• Thai-Chinese landscape painters Aphirak Punmoonsilp and Li Cheng Jie join up for the "Borderless" exhibition, which opens next week. They are pictured in front of Aphirak's painting "Essence of the Yellow Mountain."
  • Li Cheng Jie with his paintings
  • Li Cheng Jie presents a painting to Anand Panyarachun, Unicef National Goodwill Ambassador, as Aphirak Punmoonsilp, left, and Siri Gallery co-founder Taratorn Tanglitanon look on.
  • Li Cheng Jie paints as Aphirak reads a poem.

A tale of two mountains

Art April 05, 2019 01:00

By Kitchana Lersakvanitchakul

8,730 Viewed

Landscape artists from Thailand and China join up for a new exhibition

It is often said that art has no boundaries so it comes as no surprise to learn that two landscape painters of Thailand and China have been brought together to create a new art exhibition simply titled “Borderless”.


The exhibition is the first project of Siri Gallery, a group of young entrepreneurs who not only want to create what they call an communal understanding and love of art but also want to close the wide gap that exists between Thai and international artists by showcasing Thai art internationally.

“I didn’t know much about art until the day I went to Chiang Rai was so impressed by a painting that I knew I had to meet the artist. When I had a chance to talk to him and visited him at his home, I discovered his other works and was amazed he was selling them for so little money,” says Taratorn Tanglitanon, the co-founder of Siri Gallery. 


“To help him, as well as other artists, I created Siri Gallery with my friends Titada 'Bee' Sakoolnamark and Suradet 'Fay' Chuckchaikul, and started selling the paintings in China, the US and England. Our latest project is this exhibition with China. We will use our portfolio from this exhibition to set up other exhibitions in China and England where we will show the works of 10 Thai artists.”


Siri Gallery started work on this, its first project, at the beginning of last year in collaboration with Thai landscape painter Aphirak Punmoonsilp. Taratorn, Titada, Suradet and the 49-year-old Aphirak who was born in Tak province but lives in Chiang Rai, travelled to Changsha to look for a Chinese artist with a similar style of work and eventually found Li Cheng Jie in Beijing. They then journeyed to the Huangshan mountain range in Eastern China, named a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1990, where the two artists would create their paintings for the project.


“Aphirak and I spent nearly two hours hiking up the steep hill to catch sight of the stone monkey on the top of the mountain opposite. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t favourable for such an excursion. First it rained then after it stopped, the fog came down. We waited for almost three hours and we only saw the stone monkey for five minutes,” recalls Suradet. 


Aphirak has been painting the landscapes of Doi Mae Salong, one of the most popular destinations in Chiang Rai, for 18 years and most of his works show the wild flowers and grass swaying in the wind in a style that hints at Impressionist masters Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh. 


“Van Gogh conveyed his feelings of confusion through wavy lines and that made me uncomfortable. His painting ‘Wheat Field with Crows’ is so intense with a strong sense of isolation under that dark and brooding sky. It is widely considered his last painting and not long after, he committed suicide. Monet also applied his perceptions of nature to his works, revealing the tenderness he felt for the sun and flowers. I too put my feelings and emotions into my paintings,” Aphirak says.


Asked what makes him different from other Thai landscape artists, he says: “Paintings often show the same wild beauty and the same mountain but can look completely different depending on the artist’s approach. There has to be something else – a painting cannot be merely a portrayal of the beauty of nature. For example, while I paint views of Doi Mae Salong, they are of a mountain barren of trees. It is my way of expressing my sadness at the deforestation of the land,” he explains. 


Li Cheng Jie agrees. “Each artist has a different point of interest and focuses on different things. While their paintings might show the same general view, they are different in their depth. Much also depends on the artist’s storytelling and philosophy of life. For me, it’s about reconciliation. I think of my paintings as a reflection of the inequalities of society,” says the Chinese artist, who is in his 60s. 


“My signature style is black. I use more black than other artists. I mix it with four Chinese herbs: gan bing, zhusha [cinnabar], bingpian [borneol] and shexiang [musk]. Gan bing and bingpian help prevent decay, while zhusha gives a good smell. Zhusha is red. It protects against bad things and gives a feeling of warmth. My paintings incorporate philosophy and humanity.


Philosophically, I put myself in my painting. For example, if I paint a mountain, I will compare myself to the mountain and make a communication that relates to the social situation at that time,” explains Li, whose influences include Zong Qixiang, Xu Beihong, who is best known for his traditional ink paintings of horses, and Li Keran. 


“Borderless”, which takes place at the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre from Tuesday to April 21, will feature 29 paintings by Aphirak Punmoonsilp and more than 40 works by Li Cheng Jie.

“All my paintings for this exhibition are new and created during my time in China. I started work on them last year at different places and during different seasons. Some of my paintings show the mountains in Zhangjiajie in the spring and portray the blooms and the greenery while others done in Tachuan in Huangshan in autumn reflect the changing of colours and the sea of fog that shrouds the mountains. I’m a landscape artist so I need to understand nature to be able to create a work of art completely,” says Aphirak, who also travelled to Dong Chuan, Feng Huang, Zhangjiajie, and Tianmenshan. 

“Chinese artists Shitao, Huang Binhong and Liu Haisu all inspired me in my travels around China,” he adds.

Li Cheng Jie created some of his works in the same locations but says that other canvases were the result of his travels. “For this exhibition, my paintings are based on black ink though some feature colourful flowers,” he says. “I believe art can connect with managers, physicians and economists. If art has thought and philosophy, it can solve a problem. Paintings should have logic, and be without confusion.”

Different strokes

- “Borderless: Sang Silp Khun Khao Rai Phrom Daen” opens on Tuesday at Bangkok Art & Culture Centre and continues through April 21. 

- Admission is free.