Still on his scooter

NATIONAL ARTIST Inson Wongsam has been creating art for most of his 84 years, and last weekend he celebrated his birthday by opening a grand exhibition, “The Never-ending Scooter Journey”, at Temple House Lamphun Gallery and at his residence-cum-museum, Dhamma Park and Gallery.

The house alone holds more than 20,000 paintings and sculptures created since 1960. Another 31 are on view at Temple House, dating from 1960 through 2012.

Inson opens his home-studio, Dhamma Park and Gallery, to visitors every weekend.

In both places, the continuing birthday party is also a celebration of Inson’s powerful use of colour, his adherence to Buddhist philosophy and the result of that – his evident peace of mind.

“I do my art every day, in the morning,” he told The Nation at the opening of the show at Temple House. “Art is not my work, but my life. 

“I still do all the painting by myself. For the wood sculptures, I do sketches and send them to my team to execute. My inspirations come from my long experience – the 50-plus years of my working life.”

“Out of Space”, an oil on canvas with gold and silver leaf, catches the eye at Temple House Lamphun, which is cohosting Inson Wongsam’s exhibition “The Neverending Scooter Journey”.

Inson developed diverse interests – in painting, woodcuts and sculpture – while studying the fine arts at Silpakorn University from 1955 to 1961. On graduation, he travelled around the country, making 75 sketches. Of these, he sold 69 to the Tourist Organisation of Thailand magazine, earning Bt30,000.

“With that money I planned to go learn more about art in Italy, which is the homeland of my revered professor, Silpa Bhirasri. I could have flown, but I chose a more challenging path – travelling by scooter, all the way from Bangkok to Italy – which I did in 1963.”

“Do the best you can not to waste anything” and “Live in the Moment” are on show at Temple House.

He set off with a friend, but when they reached India, the friend decided to turn back, and Inson continued the odyssey alone.

Along the way he did more sketches and paintings and sold them to cover costs. A year and a half later, he was in Italy, where he spent three months studying art. Then he did the same in France for another year, and finally settled down in France to work for two more years. 

“After my three years in France, I wanted to go to the US,” Inson said, but he had trouble raising the money. 

“I could only sell one woodcut painting. I had collectors, but they always wanted me to discount the prices. I decided to leave everything behind rather than selling it to the collectors. 

“So I had only $1 when I arrived in the US!”

A sculpture in wood at Dhamma Park.

He padded out that dollar well enough to spend eight years in America, designing jewellery and creating more art, and then finally it was time to go home.

“When I came back to Lamphun, my hometown, I stayed in the woods in Pasang district and sculpted tree roots. I was living on Bt10 a day. 

“I also tried to grow a million chilli plants in the forest and reckoned I’d get Bt1 million for them, but there was a drought that year and all the plants died. I realised I was born to be artist, not a farmer.” 

Inson used the heel of his foot to make this oil painting.

In his younger years, working every day, Inson could produce 15 pieces a day on average. At age 84, he’s still doing two paintings a day, as well as the sketches for his sculptures. 

Inson used the heel of his foot to make this oil painting.

The exhibition “The Never-ending Scooter Journey” continues until December 10 at Temple House Lamphun, 102 Intayongyos Road, Muang district. It’s open Wednesday to Monday from 7am to 7pm. Call (065) 056 9839.

Find Dhamma Park and Gallery at 109/2 Moo 1 Baan Pasang Noi, Baan Pan, Muang Lamphun. It’s open weekends from 10am to 4pm and free to visit. Call (053) 521 609 or (089) 434 5743.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Translate This Page »