For a long while, I constantly discussed a range of ideas about art and collecting with friends and seniors who were art collectors. Many of them graduated from universities in foreign countries and lived in Bangkok, but some decided to reside here in Chiang Mai. They included one of my respected relatives who wanted to change her house into a museum so she could organize her collections in a more suitable way. There was also a relative of my father, Wichai Wongsuwan, who graduated from Silpakorn university and was a museum curator in many provinces including Chiang Mai and Lamphun. He had visited many museums in Asia, Europe and the U.S. When I started to write about art in Thailand, he was the one who provided valuable information about beads, sculptures and antiques such as bowls, plates, pots as well as temples and art-periods in Thailand. I usually invited him here or contacted him via telephone to ask some questions. Sometimes he brought lovely books with beautiful illustrations, and showed me some art pieces in the books that he had collected and how he acquired them.
I was sad when he told me that Thai museums had no policy to raise funds for preserving old, precious works of art. Although he was a high ranking government official, he was restrained and found it difficult to exact any effective changes in that policy. To my delight, I found that he donated some old ceramic bowls from Wiengkalong kiln and another 200 ancient items to the Chiang Mai museum but he was uneasy as to whether donated belongings were placed properly in the glass showcases. It remains a question.
My house is more than 50 years old and we renovated it many times. Although the house style is not as "classic" as the western style which is displayed in the old houses of senior government officials, it has a milieu about it as a simple redwood house. Not far from the university, it is a downtown house, on Nimmanhaemin Road, next to a verdant mountain, Doi Suthep .This road became a promenade and shopping street in Chiang Mai city with small offices, banks, clothes shops, art galleries, coffee shops, pubs, restaurants and guest houses where many foreigners come to live as a second home, especially Japanese and Korean people. A perfect spot for a very personal project.
I call it, the Janine Art Gallery. My modest thought: An easy and rewarding opportunity for local artists and artists all over Thailand to meet and cooperate as well as the art lovers who can meet and talk with the visiting artists personally. The works will be different in each exhibit ranging from paintings, sculptures, antiques and handicrafts and, perhaps, "media art."
In the beginning, I intend to exhibit the work of the three artists who I previously interviewed and presented their work in Scene4 articles. The first exhibit is a tribute to Visoot Charoenporn. The paintings that were shown here are mostly the remaining paintings from the successful nude painting exhibitions in 2007 at Chiang Mai University Art gallery. I wrote about him and his painting in August 2007, and after my first visit to his home in the woods in Mae Tang district in March 2010.
Sadly, at the end of last year, he passed away, I went to visit his family again and decided to start the art gallery project to commemorate Visoot Charoenporn and his paintings. These remaining nude paintings are not to be sold and some paintings from Penchan Premwut, his wife and Daranee Charoenporn, his niece will be presented here as well. Penchan used to study at SilpakornUniversity in the same year as Visoot—she focuses on paintings of flowers. Daranee also paints flowers along with seascapes. Their work, in a word, is simply beautiful. If you want to buy this precious contemporary work from two famous artists in Chiang Mai, you are also welcome to visit. You can buy monoprints with and without teak frames as souvenirs from Chareonporn's family or as decor items for your house as well as books of nude paintings from the exhibition in 2007. The exhibit here will be open all of this year.