'The Middle Way:
Christchurch Meets Bangkok, Bangkok Meets Christchurch'

Centre of Contemporary Art, Christchurch, 11 November - 19 December 2003

'The Middle Way: then travelled to Thailand and was shown at the following venues
during 2004 and 2005:

Art Centre, Silpakorn University, Bangkok
Eastern Art Centre, Burapha University, Burapha
Chiang Mai University Art Gallery, Chiang Mai
Thaksiri University Art Gallery, Songkhla

Text: Christopher Moore, The Press, November,12, 2003
Photograhs: Robyne Voyce and David McKenzie

One day in Bangkok, Rudolf Boelee encountered a gallery of extraordinary artworks: creations which fused images and ethics from one of the world's oldest spiritual beliefs with the potency of contemporary art. The impact of that exhibition by these Thai artists never left the Christchurch painter's mind.

Boelee soon began discussing the possibilities of an exchange exhibition between Thailand and New Zealand, initially with the director of the Arts Centre of Bangkok's Silpakorn University, Vichoke Mukhdamanee and later with co-curator Dr. Lertsiri Bovornkitti.The long months of planning, mostly by email, has resulted in a new exhibition, The Middle Way, at Christchurch's Centre of Contemporary Art. Members of the Faculty of Painting, Sculpture and Graphic Arts at Silpakorn University and the faculty of Fine Arts at Christchurch's Design and Arts College of New Zealand will combine forces to cross cultural and geographical boundaries.

Thailand's Buddhist art has been one of the pinnacles of Asian art for centuries: a richly creative expression of faith and devotion; one which combines harmony with subtle textures and forms. In the 21st century, it continues to be a living, evolving force in a country where 95 per cent of Thais are devoutly Buddhist and Buddhism pervades every part of daily life. In the 1980's, Thai art, especially painting entered a new phase, one that went back to religious art of previous centuries, Boelee says. Artists were reinterpreting Buddhism and its iconography to seek a more mature understanding of man's role in the cosmos. In the process they were developing a style of modern art which was unique to Thailand. My most vivid impression of Thailand was experiencing the role that Buddhism plays in all facets of Thai life.

I hope to actively seek involvement from the Thai community to make an exhibition like this a real focus for cultural diversity in Christchurch.The emphasis on a foreign religion like Buddhism might appear strange from a New Zealand perspective but it must be seen as looking for spiritual answers and guidance for many of us in these materialistic times of extreme uncertainty. Boelee says. hopefully it will encourage a closer understanding between two very different cultures.

Works by 10 Thai and New Zealand artists: Vichai Sithiratn, Vichoke Mukdamanee, Saravudth Duangjumpa, Amrit Chusuwan, Panya Vijinthanasarn, Rudolf Boelee, Victoria Edwards , Michael Collins, Ina Johann, Tony Bond, will feature in the exhibition, which Boelee sees as a reinforcement of the city's growing diversity.

The opening ceremony will involve monks from the Wat Buddha Samakhee, the Thai Buddhist centre in Marshlands Road and a long drum dance choreographed by dancer and teacher Sittichai Pornpichayanarak and will be opened by HE Mr. Norachit Sinhanseni, Ambassador of Thailand. The exhibition will then travel to Bangkok in January 2004 where it will open at Silpakorn University's art gallery.

Rudolf Boelee
Thai/New Zealand exchange exhibition initiator, co-ordinator and co-curator