Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Thailand Journal X:The Julian Schnabel of Chiang Rai

                                                                      Photo: JJ Harrison
There are a number of reasons travelers visit Chiang Rai province in Northern Thailand, chief among them being the proximity to the Golden Triangle. But there are two other major attractions: the spectacularly delicious small pineapples and The White Temple or Wat Rong Khun a work of art by the Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. The whiteness of the temple is part of its subversion since many temples in Thailand use gold especially for their Buddhas.  The Whiteness of the Temple calls to mind Chapter 42 of Moby Dick “The Whiteness of the Whale,” in its enormous ambition. The temple is really an essay in demonology containing as it does modern anti-Christs as varied as Osama Bin Laden and George Bush. Kositpipat is an expansive figure, who was eager to chat with strangers waiting to depart for a flight to Bangkok at the Chiang Rai airport. Modestly dressed in blue denim and sandals, he looked more like a mid-Twentieth Century revolutionary figure than a 21st Century artist and provocateur in the style Julian Schnabel or Ai Weiwei, as he talked openly about his wealth and the ll0 assistants who work with him on the temple. Naturally Buddhist themes infuse his work, though the kind of worshippers who come to his temple might more likely be found in Chelsea. "I intend to remain a painter for the cause of Buddhism until the last day of my life," he has commented.  "Nothing can ever change me or divert me from this course...."

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