. He was one of the committee members who coordinated with the world orchid society and in 1978 brought the 9th World Orchid Conference to Bangkok. Much later he went to conduct research, supervise practices in botanical subjects and teach planning about rice research at Maejo University. He also opened a free orchid-training course and founded the Orchid Society of Thailand.
It is quite fortunate that orchids grow well in tropical environments especially in the Southeast Asia region. Thailand is one of a few countries that is really interested in growing and reproducing orchids.
There were orchid contests held at Maejo University several times to promote the beauty of Thai orchids which attracted more people from around the world. One good example is the 4th APOE (Asia Pacific Orchid Exhibition) in January 1992. Maejo University hosted this event and Her Majesty the Queen Sirikit came there as President for this event to open the ceremony. The Queen consulted with Professor Rapee Sagarik and Associate Professor Chamnian Yosraj (the current president of Maejo University) regarding the preservation of Thai orchids which are nearly extinct. Later on, there was Her Majesty the Queen’s project to gather and preserve Thai orchids before returning them back to the forest.
Another interesting activity is the committee to publicize Thai Orchid Foundation which for over 10 years campaigned with charitable activities for funding of Her Majesty the Queen’s project “Return Thai Orchids Back to the Forest”. Those activities included bicycling, golf, bowling, concerts and orchid-painting contests. The latter activity was quite popular with students, artists, the public at large and government agencies, submitting paintings for the contests in order to fund the project and successfully awakening the consciousness of Thai people. This brings me to introduce a young female watercolor artist who received many awards from various painting contests with the theme of Orchids. Her name is Pikulthong Wiengnil. She is currently living in Lamphun Province. Pikulthong is an enthusiastic artist who uses watercolors as a medium and portrays her works passionately with paintings of various orchids. She began submitting her paintings to various contests in 1996.
Here is a brief conversation I had with her:
JY: Please tell us about yourself and what inspires you.
PW: I was born in Lamphun Province on 19 June 1975.I went to study art at Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna, Chiang Mai Province. For me, I think nature is a great source of inspiration. I grew up and I still live in the countryside close to forests and mountains. Most of my painting references are all kinds of flowers especially roses, lotuses and orchids. In my view, orchids are the most beautiful flowers as I find them so delicate and majestic. Watercolor technique captures the delicacy and softness of orchids perfectly. I prefer to paint in the early morning to see the morning light because it is the first light of the day. Morning light is so warm and soft — it makes orchids look more gorgeous and gentle than in the late morning or in the afternoon. I am so excited to look for wild orchids in the deep forest where they grow freely and bloom healthfully on large trees. This is the source of nature that inspires me so much to express my feelings through watercolor painting.
JY: Which is your proudest achievement?
PW: In 2005 I received the Excellent Award Princess’ Cup from Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn. The contest theme was “Thai orchid, stroke, line, sciences and art." The princess asked me about my work and my inspiration as well as complimented my work. I was very impressed and this was the best encouragement to make me create more paintings.
JY: Tell us about your working concept and the techniques you use in your painting.
PW: Most of my current works are watercolor paintings but they are different from watercolor paintings made by others. My works are realistic watercolor paintings mixed with imagination. I have to prepare lighting and installations in my workshop purposefully because light and shadow have to be well positioned.
I get a great deal of pleasure using watercolor to express my emotions and feelings. I hope that people who love watercolor paintings can touch my real identity through my works and I want to be the inspiration for new generations of artists and encourage them to create more art.
JY: What do you think about works of other northern artists in Thailand?
PW: I see many improvements from other northern artists. They have better skills, concepts and techniques but it depends on what is their preference and interest. The different ways of expressing their art concepts will make their works unique and charming. In the end, they have to find their unique identity by themselves. This is an accomplishment that every artist must pursue. For me, it is always interesting to see more varieties of art.
JY: And what is your next goal?
PW: For now I wish to improve my works continuously and have more solo watercolor-painting exhibitions about Thai orchids for everyone who loves both arts and flowers.
Some of Pikulthong Wiengnil’s awards:
1996 - Honorable mention from “Asia-pacific orchid painting" contest Maejo University, Chiang Mai Province.
2004 - Gold medal award from “2nd Thai orchid as a symbol of being" Thai painting contest at Thai orchid garden, Maejo University.
Honorable mention from “Colorful plant painting" contest at Bangkok 9 international hospital, Bangkok
2005 – Excellent Award Princess’ Cup from Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn. The contest theme was “Thai orchid, stroke, line, sciences and art."
2007 – Outstanding award from 1st NAN ME Fine Art Award at NAN ME Art Gallery Bangkok
2008 - Honorable mention from 5th Chiang Rai beautiful flower festival painting contest.
2009 - Special award from 4th NAN ME Fine Art Award. The contest theme was "Beautiful Thailand."
2010 - Honorable mention from “Thai education” held by the Office of the Education Council
2012 – Gold medal award from the ARCHES painting Contest CANSON FRANCE
2014 – Gold medal award in realistic painting “5th Thai orchid as a symbol of being Thai painting" contest held by Thai orchid foundation, Maejo University.
Photos - All paintings by Pikulthong Wiengnil