The Buddhist Imagination of Songdej Thipthong
Thawan Duchanee
18 rebruary 2001
Baan Dam, Nang Lae, Chiang Rai

Among young contemporary Thai artists, Songdej Thipthong stands out for his blending of traditional Buddhist themes and modern sensibility. His work possesses a delicacy and depth of feeling which few other painters can match. Above all, Songdej's paintings are an esthetic representation of his abiding interest in Buddhist philosophy.
As a child growing up in Chiang Rai province, Songdej was immersed in the rich artistic heritage of the Lanna culture of northern Thailand. As a university student in Chiang Mai, he began to develop a style of art which reflected this upbringing. Taking as his inspiration the rituals, beliefs, legends and traditional forms of the people of the upper north, Songdej produced paintings that are a crystallization of the spirit of the great Lanna culture of the past. His forms, composition and palette all speak of his artistic lineage. Even at the start of his career, Songdej was an exceptionally observant individual as his depictions of villages, temples, monks'quarters, and stupas attest. His early works are a record of a young, northern Thai artist filled with vigor and already confident of his ability to distill the essence of Lanna art in paintings which, nonetheless, evoke an individual vision.
Driven by his intellectual curiosity and his passion for art, Songdej traveled to Bangkok, where he came in
contact with a wider range of esthetic and creative influences. Enrolled as a graduate student in the Faculty of Painting
Sculpture and Graphic Arts at Silpakorn University, the country's leading art academy, Songdej was exposed to eastern
and western artistic traditions and to the mythologies which inform much of world art. His experiences as a Master's
candidate at Silpakorn gave Songdej rich, new sources of inspiration and further fueled his creative spirit.
As a painter, Songdej Thipthong is neither a novice nor an amateur. He is a seasoned professional whose work has won numerous national awards. He is a man with a strong sense of himself. Today he leads a simple life, surrounded by his family and a close circle of fellow artists and students. Devoting his time and energy to creating works of art for local village temples, Songdej is a humble man with a genuine respect for others and a profound reverence for art.
Songdej's more recent paintings are highly accomplished works of art, evincing a realm of dreams and formlessness which function on a symbolic plane. Through their beauty and the harmony of their composition, the
paintings convey a powerful sense of mystery and tranquility. They are a distillation of life and, as such, offer insights
into truths about the nature of existence. In his temple paintings, the chapels are radiant with light. There are no human
figures, no processions, but the sound of Buddhist chanting seems to hang in the air. Songdej's temples are places of supreme serenity, free of all ostentation which might unsettle the mind of the viewer.
I am confident that Songdej Thipthong will continue to develop as an artist, taking his place one day among
the leading Thai artists of his generation. Schooled in Lanna art and anchored by his study of Buddhist philosophy, Songdej will maintain a clear conception of who he is as a local craftsman and an Important contemporary Thai painter.