Jim Thompson Life & Legend Thai House & Museum Visitor Information Bangkok's Leading Host Special Events
Bruce Gundersen
At Khun Chang s House
Bruce Gundersen
Meeting in the cotton field
Bruce Gundersen
Slashing Curtains
Kornkrit Jianpinidnan
Kornkrit Jianpinidnan
Hem Vejakorn (b.1903 / 1969, Bangkok)
Khun Chang Khun Phaen Series, Circa 1930s
Pencil on paper
Private Collection
Hem Vejakorn (b.1903 / 1969, Bangkok)
Khun Chang Khun Phaen Series, Circa 1930s
Pencil on paper
Private Collection

The Re-reading Khun Chang Khun Phaen Exhibition is based on a folk tale which gradually developed into an important Siamese literary work. First composed by storytellers during the Ayutthaya period, Khun Chang Khun Paen was revised, adapted and expanded by court poets and authors including Khru Janeg, Sunthorn Phu, King Rama II and Prince Damrong. Recently translated by renowned scholars and social critics, Dr. Chris Baker and Dr. Pasuk Phongpaichit, the English edition is entitled “The Tales of Khun Chang Khun Phaen”. The translation and printing of this work was funded in part by a grant from the James H.W. Thompson Foundation.

According to the translators, “Unlike much old Thai literature which deals with exploits of gods and kings and is often based on foreign originals, the tale of Khun Chang Khun Phaen developed locally, was probably based on a true story and rambles all over the social landscape. Moreover, like epics and sagas which were developed in an oral tradition of repeated interaction between performers and audiences, the tales reflects the value of its society of origin. Hence Khun Chang Khun Phaen is potentially a unique source on social relation and attitudes. However, it is also a complex source because its development passed through two distinct phases, one in local folk tradition, and other in the royal court. Yet this complexity can also be revealing on the contrast of folk and court values.”* Over time, the structure of the Khun Chang Khun Phaen story shifted, and the language used was adapted by different authors from colloquial to more official style. The translators spent seven years researching the background to the tale, finding lost versions, and compiling footnotes to explain words, ideas, things, and practices not well known today.

The exhibition demonstrates that there are multiple layers of subtexts which can be shared with contemporary audiences through various art forms. Rare and extraordinary illustrations by Hem Vejakorn are featured, as well as an illuminated painting by Chakrabhand Posayakrit, a leading neo-traditional artist who drew inspiration from several Thai literary works including Khun Chang Khun Phaen. In contrast to these two artists, Bruce Gundersen reconstructs the myth and legendary characters in digital photography format and Kornkrit Jianpinidnan follows Khun Phaen’s routes around the old capital of Ayutthaya and Suphanburi. Performing artist, Pradit Prasartthong creates a new performance by reinventing Wanthong’s character. In addition, related cultural artifacts such as costumes, films, performances and cartoons are displayed in the exhibit along with the timeline.

*Note: Review article, Taming Women in Khun Chang Khun Phaen, Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit, Legendary Folk epic, Khun Chang Khun Phaen, Sepha, Performance, Power, War, Love, Lust and Tragedy, Walailak University, Nakhon Si Thammarat, 2011

About the participating artists:

