a travel blog on Bangkok, Thailand and beyond

A tribute to Montien Boonma in Chiang Mai

“Ars longa, vita brevis” – art is long, life is short.

And while some artists are forgotten, some are dearly remembered.

As a Thai who has worked in the art circle as a journalist, I can say that one of the most inspiring Thai artists of all times is Montien Boonma. He was a pioneer of Thailand’s contemporary art. Graduated from Italy and France, he was the one who introduced the “Arte Povera” concept and the atelier approach to this country. For me, his works are very conceptual, meditative and sad in a way. And the more I learned about his life when visiting Montien Atelier, the more I feel sad for him. Although he died in 2000, his ideas and concepts are still found in the works of his disciples and students, the most notable of which is Chiang Mai-based artist Navin Rawanchaikul.

As a tribute to Montien Boonma on the 20th anniversary of his passing, Navin held an exhibition “Departed<>Revisited” on several sites in Chiang Mai. I had a chance to visit part of the exhibition at Wat Umong Temple (Tunnel temple) and I like that a lot. We actually view the pieces in the wrong order (should start with the video in sala to get to know more on the concept) but it doesn’t matter. Wat Umong was where Montien liked to come for solace while he taught at Chiang Mai University. And it is really peaceful and quiet.

Black Question (After Montien Boonma)

For this exhibition, Navin created ‘Black Question’ (After Montien Boonma), a gigantic black structure decorated with Montien’s signature question and exclamation marks. If you go inside, you will hear the classic song Funeral March. Here is where the life stories of Montien and Navin merge together.

Apart from Navin’s work, the exhibition also recreated some of Montien’s iconic works. I was glad I had a chance to see Vipassana-Vessel after all.

Well, after hearing of Wat Umong for so long, it was also my first time here. The architecture is really stunning. And a bit scary for a claustrophobic me.