Monday, February 28, 2011

BLACK HOUSE - WHITE TEMPLE: Visions of Two Artists in Chiang Rai

The Black House or Baan Si Dum has been a work in progress for over thirty years. The vision of renowned Thai artist Thawan Duchanee is said to express traditional Thai arts in a contemporary way, each building of the sprawling compound being a display case for the artist's collection of skulls, shells, hides, feats of woodcarving, sculpture and basketweaving among other things.
The black paint of the architecture is striking against the surrounding lush green landscape. While the woodcarvings are exceptional I found that the combination of furniture and decorative objects is what creates its overall raw and powerful impression of virility. The bold silhouettes of black buffalo horn furniture, rugs and partitions made of hides and fur, massive metal blades, oversized thrones, skulls, and numerous phallic sculptures appear as elements of a oneness with nature and also of masculine dominance- two qualities that seem to express traditional Thai idioms. The common tiered bed pillow may have Buddhist origins.
The Black House compound has been my favorite experience of Thai art-And it's definitely off the beaten tourist track. Dramatic and dynamic, Baan Si Dum would make an excellent space for a retreat, a photo shoot, or a wicked good party!
Duchanee's friend Chelermchai Kositpiphat created this wat to embody his vision of heaven. Sculptures of creatures are from the magical Himaphan forest while others express the belief that suffering is necessary to reach heaven, especially in the sea of desperate hands reaching up from the water near the entrance.


  1. Your blog is interesting, has left a great impression.
    Best wishes

  2. Thank you Jonas! I like yours too.