Hem Vejakorn
Hem Vejakorn was born on January 17, 1904, at Phrarajavang, Phra Nakorn, Bangkok. The son of M.R. Hun Tinnakorn and M.L. Samrid Phungbun, he spent his early life in residence of his uncle, M.R. Daeng Tinnakorn after the divorce of his parents. While living with his uncle, an architect supervising a team of Italian artist and architects working on the construction of the Anandahsamakom Throne Hall, he had the opportunity to meet Carlo Rigoli. He later became the apprentice of this Italian artist who had been commissioned to do a series of mural painting at the Throne Hall. Rigoli taught Hem how to draw and paint in western style. Hem next set out on an adventurous life working as a tugboat steersman and a steam engine mechanic before becoming a mechanic for construction of the Rama VI dam by the Royal Irrigation Department. After returning to Bangkok, he worked as a textbook illustrator for the Military Text Department, Ministry of Defense. He also played Thai classical instruments in a traditional band at movie theatres, providing the background music for silent films in order to earn extra income. Finding it hard to make ends meet, Hem returned to using his artistic skills and started working as a full-time illustrator of novel covers. At the end of 1935, Hem and his friends opened a publishing house called Ploenchit which printed a popular series of 10-satang graphic novels with his cover illustrations. Hem Vejakorn was married to Chamchuen Komkam, a singer with a Thai classical band at the residence of Prince Anuwatchaturon’s Lanluang Palace. The couple had no children. Hem Vejakorn died on April 16, 1969 at his last residence in Soi Thaksin 1, Thonburi, Bangkok.

Chakrabhand Posayakrit
Son of Chub and Sawangchan Posayakrit, Chakrabhand Posayakrit was born in Bangkok in August, 1943. After graduation from Vajiravudh College, he enrolled to study in the Faculty of Painting, Sculpture and Graphic Arts, Silpakorn University where he received his BFA in Painting. In 2000, Chakrabhand was named a laureate as a National Artist in Visual Arts (Painting). He was chosen as one of the 52 Rattanakosin grand craftsmen to commemorate the auspicious occasion of the Kingdom 200th birthday anniversary. Chakrabhand also served as the private painting instructor to members of the royal family including Princess Ubolrat Ratchakanya and HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. Later, he founded Chakrabhand Posayakrit Foundation at his Ekamai residence with aim to preserve Thai art and cultural heritage by creating a museum and puppet theatre. As an independent artist, Chakrabhand is famous for his elaborately unique and outstanding traditional and contemporary paintings. His works include Buddhist mural paintings at Wat Tritodsathep temple and Wat Khao Sukim temple and sculptures such as the semang and the buffalo boy inspired from King Rama VI’s royal work Sangthong at King Rama VI Monument Park, Samut Songkram. He has also been responsible for the restoration of Hun Wang Na or royal Thai traditional puppets as well as the art of puppetry, and has made puppets based on literature such as the Three Kingdoms and Lilit Talengpai.

Kornkrit Jianpinidnan
Kornkrit Jianpinidnan graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Chiang Mai University in 1999. Since then, he has been pursuing his passion of photography. His first solo exhibition “Neo Romantic” received great attention, establishin his name as one of the most popular young photographers. The exhibition reflected the confusion and despair of the people of his generation in the era of overflow communications and social networking media during the 1990s. His early photography manifested the influence of a spontaneous and dynamic atmosphere that integrated snapshot aesthetic elements making his work a uniquely enticing narration.

Pradit Prasartthong
In 2004, Pradit Prasartthong received the Silpathorn Award from the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture, Ministry of Culture. As a playwright, director and performer, Pradit has created theatre works combining folktales with contemporary content that are both locally and internationally renowned. A former Ma Kham Pom Theatre Group member for more than 30 years, he is one of the founders of the Bangkok Theatre Network (BTN) and has organized the Bangkok Theatre Festival, held annually in November at Banglamphu and other venues all around Bangkok since 2002.

Bruce Gundersen
Bruce Gundersen is an interdisciplinary artist. His collaborative performance art duo Gundersen/ Clark has been included in festivals and contemporary museums in Europe and the United States. His collaborative video work FISHGUN FILMS has documented dance and rituals of Southeast and South Asia. His interest in universal cultural legends and myths is an ongoing creative investigation, inspiring his most recent digital art prints. “Finding my inspiration in the belief systems and vernacular art from the ancient / modern cultures of Southeast Asia, I hope to regenerate them through the modernity of digital arts.” In 2008, he received grants from Asian Cultural Council to work in Asia. He currently lives and works in the U.S. in New York.


