Thai artists find new ways to get political

Thu Oct 9, 2008 1:10am EDT
 
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By Chawadee Nualkhair

BANGKOK (Reuters Life!) - Crocodile-headed politicians spewing promises of wealth. Jackals wearing business suits and military uniforms. Lizards sharing a romantic moment in front of assembled members of parliament.

The figures who populate the strikingly colorful paintings by Vasan Sittikhet leave no doubt as to where the irascible artist's sympathies lie.

A tireless critic of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the 50-year-old has drawn on years of fighting what he sees as injustice to become one of Thailand's best-known political artists.

"As a citizen we have a responsibility to society. I am a citizen," the raspy-voiced painter said at a rally for the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which has vowed to continue its protests until all vestiges of Thaksin's influence on Thai politics are erased.

Although he has an exhibition in October, Vasan has spent the past 108 days rallying against what he refers to as "the bastard government" led until recently by Samak Sundaravej, who was sacked by the courts for a television cooking show.

Unlike many Thais who see art as a form of expression above social or political commentary, Vasan is among a handful of painters who use their work to protest against what they see as contemporary wrongs.

Their problem is that few curators are keen to show confrontational art in the self-styled "Land of Smiles."

"There are no galleries devoted to political art," said Pakorn Klomkliang, exhibition manager at the Queen's Gallery, which he acknowledges shies away from "sensitive" subjects.   Continued...