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Fua Haripitak; You make me like a womanizer and a walking mourner at the same time.

🇹🇭 ภาษาไทย

In October 1954, Fua, age 44, held a letter of recommendation from Prof. Silp Bhirasee in his hand tightly while he was crossing the large ocean from Thailand to Italy. He was about to pursue his study at the Royal Society of Rome. In the letter, there was a brief and simple introduction indicating that he was an unparalleled artist in Siam. This was enough for him to enter the legendary art institute of the world although Fua did not possess any art degree before.

After being exposed to an unfamiliar Roman Art Style and fresh derived knowledge, Fua had expressed his impression of Italy, the land of spaghetti and pizza, on the canvas with his style. His swift brush stroke with fresh-squeezed paint in an impressionism style allowed the paints to flow and mix freely on the canvas. His internal feeling was exerted by his unique sense of independence. The painting revealed a dazzling combination of pumpkin-oranged buildings, pinkish grassland, and blue ladies. This could contrast the real perception of the place. Apart from impressionism painting, Fua created cubism art that breaks each part of the picture through angles and lines. He could be the firstest of the Thai artists who skillfully applied western art techniques to his painting.

Initially, Fua had received a one-year scholarship from the Italian Government, but his progress was far better, so his institute decided to grant him another year’s scholarship. During his time in Italy, Fua worked so hard to create his artwork doggedly. He spent his trivial earnings on good-quality art supplies rather than food. His basic food was a boiled carbohydrate diet with salt that could crave his starving stomach. He never visited any cafe, nor restaurant as he wanted to save money to buy the art supplies. Despite living on a shoestring, Fua didn’t feel empty because art was his life. Unlike other people including me, if we didn’t have pizza, pasta, or gelato, we would show a tantrum on the floor like a spoiled kid.

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When Fua exhibited the artworks creating during his time abroad, those paintings amazed the society and Thai contemporary art circle tremendously. He also fetched a gold medal he did in Italy from the National Art Competition in 1957 without sweating. If he had continued to create art in an international style (western style), it would have been easy for him to become a wealthy artist that was acknowledged globally. Nonetheless, it didn’t seem that he would like to enjoy his fame that way. Fua abruptly shut his door to the western world and turned himself to preserve the Thai traditional art in the old ruined temples. He roamed around Thailand to duplicate the dilapidated traditional paintings on the temples’ walls that were left uncared.

His decision caused a huge headache to Prof. Silp Brirasri who sent him abroad. Prof. Silp opposed Fua to change his way to preserve traditional art for fear that it would be a loss for the Thai contemporary art circle. Despite loads of lamentation, Prof. Silp understood Fua’s devotion to Thai art, so he admired and gave his handsome support to Fua to continue his preservation.

All his lifetime, Fua had duplicated more than ten thousand traditional paintings in the ancient temples around Thailand. Besides, he worked as a lecturer at Silpakorn University to produce a large number of quality graduates whom he raised their awareness of the loss of the miraculous Thai legacy. This endangered art had been overlooked for a long time as a lot of people are likely to enjoy modern civilization.

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Many keen collectors recommended that if I want to have a perfect collection of Thai modern art, Fua’s oil paintings were not to be missed although his oil paintings were barely scarce in the market. This is because his oil paintings were regarded as the top crown jewels of the Thai modern art circle. He spent a very brief time on oil painting. This could dampen my hope of owning them as the price could be untouchable and there would be many collectors searching for his painting relentlessly. As far as I know, the paintings’ owners were tenacious of Fua’s paintings. Moreover, there were heaps of counterfeits in the markets, too. Therefore, I didn’t need to be nervous on the hunt for his painting, just leave it to my destiny. If the painting is mine, it’s mine.

My dream gradually came true while I was talking about Fua’s painting during dinner with my relatives. He, finally, told me about his collection of Fua’s oil paintings. Surprisingly, there was no sign to tell me about his belongings despite having meals together regularly. He let his men carry the oil paintings to show me from his secret chamber. The paintings of Italian scenic views with heavy mist upon the ground depicted the sense of the winter over there. His swift strokes were his signature. That collection can be counted as one of the most favorable amulet sets because this has been published on several of Fua’s prospectus, but the real one in front of me was awesome. This dragged me throughout the time and place to the actual place with the surrounded freezing coldness of the winter for a while.

