Larger-than-life Thai artist Thawan Duchanee is one of the foremost representatives of Thai and Asian art. His penchant for traditional Asian motifs and styles and his flamboyant personality have earned him popularity and renown as one of the leading lights of the international art scene.
Thawan Duchanee was born in the northern province of Chiang Rai in September, 1939. He began his artistic education at the Poh Chang Arts and Crafts College and then studied under the late Italian painter Corrado Feroci (Silpa Bhilasri) – known as the father of modern Thai art – at Silpakorn University. Thawan furthered his artistic education in Europe, gaining a deeper understanding of Western artistic traditions at the Royal Academy of Visual Arts in Amsterdam.
On his return to Thailand, Thawan developed a unique style of artistry using black and red tones, based on the styles of traditional Buddhist art to explore the darkness lurking within humanity. His pictures initially shocked many people as being blasphemous to the Buddhist religion and some of his early exhibitions were attacked. But many leading Thai intellectuals supported his work. Kukrit Pramoj for one claimed “his art is to be understood as giving life to myth.”
Thawan’s art quickly gained prominence, in Thailand and internationally. He has exhibited extensively in Thailand and around the world, and has created murals at several overseas Thai embassies, public and commercial spaces including the Bank of Thailand, Shell Building, Bangkok Bank, Doi Tung Palace and Siam Commercial Bank among others. In 1998 Thawan designed a golden banner to mark the 6th cycle birthday anniversary celebrations of HM the King. He has represented Thailand and Asian art at top events around the world on numerous occasions.
Thawan’s residence in Chiang Rai, known as the Black House, is also a museum and studio for art. He also set up the Thawan Duchanee Museum of Art at the UCOM Building in 2001.
Thawan received the Artist of the Year gold medal from the Siam Architects’ Association and was named a Thai National Artist in 2001.