“My name is Jakraphan Chaijit. I was born in Chiang Mai on the 4thof May 1971. My father is a wood carver who is famous for his carving skills. I grew up seeing him carve. Other people in my village are also wood carvers. We carve elephant figures and are famous for this kind of carving. When I was young, I looked up to my father. But I thought I did not want to be like him. This is probably the reason why I did not want to study art. What I did not know was that art was my destiny.
“I moved to Bangkok to study. After graduating from high school I enrolled to study engineering but could not pass the entrance exam. I felt as if the world collapsed and was really sad. I started to think about the direction of my life and tried to find what I really loved. I could not think of anything other than wood carving. So I returned home and started to learn with my father. He always wondered why I did not study art since I liked it …
“I studied under my father for about a year. Of course, due to my village customs, I started with elephants but also tried with others styles later. Like my father, I usually used teakwood because it is a soft material that is easily shaped as desired. Then I traveled to Phuket, an island in the south with beautiful beaches. I enjoyed it. I opened a wood carving shop and lived there for 6 years. Then I returned to Chiang Mai.
“After so many years, carving elephant pieces started to be too much for me. So I started experimenting with abstract carvings. One thing led to another and I became interested with painting a few years later. I had never painted before but was fortunate to have good artist friends. They were very helpful. They helped me get the materials and taught me everything. It was during that time that we set up the “Chang Tam Group” – a group of people involved in arts.
“The elephant is an animal linked to many kinds of stories in all societies. In Thailand, the elephant is a symbol of the nation, a white elephant used to be featured on the flag of the country. The relationship Thai people have towards elephants is a deeply spiritual one, with some Thais referring to themselves as elephant offspring in prayers. For me, the elephant is not an animal. It is something deep inside, the soul and spirit that I try to carry out to the world outside.
“Thailand gained some international fame for artworks painted by elephants with their trunks. In 2008 I got the opportunity to train elephants to draw pictures. But instead of me teaching them, it was them who taught me. Some young elephants paint with joyful feelings. The lines they create are so beautiful and innocent, so simple yet so pure … providing much food for thought. They also demonstrate a masterful use of the brush with their trunk, producing fresh, spontaneous, free, determined, powerful, lively yet sometimes soft works of art.
“It was like learning secret tricks from them, and then putting those tricks to use in creating works of art that inspire imagination, produce more diverse kinds of emotions, and have new kinds of visual elements. Imagination, emotions and elements that, in interaction, movement and constant change link the elephant, as a representation of inner experience, to such phenomena, creating comparisons with life bound to the cycles of karma caused by our own actions and the laws of cause and effect, which are the true nature of this world.
“The way I viewed the world and my artworks changed after I became a father. I used to be easy going, relaxed and a bit playful when I was alone. Most of the time, I would not be too serious about things. But after I married, I started to be more serious about things. Our son was born two years later, and the rhythm of my life totally changed. I was not alone anymore and had other lives to take care of. I still do things for myself but I now think of my family and of others first, even before creating my artworks.
“I am very carefully about the things I will pass on to my son. When it comes to my artwork, I do not want to push him on to do it. For this reason I have never taught him to draw or to paint. But he grew up seeing me paint and create my works every day. When he was about 8 years old I realized that he could draw straight lines very quickly. We all wondered in amazement how he could draw that well without having received any training. Anyway, his line of work will be his decision.
“As a Thai person, I come to appreciate being a Thai person among many. I gained determination to create works that reflect unique characteristics of Thainess, use the elephant as a symbol of the value of life and mind, and convey images of inner experiences that have been influenced by both my mindset and societal conditions. My desired to see a society that has only happiness is reflected in my works.
“For my work, I am totally focused on my painting at the moment. This is not for me anymore. It is for others. I think art should lead society in a good direction. It should end the misunderstanding between people and make the world more peaceful, more beautiful. I am determined to continue working in that direction.”
Jakraphan has exhibited his artworks 24 times in Thailand.
Browse Jakraphan’s paintings.
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Text by EZISTOCK © Ezistock Co., Ltd., 2012 – All Rights Reserved.
Image ‘Jakraphan Chaijit’ by EZISTOCK © Ezistock Co., Ltd., – All Rights Reserved.
Other images Jakraphan Chaijit © Jakraphan Chaijit – All Rights Reserved.
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