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Upa-in, Lawan (1935--) By Baker, Catherine

DOI: 10.4324/9781135000356-REM849-1
Published: 09/05/2016
Retrieved: 23 March 2019, from
https://www.rem.routledge.com/articles/upa-in-lawan-1935

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Abstract

Thai artist Lawan Upa-in was the first female student to be granted a Bachelor of Arts in painting at Silpakorn University—where she studied in the Faculty of Painting, Sculpture, and Graphic Arts—becoming well known in a field that was, at the time, entirely dominated by men. Professor Silpa Bhirasri (born Corrado Feroci), the so-called father of Thai modern art, mentored Upa-in, who became well known for her work in portraiture. She was offered a teaching position at Silpakorn prior to her graduation, and initial commissions from the Thai royal family helped to develop her reputation as an artist. Her style is influenced by the Western art traditions taught by her mentor; however, while her portraits maintain aspects of photo-realism, other works divert from this style to include narrative elements reflecting the political turmoil in Thailand.

Thai artist Lawan Upa-in was the first female student to be granted a Bachelor of Arts in painting at Silpakorn University—where she studied in the Faculty of Painting, Sculpture, and Graphic Arts—becoming well known in a field that was, at the time, entirely dominated by men. Professor Silpa Bhirasri (born Corrado Feroci), the so-called father of Thai modern art, mentored Upa-in, who became well known for her work in portraiture. She was offered a teaching position at Silpakorn prior to her graduation, and initial commissions from the Thai royal family helped to develop her reputation as an artist. Her style is influenced by the Western art traditions taught by her mentor; however, while her portraits maintain aspects of photo-realism, other works divert from this style to include narrative elements reflecting the political turmoil in Thailand.

After accepting a commission to paint a portrait of Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn in 1973 (Thailand’s contentious military dictator from 1963–1973), Upa-in was accused of being a right-wing tyrant (Upa-in repeatedly denied these claims). In 1976, following rumours of her involvement in a performance art piece staged by Thammasat University students protesting the return of the exiled Kittikachorn, she was accused of being a communist. Days later, the protest triggered a violent massacre of students by right-wing militants and government forces. Upa-in revisited the tumultuous effects of her country’s political unrest in later works, including her 1993 painting, Why?, in which she re-examines her experience of the 1976 massacre.

Upa-in began teaching at Silpakorn prior to her graduation and it was only in 2012, at the age of seventy-six, that she retired from teaching due to poor health. For over forty years Upa-in has exhibited extensively in Thailand, winning numerous prestigious national art prizes and holding a number of retrospective solo exhibitions. Recently she has held retrospectives of her work at Silpakorn University’s Art Centre and The Queens Gallery in Bangkok.

Further Reading

  • National Gallery of Thailand (2013) Nitthasakan Chitwit lae Phonngan: Ajan Lawan Upa-In (An Exhibition of Life and Works: Lawan Upa-In), National Gallery of Thailand.

  • Poshyananda, Apinan (1992) Modern Art in Thailand in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Singapore: Oxford University Press.

  • Rama JX Art Museum (n.d.) Lawan Upa-in. Online. Available http://rama9art.org/lawan/index.html (accessed May 1, 2015 ).

  • Silpa Phirasri National Museum . Online. Available http://www.nationalmuseums.finearts.go.th/thaimuseum_eng/silpa/history.html (accessed May 1, 2015 ).

  • Wenin, Samila (2013) “There by the Grace of Art: Portrait Artist Lawan Upa-in Lives the Life of Art amidst Political Turmoil,” Bangkok Post . Online. Available http://www.bangkokpost.com/print/330458/ (accessed May 1, 2015 ).

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Published

09/05/2016

Article DOI

10.4324/9781135000356-REM849-1

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Citing this article:

Baker, Catherine. "Upa-in, Lawan (1935--)." The Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism. : Taylor and Francis, 2016. Date Accessed 23 Mar. 2019 https://www.rem.routledge.com/articles/upa-in-lawan-1935. doi:10.4324/9781135000356-REM849-1

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