Curatorial teams:
Honorary curators:

Dr. Pasuk Phongpaichit obtained her BA and MA from Monash University, Australia, and her PhD from the University of Cambridge, UK. She was Professor of Economics at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok. She has worked as an expert for the International Labour Organization, and as a research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. She has twice been appointed a senior research scholar by the Thailand Research Fund. She was invited to give the Wertheim Memorial Lecture in Amsterdam in 1999, and was named a distinguished alumnus of Monash University. She has been a visiting professor at Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC; University of Kyoto; Griffiths University, Brisbane and the University of Tokyo. She has written widely in Thai and English on the Thai economy, Japanese investment, the sex industry, corruption, and the illegal economies. Her publications include Corruption and Democracy in Thailand (1994), and Guns, Girls, Gambling, Ganja: Thailand’s Illegal Economy and Public Policy (1998).

Dr. Chris Baker who is originally from England, has a PhD from Cambridge University and previously taught Asian history and politics at Cambridge. In 1979, he moved to Thailand and worked in business, but also taught at several universities. He now works as an independent writer, editor and researcher. He edited the pioneer issue of the Thailand Human Rights Journal (2003) and The Society of Siam: Selected Articles for the Siam Society’s Centenary (2004), and co-edited Recalling Local Pasts: Autonomous History in Southeast Asia (2002), and Van Vliet’s Siam (2005). He is honorary editor of the Journal of the Siam Society, and has translated works by King Rama V, Nidhi Eoseewong, Seksan Prasertkul, the Communist Party of Thailand and others.

Together with Dr. Pasuk he wrote A History of Thailand (CUP, 2005); Thailand: Economy and Politics (CUP, 1995; second edition 2002) which won the 1997 national research prize (for the Thai version) and has been published in Japanese. Other works written by the two include Thailand’s Boom and Bust (1998) and Thaksin (2009), which has been translated into four languages. Their articles regularly appear in the Bangkok press, and they have been invited to write editorials for the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. They recently completed the English translation of the Thai epic, Khun Chang Khun Phaen.

The Jim Thompson Art Center Curatorial Team
Gridthiya Gaweewong received her master degree in Arts Administration and Policy from the School of Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, USA in 1996. She has been working in the contemporary art world since 1996. She has served as the artistic director Jim Thompson Art Center since 2007 where she facilitates for new exhibition and heads the curatorial team.

Somsuda Piamsumrit graduated from the Art History Department, Faculty of Archeology, Silapakorn University, Bangkok in 2002. In 2007, she joined the Art Center’s team assisting with the curatorial section and operating educational programs.

Yuwadee Srihuayyod was trained as a visual communication designer at Rangsit University and received her Master Degree in Museum Studies at the Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia, Mahidol University, 2009. She works as part of curatorial team and is also responsible for maintaining the James HW Thompson Foundation archives.

This exhibition is made possible with the support of The James H.W. Thompson Foundation and the Thai Silk Company Limited.

Special thanks : Thai Contemporary Art Museum, Chakrabhand Posayakrit Foundation, National Museum of Supanburi, Thai Film Archive, Kasikorn Bank, Komol Pa Boran, Prae and Saban-nga Textile Museum, Chiangmai

Special Events and Educational Programs:
Re-Reading Khun Chang Khun Phaen Exhibition

Topic: Re-reading Khun Chang Khun Phaen
Speaker: Dr. Chris Baker and Dr. Pasuk Phongpaichit
Date: 13 May 2011
Time: 17.00-17.30 hrs.
Venue: Exhibition Hall
Activity Fee: Free of charge

Dr. Chris Baker and Dr. Pasuk Phongpaichit, honorary curators and also the translators and editors of The Tale of Khun Chang Khun Phaen - Siam’s Folk Epic of Love, War and Tragedy will talk about the book and the exhibition Re-Reading Khun Chang Khun Phaen.

Contemporary Stage Play “The Return of Wanthong”
Director/Performer: Pradit Prasartthong
Date: 28-29 May 2011
Time: 14.00 pm. / 19.30 pm. (two rounds)
Venue: Exhibition Room
Ticket Fee: 350 baht, limited seats.

