Award Citation

Mr. Thawan Duchanee's activities are not limited to Thailand -- he is known throughout Asia and the world. He works in an original, dynamic genre rooted in a unique perspective of Thai Buddhism. One of the foremost Asian artists, he has won wide acclaim from the general public as well as the art critics.

Mr. Thawan was born in 1939 in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand. He studied at Silpakorn University under the Italian painter, Corrado Feroci, who is known as the father of modern Thai art, and also had the Thai name Silpa Bhilasri. Mr. Thawan went to the Netherlands to study from 1964 to 1968, and became immersed in the tradition and techniques of Western art. After returning to Thailand, the artist devoted himself to an examination of his Thai identity. He then began to explore and reexamine the insanity, degeneration, violence, eroticism, and death lurking in the heart of modern man as they are involved with religion. Mr. Thawan expressed these concepts with a startling technique utilizing a black tone, drawing from the wellspring of traditional Thai Buddhist art and Buddhist thought. His powerful style combines grotesque and erotic human figures that are a composite of animals or insects, and entwined with the Buddha as a saint. This scandalized many people, and his name quickly spread. His form of expression is harshly attacked as blaspheming Buddhism. The reaction has been so severe that some of his exhibitions have been attacked. His reputation, however, gradually improved with the consistent advocacy of leading Thai intellectual Kukrit Pramoj, who claimed "his art is to be understood as giving life to myth" and others. Now the novelty and originality of his paintings are widely recognized.

Mr. Thawan has frequently held solo exhibitions in Western countries, Asia, and Australia, starting with 1974 exhibition in West Germany and Great Britain. These met with an overwhelmingly positive response, solidifying his reputation and fame. The artist painted many gigantic murals from 1980s to 1990s, which were very popular among the public. He also created exceptional works in several other artistic fields. He has developed his abilities in architecture and as a master sculptor, using a sense of design that incorporates an original creativity with traditional Thai Buddhist architecture.

Mr. Thawan brings to his creations an unending tenacity, energy, and rich talent. He is indeed a master of modern Asian art who has created a uniquely Asian artistic expression. With his capacity and performance that have shocked the world, Mr. Thawan Duchanee is a deserving choice as the laureate of the Arts and Culture Prize of the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes.