While looking for things to do and see in Chiang Mai, I had the greatest fortune of coming across the Wattana Art Gallery. Located in a cozy part of town behind bright green banana trees and luscious floral is a studio gallery designed and owned by Thai artist Wattana Wattanapun.
Wattana has filled the incredible three-floor gallery with hundreds of his pieces created during a span of decades. There's no such thing as curating for Wattana--every piece is exquisite and what cannot fit on the walls of his gallery simply hang on the walls of his living room and kitchen instead. Since he lives next door to the gallery, he was available to meet my friend and me for a personal tour of his artwork. Entrenched in each masterpiece is so much detail, thought and history that it's hard to believe one man could have created all of it. Wattana, a true teacher, explained some of our favourite pieces to us while also giving us the opportunity to draw conclusions and answer his thought-provoking questions. Whether he's emulating traditional Thai textiles thread by thread with acrylic paint or creating powerfully swift brush strokes to outline a woman's body, nothing Wattana paints is by coincidence. Each line, shape and colour has meaning in the story of Wattana and the story of Thailand.
Of all the things I did in Thailand, this was without a doubt my favourite. I could not believe I was conversing with an artist of his skill and experience with such candor. Further, we made a connection with Wattana that day that prompted him to invite us back a couple days later for lunch. I got to show him some of my own work, learn about Buddhist art as we toured the temples, see his private studio, play his piano and get more inspired than I've ever been in my life. There are so many un-pictured moments that live only in our memories, making them much more special and begging me to visit Thailand again to keep them alive. I hope one day to be able to take Wattana up on his offer and return to Chiang Mai to learn and practice techniques in his studio.
To learn more about Wattana and his work, visit www.wattana-art.com.