Among the many successful artists in Thailand, Visoot Chareanporn is considered a treasure. Lung Yai (Uncle Yai) is the nick name of this unusually talented painter, columnist and musician. His intimate relationship with nature has inspired him to create landscape paintings of remote countryside reflecting the truth of nature and his astounding emotion and spirit. He was also a columnist for Thai Rath, one of the oldest and best-selling newspapers in Thailand. His column was called: "What Is Art.".
First solo exhibition: Landscape paintings December 1996
The exhibition was presented at the end of 1996 at the Northern export promotion center, All 120 landscape paintings were sold out before the exhibition took place. A foreign visitor noted in the guestbook that the exhibition was great but no pictures were left for him to appreciate and possess. There were over 3000 visitors which is a big event for the small city of Chiang Mai. Many people have more than one of Visoot's paintings. Everyone said that they love his paintings because he can keep the beauty of Chiang Mai in all impressive aspects and his brushing skill on canvas is remarkable.
Second solo exhibition in May 2003: This time nude paintings
The visitors to this exhibition were astonished because nude-paintings exhibitions were difficult to create in Thailand. The more than 100 nude paintings overwhelmed people. Thousands of visitors entered and stepped out of the exhibition with smiling faces and different emotions. They came into the exhibition hall with shyness and came out with satisfaction. This sensation is the main creative concept of this painter. Many visitors came back to see the exhibition again and again.
Recently, I invited Visoot Chareanporn to my house. I practiced painting with him and discussed arts in Thailand as represented at the 700years celebration in Chiang Mai. I handed in my work to him for his special criticism: The works of a student should be wide-open and free. I was sure that I would also ask him for a 'special' interview.
Visoot does not use a computer so he doesn't know that I write about Arts in Thailand. He doesn't care about what an article looks like and isn't interested in business and trade. His house, music room and the workshop are located 40km outside the city. The interview about arts was one of the crucial parts in exchanging ideas, talking about life, foods and painting. He used to eat Western food and turned to heal himself with macrobiotic food instead. His body came back to normal and he added exercise too.
I asked him, "I would like you to tell me about the proudest work in your life."
He paused for a while and said, "I am proud of all my works. I will start with the most honored, assigned work that I did 20 years ago. This was the pictures of King Rama the 5th, Rama the 6th, Rama the 7th, Rama the 9th, Queen Sirikit and the royal emblem. These pictures are in the Ananta Samakhom palace. And the lotus pictures that I gave to the Bangsai Arts and Craft center (Silapashiva) five years ago—pictures of white lotuses in a large pond.
I asked him, "I know that you and your family moved from the South to the North. But tell me why many of your works are scenery of Chiang Mai"
He said, "These were the things I wanted to do. I used to feel skeptical about myself. One day, I opened my eyes, amazed that I had created a hundred paintings in such a short time."
I asked him about the nude exhibition in 2003: "Your nude exhibition was very successful. Are there any nude painters in Thailand who paint hundred pictures and set an exhibition like you?"
He replied, "As far as I know, nude painting is in the dreams of all artists. Nude is one of the ultimate beauties and in my opinion is not pornography. Nude painting is not an easy. It is quite dangerous. To draw a natural view is much easier to correct; to change or even make small mistakes that can be acceptable. But nude painting cannot tolerate that. Even a small mistake will make that painting fail. Inappropriate posture of the nude distorts the view and disrupts the viewer. And if the painter lets passion overflow, it may reflect immoral conduct and bad feeling. That painter may lose his acceptance and his reputation. The mirror is for looking at one's face but art is for looking at one's feeling and the soul of the artist."
I asked him, "I saw your paintings and thought that beautiful pictures were from pretty, young models. Is that correct?
He shook his head and said, "Not always. There are subtle details within a beautiful portrait. It's impressionistic. This is genuine art. Not copycat art. It is abstract with concrete meaning."
I asked him, "How about other nude painters you know?"
He replied, "There are some famous nude artists who are Thai masters, who set nude exhibitions as group exhibitions with many artists. But I am the only one who had a solo nude showing. At first I had an exhibition in Chiang Mai, then in Bangkok and then in Pattaya. It raises the question—Are there any restrictions in traditions and cultures? In Thailand, not many people understand the important characteristics of nude paintings. They think that all nude pictures are pornography."
I asked, "How is the exhibition going?"
He said, "Before any visitors came to see the show, they wanted to know what this exhibition was about. That's it. I would like art lovers to understand that at first the art should be created from the pure mind, freedom in creation, and the most important thing is a basis of happiness in working. If I want to paint, I paint as if it is more than enough to do an exhibition."
I asked him, "What has the art scene in Thailand been like for the past 20 years?"
He answered, "Thai artists adapt themselves through their work. All of the various groups thought differently about art and consider what they do as valuable. In my opinion, Thai artists are respectable. Some of them have a very good progress. Some traveled along a wrong path which is diverse and sad. In general, it is has been very difficult to find patrons."
I asked," Artists have expenses, investment in their work. How can they live without money?"
He said, "The framework, value, business competition ruins true happiness. I have never sent my work to show off for any competition. My paintings are not cheap. All of my paintings are on reserve at a gallery in Bangkok. Once, they sent me a payment of three automobiles. I refused and asked for cash. I am not a car dealer. But once when I went to the market, someone asked me what do I sell? I said, I am a butcher. (laughing)"
I asked, "What about your apprentices?"
He said, "They are like you. You are interested in painting. You are free to paint and send the work to me. Then I will evaluate your work and give you some suggestions. You must think about your work by yourself and not copy others.You may see works you like but you have to use your own imagination to create the work for yourself, free from the any old exceptions."
I asked, "Have you ever painted a nude man?"
He said, "No, I never painted a nude man because I don't think it offers as much beauty as a nude woman. "
I asked, "What about your next exhibition?"
He said, "I paint every day. Many people came to register to be my model. I am very happy to paint and take care of students who want to learn oil painting with enthusiasm and love. Oil painting offers endless possibilities for one's imagination. My next exhibition will happen when it happens."