I have to thank Thailand's Songkran festival which gave me a chance to meet Jaroon Chaijit, renowned in the Thai world of sculpted art . He creates both wood and stone carvings and continuously exhibits his contemporary art works. In each exhibition, the names of his creations can impress people and inspire them to understand the value of fine arts, particularly sculpture. Jaroon Chaijit came to Chiang Mai to pay respect to his teachers and relatives. (Songkran festival is a week-long vacation and traditional Happy New Year for Thailand. Many people in the big city come back to their hometowns to celebrate with their families.)
Previously, I had interviewed Jakraphan Chaijit and he talked about his father, Jaroon. On this morning, Jaroon and his family personally came to visit me at my house before they went back to Chiang Rai province. I wanted to ask him about his work because I find that they are not so much Thai style but more like the European style of stone carving.
When Jaroon came he held a big brown brochure in his hand. This brochure was printed 11 years ago for the art exhibition 17-18 December 2000 at River City Department Store in Bangkok. The name of the exhibition was called "Hub Meoy Valley Sculptures". The picture on the cover is the sculpture of a Mermaid carrying her child in her back to protect her from the skull with a sharp mouth. I asked him "Is this sculpture made from stone or wood?" Jaroon replied, "It is made from mahogany." I felt that it was very good way to present meaningful artwork on a brochure cover. I asked him further: "Is this wooden sculpture still in Thailand". He said "Yes, it is. It is at the house of my friend who lives in Chiang Mai" He also added that he would not sell some of his favorite works.
I said I feel very delighted when you personally came to my house. Then I asked him about working with Misiem Yipinsoi, the Indonesian artist who was famous for her sculpting. and a student of Professor Silp Peerasri from SilpakornUniversity. Professor Silp Peerasri was a venerable artist who influenced the modern art of sculpting at that time, as can be seen in the architecture of some important government offices constructed in European style. Apart from Mesium Yipinsoi, Jaroon was also the training teacher for craftsmen who built Doi Tung palace in Chiang Rai province.
I was curious about the way Jaroon created his work because it was very European in style which was so different from many Lanna artists who liked to make Thai traditional art. I wondered where did he study about wood and stone carving, He used to be a government official and he was supported in his art.
Here is the rest of interview:
Jaroon: "I did not think that I would settle permanently there (HubMoeyValley) after I resigned from ministry of industry. At that time I got the job using the knowledge of Pali language from first-level religious students. I also had a knowledge of woodcarving and then I passed the test for job recruitment. My personal preference for wood and stone carving pushed me to learn more from many books and artists and then I could carve any wood and stone that I liked because I was also the wood and stone carving teacher from the ministry of Industry."
Janine: I was informed that you used to help and work with Mesium Yipinsoi?
Jaroon: Yes, I had a chance to study jade and stone carving with her in Tiansin, China. It is quite challenging training because I learned about many kinds of stone and that stone carving is not like other kinds of carving. Each kind of stone is different. If you carve them badly, those stones cannot be carved again while you can correct the mistakes in wood carving more easily.
Janine: What kind of carving do you like to do?
Jaroon: I want to do carving that conveys some touching stories. It is mostly about the beauty and endurance of women and carving is representative of this concept which people can perceive and understand.
Janine: Is there any artist who works in the same concept as you?
Jaroon: Yes, I knew someone who had the same inspiration as me. He was Cheeva Komolmalai. Sadly, he passed away a long time ago.
Janine: You are still working on wood and stone carving at HubMoeyValley. I might have a chance to visit there. I find that name is very lovely. I am sure that it is a good place to live.
Jaroon: I work every day. Mostly, Thai and foreigners who buy my works will come again to buy more and decorate their home.
Janine: Do you work by order?
Jaroon: I do but it is not so frequent. Many people order something that I used to make. If I create the new art work, I can sell them right away.
Janine: Apart from the carving works, what else do you do?
Jaroon: I do some stucco of real people and monks.