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After gaining my consciousness, I took a close look at the painting until my nose almost touched it. This was because I wanted to keep every single inch of detail in my memory. Apparently, the price tag ‘3,000 THB’ at the back of the painting was so striking that I misunderstood that it could be the frame price. As far as I know, the recent price of the painting was far beyond 3,000 THB. Therefore, I asked the owner, my relative, about the mysterious number. An amazing story started here. Dated back to the old-time, he used to operate an art gallery business named ‘Hor Kwan’ where he met Fua Haripitak introduced by Uab Sanasen, the formidable artist. Uab was Fua’s student. Until the last exhibition day, several oil paintings couldn’t be sold out. My relative extended his generosity by paying for all of those painting with an average price of around a few thousand THB each, so the price tag of ‘3,000 THB’ was for the painting and a frame included. Since he bought several paintings, he generated them for his friends and cousins. Everyone got one or two of the paintings each. They didn’t have any idea what the price of the painting would be skyrocketed in the future.

Nonetheless, he thought that to give Fua’s painting to me without any cost could be unreasonable, or it would be better if he gave me real estate or a car that was far cheaper than the painting. Hence, he recommended me to visit his friend who was a well-known collector. Perhaps, he would get some Fua’s paintings from the dark corners of his home. A few days later, I made an appointment to see him at his place in the Sukhumvit area. He was very kind and gave me a warm welcome. As well as this, he told me a lot of stories as he had been involved in the art circle for ages, longer than my relative. When he got older, he decided to fade away from the art circle. Nevertheless, his collection was awe-inspiring because those paintings were created by eminent masters in Thailand. For example, the portrait of King Rama the 9th by Chamras Khietkong was also included in his collection along with a pond of water lilies by Thawee Nandhakwang, the graceful fighting of the eagles by Thawan Dutchanee during his youth, and a messily smeared color pencil painting of an Indian scenic view by Fua.

After fulfilling my heart by wandering around the place, I asked the owner whether he had some of Fua’s oil paintings or not. He nodded his head and led me to his storage where he kept two oil paintings of nude ladies whose bodies were light-blue with red nipples. I couldn’t believe that I could see them with my bare eyes. I needed to do the double-takes like someone striking my head heavily. The nude paintings by Fua were one of the rarest items, multiple times rarer than the scenic views. To my surprise, I didn’t understand why he kept these high-valued paintings secretively; why he didn’t reveal them to the guests. He abruptly replied that he didn’t want to be viewed as a womanizer, especially when he’s getting old. Thus, I asked him whether I would be good enough to be the next womanizer after him if he allowed me to. He smiled kindly.

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After receiving those two oil paintings, I sent them to an art restoration shop to clean and coat the pigment carefully as if the mother looks after her son. I think it would be the mercies Fua extended to me from heaven, so I was able to get his artworks coincidently. When the time was flying, I felt suspicious whether the paintings I got were forgery or not, so I started investigating them. I went to see many art experts and Fua’s family and got useful information because they showed me copious evidence pieces: prospectus and old photos, etc. This time, I learned about the models, places, periods, and prior owners of the paintings.

The more I researched, the more excited I felt. This is because I have been introduced to many people who shared something in common. We admired the contribution that Fua extended to the Thai art circle. Meanwhile, Singapore National Museum came to buy several of Fua’s artworks excessively to exhibit at their museum. Spontaneously, I called Fua’s heirs and other collectors to consult about the publication of a bi-lingual color book of Fua’s artworks. After several meetings had been done, the plan of publishing this book just started. The exhibition of a complete set of Fua’s artworks was held to broaden the chance for Thai people and foreigners to appreciate his artistic skills in both contemporary art and Thai traditional art. Moreover, he has been remembered as a venerable man who dedicated his life and time to society as he produced artworks for art and he didn’t expect any return from art until his last farewell.

Regarding his credo, Fua said that ‘I create my artwork with my passion, piety, and honesty, not for earning. I do create art in the search for the inner truth and delicacy hidden under the Dharma state.’ Frankly speaking, I was sobbing after I had heard his statement. Before walking out of my home and past his nude painting, I pressed my hands together on my chest and bowed my head to pay respect to the paintings with a bunch of tearful tissues in my hands.

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