Bangkok, Wat Kalayanamitr

March 19, 2013

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A4 Laloran 120g sketchbook, graphite pencil

I have a long-standing habit of emphasising contrast in my on-location urban sketching, most often a contrast between the “current timeframe” (what I observe when I’m drawing) and the ‘timeframe’ when the building was first built, an “idealised” or “sanitised” version of the building and street. Generic or idealistic views are reminiscent of book illustration or architectural drawing; anything extraneous or denoting a specific timeframe is removed. I situate a building or streetscape in “present” time;  I tend not to delete power lines and other aspects of contemporary life which traditional artists delete in the name of “neat” composition.  I “adjust” very little on the page compred to what I am looking at. It is of course risky and brave; Art is supposed to lift our spirits rather than represent exactly what we see. But some artists have painted scenes exactly as they have seen them; Rembrandt sketched windmills, for example, as innovative and new then as windfarms are now.

Here I abandoned the idea of using watercolour for the various traditional orange/white/red/green tile patterning of the roof and instead made it interesting by the inclusion of the cars in the public sala or courtyard. In a lot of Bangkok wat, these public areas are open areas with seating, often with examples of bodhi trees (Wat Pho’s dates from Ayutthaya times). These days, small or large sections of public area are set aside for car-parking.  I’ve not seen (yet) any photographs of wat sala before cars came along. I imagine that after the next Oil Crisis, we’ll return to a time when cars won’t be parked in these areas to the same extent they are now. I’ve certainly “dated” my sketch to the early 21st century, before Bangkok got Really Serious about environmental issues and climate change.

Wat Kalaya is prominent because of its unusual height; it stands out on the western, “undeveloped” side of Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River. You can see that from this view taken of the western riverfront while crossing the Memorial Bridge. At far left, the “Steel Fence” wat, then to the right, a prominent red-roofed government building; further to the right, the Old Kadeejeen community facing on to the river, then the very Western Church of Santa Cruz, finishing with the Wat Kalaya. I guess it’s probably possible to walk this entire distance in half an hour (walking quickly and without stopping!).

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This is the last of my Bangkok sketches. I took some additional photos of things and scenes which are sketchable and/or because the surrounding environment made them impossible to sketch on-site.

My three separate sketchbooks (one done from photos before travelling; a small one for thumbmails and an A4 for long poses) are all half-full. I’ll continue to add to them over time because there are so many aspects of the city to continue to research. I have come away from Bangkok with more questions about what I was sketching than answers; this is one of the key problems to travel, but the idea of “journey” continues independent of actually being in the city.

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