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David's Asia Journal

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Let me begin by mentioning the mundane. Well, it's mundane as far as life is considered. Others might consider it profane. Since there is some controversy and it's not art related, at least by fine art standards, I'll let you choose to view the Asian Toilet Paper page at your own discression.


Apr 26, 2001
Although I'm back, I still feel compelled to update the site with my cultural and artistic observations and pictures. Bali, as reported by those who preceded me, is indeed a cultural feast. In a way it's like India with all the rude shoving and destitute poverty removed and a warm, welcoming, tribal, lush-jungley feeling instead. It's got ugga bugga hindu hospitality with a sufficient scent of western taste for any tourist. Actually, a bit too much commercialism for the hard-core, looking-for-the-road-less-traveled, traveler but I liked the fact that they always brought me the food I ordered.

The traditional dances are bali flavored Indian hundu stories put to movement and music. The fire and trance dances are accompanied by lively accapello chanting and raving. The modern art is influenced by European artists who started immigrating in the 1930's and sparked what is now considered traditional art: hindu stories or plantations or flowers painted in exquisite detail. The contemporary art tends twards the abstract.

A wonderful cafe called Warsa in Ubud was decorated with such sophistication that I passed it twice thinking it was not in my price range. But the art was too good to pass up a third time and I inquired. I Nyoman Suarsa or "Mimik" was the artist and the son of the proprietor and the prices were very modest so I ate there often. When I met Mimik, he was with two friends; both of whom were also artists; one of whom was teaching Mimik the xylophone. I Wayan Palasara or "gola" and I wayan Teguh Wijaya or " bogam" had an art studio together named "ndag". They plan to have shows for all their atist friends soon so if you're in Ubud, look 'em up.

Mimik, Gola and Bogam took me to see Sika gallery. Jaeb from Project304 in Bangkok reccommended I check it out and it was amazing. The wall painting with matches work of Hentrawan R Cipug from Java was beautiful, fantastic and very powerful.

And stumbling around I found Pranoto Art Gallery run by two artists, Pranoto and his wife, Kerry. I just missed the opening of a show by Faizal, who's art was funny and whose older work I really enjoyed and by W.Sutarta whose abstract work was good, too. Also stumbling around, I found the work of I Ketut Sadiana. He had some deep abstracts that I fell in love with but our budget only allowed us to procure some "quickies" he was doing for tourist income.


April 26, 2001

Saigon: This city is so-o-o fileed with motorcycles that flow like water through the streets, down alleys past markets and stoplights (red or green), that it is dangerous to walk. Nobody does; except the tourists who higher rickshaw drivers just to get them safely across the street. This is not a typical communist city. There are poor who have no access to food or shelter or health care or shcool. But they do have access to this...

Saigon is Reproduction Mecca. If you want your face put on a famous painting there's about a gagillion Saigon painters who've got you covered. But I didn't find any good original art. So we took a detour trip down the "delta" where we met the most wonderful people in the world.

Then, traveling up to Hoi An, in central Vietnam, I met less skilled but slightly more imaginitive artists. Instead of copies of famous paintings this town was filled, filled with nominal but beautiful variations on the same Hoi An theme. Some notable exceptions are mentioned on the Hoi An page. On the Hoi An page you will find the works of Vu Dong and Tuan Hiep, who I've chosen to represent the Vietnam artists.


Feb 11, 2001
What can I say about india? Sixteen days after arrival, I am back in Thailand licking my wounds. I did not discover any new artists. My defenses were up. I was not able to explore india with an open heart nor was I comfortable looking around corners and in hallways, looking for artists who were not, yet discovered. I was too afraid of what else lurked there. Too concerned with my own comfort and too overwhelmed to crawl out of my shell.

This isn't entirely true. In Darahmsala and Mcloud Ganj, where Tibet's Dali Lama lives in exhile, I found relitive peace (by India's standards) and discovered undescovered art, too (just not the artist's themselves). Link to Darahmsala for more on this story, and pictures, too.

After Darahmsala, we were off to Jaiselmere in Rajastan. This is a living arabian knights town complete with a living fort, colorful turbans, camels and 12 year old brides. Link to this wild story and pictures, too.

Then off to Jodpur to see an art gallery. This was supposed to be a guesthouse, art gallery and cafe. Turns out it was some bramen's house whose decesed grandfather painted in the delicate, miniture style of the olden days. We were the only guests and the cafe was open as long as the mother was cooking for her family. As the highest caste in the land, it was below them to clean the puke out of the sink in our room. Leaving the "gallery" we were accosted by children who touched us with there left hands and yelled, "poo poo hand" and threw rocks at us. It was at this point we decided to leave India.

But before leaving we decided to check out India's international art exhibit. This was a fantastic show and I bought the brochure and intend to put pictures up when I get home. Unfortunately, this wasn't the sort of thing where one "discovers" artists, but it really was a good show (more later, as promised).


Mar 29, 2001

I met Grid "Jaeb" Gaweewong, the internationally acclaimed currator of Project304. She's a welcoming, well informed and lively person who's driven to show cutting edge art and demonstrate that "Thailand's emerging as possibly the most important contemporary art center in South East Asia." Project304 is really cutting edge since it's primarily focused on installations, which is emerging as the world's most contemporary medium. Unfortunately I visited between shows but definitely visit the site for more info.