“The Return of Wanthong” is a stage play which crosses traditional boundaries. The play is based on a classic epic literature reflecting Thai lifestyle in Chao Phraya Basin during the Ayutthaya period. The work was created by people, artists and the court, and has been continuously performed for hundreds of years. Gradually it evolved into a contemporary stage play, although the work still contains sepha* lyrics and ancient music. The play, revised and directed by Pradit Prasartthong, will be presented at The Jim Thompson Art Center.

The performance recounts the story of Phlai Ngam or Muen Wai Woranat who encounters the spirit of his mother Wanthong. She died while he was leading an army to suppress a northern city. There is something from his past memories about her that he cannot erase from his mind. Therefore, he meets the spirit of Wanthong again, although after some time had passed. From this tale the viewer is invited to find out how the return of Wanthong offers a new dimension to contemporary Thai society.

* sepha is a genre of Thai poetic storytelling that had its origins in the performances of troubadours.

Sepha Performance of Khun Chang Khun Phaen on Khun Phaen Abducting Wanthong
Leader: Lecturer Noppakhun Sudprasert (Lecturer of Thai Vocal Music, College of Dramatic Arts), Lecturer Watit Duriangkul (Head of Art and Culture Conservation, Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia, Mahidol University
Date: 11 June 2011
Time: 14:00 – 15:30 hrs.
Venue: Exhibition Room
Ticket Fee: Free of charge

The performance of Khun Phaen Abducting Wanthong is a performance extracted from a sepha performance of Khun Chang Khun Phaen. The most important dance in this series of performances is the Cherd Chin Dance. Performed to a beautiful melody, the work features unique dance poses. The performance and dance poses presented here have been newly created based on the idea that the horse Simok serves as a vehicle. The beauty of performance is the unusual dance poses of all three performers who must relate their gestures and movements to the riding of a horse. Other poses include a flirting posture and three-lantern posture. For the dance to be effective the dancers must be extremely well trained and have similar performing abilities.

Artist Forum: Interpretation of Khun Chang Khun Phaen in Foreigner’s Perspectives
Artist: Bruce Gundersen
Date: 25 June 2011
Time: 14:00 – 15:30 hrs.
Venue: Exhibition Hall
Activity Fee: Free of charge

Bruce Gundersen is an Amercian artist who participates in the exhibition of “Re-Reading Khun Chang Khun Phaen”. He will talk about his artistic process and his interest in the legendary folktales and myth of Southeast Asia.

Topic: Khun Chang Khun Phaen in Modern Media: Re-production and Re-interpretation
Speaker: Lecturer Narongsak Sonjai, Faculty of Liberal Arts, Mahidol University
Date: 30 July 2011
Time: 14:00 – 15:30 hrs.
Venue: Exhibition Hall
Activity Fee: Free of charge

Sepha recitations of Khun Chang Khun Phaen have played an important role in Thai literature since the Ayutthaya period. Today Khun Chang Khun Phaen still remains popular and the story has been reproduced in many forms, including novels, performances, movies and cartoons for children. In addition to demonstrating its popularity, by studying the ways that Khun Chang Khun Phaen has been reproduced in the media, it is possible to gain a perspective and understanding of the attitude of contemporary people towards this Thai literature.

Topic: Kam Paka on Khun Chang Khun Phaen
Speaker: Kam Paka
Date: 24 September 2011
Time: 14:00 – 15:30 hrs.
Venue: Exhibition Hall
Activity Fee: Free of Charge

Kam Paka is an outspoken writer and social critic. She will select certain sections of Khun Chang Khun Phaen and offer comparisons in order to provide a parallel perspectives between lifestyle and women’s roles in Thai society.

For more information and any detail please contact
The Jim Thompson Art Center
Tel: 02 612 6741
Fax: 02 219 2911
E-mail: artcenter@jimthompsonhouse.com