“My name is Rawat Vongla. I was born on December the 28th, 1972 in Udon Thani, in Isarn – the north-east region of Thailand. It is in this region that I grew up in the bosom of a modest farmer family, with five brothers and sisters.
“My interest in art began during primary school, where teachers noticed my gift for painting. As my parents were poor, my teachers paid with their own money to offer me the colors I needed to paint. They entered my works in contests that were often awarded with prizes and medals. It is then that my parents realized that the Isarn fields had lost a child but that art had adopted one. They allowed me to continue in the path I had chosen and gave me their blessing.
“I later studied art and design and finally graduated with a degree in design from Rajamangala University of Technology in Chiang Mai. Immediately afterwards, in the early 90s, I entered the workforce as a freelance consultant. I would decorate interior, develop products and design packaging.
“Although business was thriving, I did not enjoy this type of work and started to actually get bored. I was not feeling really free and my imagination often clashed with customers’ needs and business imperatives. I looked deep inside myself to find what really mattered. I just liked leading a peaceful life and most of all I loved painting. So in 1997, I decided to stop the consulting job and begin my artistic career.
“I am not a native of Lanna (northern region of Thailand), but I slowly became an adopted son. After having lived years in this beautiful region, it is here that I have finally decided to settle down definitely. So, after some difficult times, I settled down around Mae Rim, a nice little town located several kilometers north of Chiang Mai. My studio is small but big enough to paint and to house many paintings, various in themes and sizes.
“I have always been mostly inspired by spiritual and religious themes. I honor Buddha, the Dharma, and everything that relates to Buddhism. It also allows me to express my faith and beliefs. When I paint these themes, I feel so focused and calm.
“These days, I am also inspired by Lanna girls and by their beauty, tenderness and innocence. I paint them realistically but with backgrounds and settings that could be imaginary. I incorporate architectural and decorative elements from distant places in Thailand. I also like to convey in them the good life of a time that is gone. Not that I am a backward-looking artist. I just try and blend the worlds of today and yesteryear in a subtle and harmonious way.
“We have inherited arts and culture from our ancestors. It has given us a unique identity. However, with globalization, the modern world is changing fast. Young people worldwide embrace the modern Western culture. Ancient traditions and culture have become outmoded. Nobody seems to notice that our artistic and cultural heritage could someday become something of the past. It is possible to embrace the modern world without forgetting our past, our ancestors and where we come from. I do not want us Thai people to lose our traditional values and our cultural identity. This is a source of inspiration for me, and I try to convey these values in my paintings.
“However, inspiration can also come from life, the power of nature and people themselves. In my case, it was a young disabled girl who loved my paintings, who reinforced my desire to paint and live. This girl one day stopped in front of one of my works, it was a painting depicting a Buddha image in the misty mountain. She stood there, silent. She then turned to me and told me that she was happy and very impressed because she had for a moment forgotten her disability.
“It was for me a revealing moment … a beautiful moment of generosity, compassion and altruism. I was really moved and it was with emotions that I gave to her the painting. Following this moment, I set up with other artists an association for disadvantaged children. We teach them art, painting and various aspect of life. We also provide them with books and materials for them to study at school. As a Buddhist saying goes ‘It is by giving more that you shall receive more.’ I know we all can do better in every aspect of life.”
Browse Rawat’s paintings.
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Text by Thannaree C. © Ezistock Co., Ltd., 2011 – All Rights Reserved.
Images by Rawat Vongla © Rawat Vongla – All Rights Reserved.
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