Jan 23, 2001
I have just been to the building where Gee (link) and Dong (link) Live for lunch with Gee and to see the work of Dong (Thawaratt Samardachandra). Dong is a quiet man who studied for 8 years in America. This has influenced his work and allowed him the abstract expression that only a few in this country seem to appreciate. I have been permitted the honor of photographing some of his work; work that takes up seven rooms in the building where he lives. "I wish to make a showing" he says. I wish it too. The Dong Dea Moon Pub and Gallery where I discovered Gee and Dong's work does not have the typical clientele worthy of his tallent. Jong, the owner recognizes this but this is how it is in the art world. As Gertrude Stein wrote, "there is art and there is official art". In Thailand this distinction is more clear.

Jan 21, 2001
Bangkok's version of the DaDa movement is born and I am moved. Having met Gee Douangjan (link), I have been introduced to Thailand's artistic genius.

Gee has brought me to an art/performance opening on the other side of the river. I have been seated next to what seems to be the patriarch of this movement. I am very honored to sit next to the man. People come up and bow to him. I introduce myself and as we drink together, I become welcome in this group of artists, many of whom are so tallented that I am in awe. Clearly, Thailand's emphasis on skill has not been limited to well crafted reproductions. Here I find the individual expression that I have been searching for. In addition to Gee, Dong's work and the work of four other artists are introduced to me. Mr. M.L. Saksin Karsamsun and Ms. Montalee Wichitthanasarn have given me brochures of their work wich I will include on this page when I can. Two other artists, who's name I cannot remember are similarly successful.

Jan 15, 2001
Brettt and I visit Silpakorn University in Bangkok. We are looking for young artists at Thailands number one fine arts collage.

Here Brettt and I discover some wonderful sculpture.

And here we talk to young artists. This fellow is actually a teacher, but we like his work.

Jan 12, 2001
New Years in Pai was a wonderful celebration of charm and boogying. Pai it's self is charming and interesting. Situated high in the northern part of thailand, it is remote but also sophisticated. Visual art is well represented for such a small town. Many of it's residents are artists from Bangkok who've found a place to be "away from it all". Music is even a bigger part of the Pai experience. Tuk, a guitarist who primarily plays in Chang Mai is often found at the Beebop Bar playing Jimmy Hendrix on his guitar and singing with such sole you would think he was channeling. Actually I think he was, but I didn't ask. Goong, formerly from Bangkok was an equally skilled, if not more so, guitarist who studied in Canada. He runs the "Jazz Up Cafe" which serves no food. It's really just a venue for his guitar playing and his playing is good enough to have the place overflowing with regulars and awe inspired tourists every night. Annie and I didn't miss a performance.

At the "All about Coffee" cafe, Annie and I got to know Watcharee, or "Wat" as she tells the westerners. She, her husband and several of their friends are artists from Bangkok who run several of the shops. "All about Coffee" was an exceptional example of functional installation art. The place was a detailed wood structure, refurbished with rustic sophistication. Every bit of furnature had been built by Wat and her husband with hand tools durring the low season. The artwork was hung with quiet precision that reflected their grace and good taste. Across the street was the Tea shop and the Mit Thai boutique that had works by the proprietor. Another Annie that we met was working on making an art gallery wich may be in operation by next October. I had such a wonderful time meeting these people. I hope to have more to report on them later.

Dec 26, 2000
Christmas in Chang Mai was a warm communion of old family and new. Art was even a part of it. A local gallery/studio near our guest house displayed works of local artists intermingled with those from around the globe. The Friend Art Studio and Gallery located on 11/1 Ratchadamnern Rd., Soi 5 T.Sriphoom was indeed friendly and cheap!. The work varied between a classical looking screen five panels wide with cherubs and warriors for $500 to a painting of a budda statue for $25 to a series of bloodshot monster eyeballs. In the back I found an artist whose work is quite good. It is modern sci-fi meets dada. I gave him my card and I may find more about him later.

The highlight of the stay in Chaing Mai was meeting Wanalai "Diew" Indica at her Resteraunt/Boutique/Treking Company called Northern Leaf and located at 19/4-5 Kotchasan near the Tapae gate just outside the old city. The food there was wonderful, her clothing was fabulous and I'm soon to find out how her trek will be. But most importantly, Dien is a warm helpful person who helps a lot of people in her network including an artist she introduced me to. Derek "Kan" Kantawong is a water-color painter whose work is outstanding. He showed me pictures of some of his 150 works and even though I generally don't care much for water colors, all of them were amazing. So amazing I devoted a whole page to him (link).

Dec 13, 2000
My first night in Bankock and I've already managed to find the work of some interesting local artists. A cozy bar in the Banglampoo district playing jazz and serving gin and tonics displayed the art of two graduates of a fine arts program at a near by university. I'll have to provide details later. I'm still recovering from jet lag.

Which, by the way, is the single worst aspect of economy class travel. I did find the perfect concoction, however. It is celebrex and vicadin. Two back pain medications that I found work beautifully together. Unfortunately, they left me in a bit of a buz. Hallucinating in the Hong Kong airport bathroom, I neglected to remember to recover my sachel with my pellet cocktails until I was well fed on the local faire at a popular breakfast joint downtown. Needless to say, It was not to be recovered through airport lost and found.

The local faire is something of an amusement to me and Ann (Brettt will meet up with us later). It seems that breakfast, a delicate blend of ramen, spam and fried egg, is served all day long. Denny's would be wise to pick this tid-bit up.

Yesterday, I paid a visit at the National Gallery where I saw works by Thailand's King. One colorful, modern piece done in 1964 depicting jazz instruments was quite good. Other works were also quite good but most often looked to be mimicking work of the early twentieth century. The currator also seemed to be somewhat haphazard in the display of work and information about pieces and artists was very limited. I did not get a chance to visit the Universities in Bankock before leaving, but I shall return before leaving this wonderful country.