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The Mother and Child Reunion


By Chamnongsri Hanchanlash


Chumsai's painting ,



 

Remarkable show unites SeaWrite poetry winner and artist

Saksiri Meesomsueb with-of all people-his mother

 

An artist left his tubes of acrylic colours lying around. His mother, aged 69, picked them up and amused herself by daubing them on pieces of white paper to create pictures of flowers and landscapes. The son, seeing the mother systematically squeezing the tubes as flat as if rolled over by a ten-wheel truck, decided to buy more paint and paper to keep her entertained, taking care not to instruct or to criticize.


That was how it all began.


Some three years later, an art exhibition with an unpretentious charm opened at Suan Pakkard Palace last Saturday, February 12, under the name A Poet and His Mother.


That is because the son, Saksiri Meesomsueb, happens to be the well-loved rural schoolteacher whose collection of short poems, That Hand is White, won the prestigious SEA (Southeast Asian) Write Award for Poetry in 1992.


That Hand is White's cover


I can well remember being drawn to the vivacity of the covers of that award-winning volume enliven as they were by the poet-artist’s visual expression of the poetry that filled the pages inside. The substance of “That Hand is White” is the eye view of the rural, and in some cases exploited, children of the northern central plain as they look at the world around them. Saksiri’s gentle sense of humor combined with his use of childlike words in lyrical but convention-defying verses gave the poems a quality of freshness that conveyed hidden questions and, now and then, a nagging social guilt to jaded adults who had somewhere mislaid the lucidity of a child’s vision.


No longer a school teacher, the slight-framed, waif-like bachelor happens also to be a composer of children-oriented songs. He lives a simple life in a modest house-on-stilts which he built with his own hands on a flood-prone river bank in rural Chumsaeng, a yet-unsophisticated district of Nakorn Sawan Province that lies some 250 kilometers north of Bangkok. His mother, Chumsai Meesomsueb, also a former schoolteacher, often visited him here, travelling from her own home in nearby Chainat.


It was on one of her longer stays with Saksiri, the second of her four children, that she took up the new hobby which she found to be as pleasant as the tranquil river that flowed by her son’s house and fed all the shady trees. The mother-and-son exhibition was the son’s idea upon seeing that the she had produced more than a hundred acrylic paintings.


Chumsai and Saksiri ,



I found Saksiri to be unashamedly proud of his mother’s blossoming into the world of art. In my short conversation with him about the exhibition, he said almost nothing about his own paintings but kept talking about hers with unmistakable smiles of pride in his voice.


His new poem “Parp Kong Mae” (Mother’s Pictures) began with a description his struggles to put the boundless realities of what he saw on the limited space inside the frames of his canvass, also the frustrations of mental questionings and technical analysis as to why he could not harness the nuances of shadows and light. Exhausted he carried his equipment back to his house to find his mother serenely painting away on the shaded bench outside the front door. Unlike him, she simply filled her paper with whatever she wanted to put on it at that particular time.


Chumsai's paintings


Chumsai’s exhibited works are all the same in size, all acrylic, all rendered on white paper. They betray her lack of expertise as well as technique - she is obviously not too familiar with the rules of perspectives that are taught in art schools.


But, somewhat like the self-taught French artist douanier Henri Rousseau who discovered his art in his forties, Chumsai’s shortcomings brought with it a sense of immobility that invites the beholders’ eyes to rest on the whole work a long moment or so before absorbing details that seem to sink softly into an almost dreamlike stillness.


There the similarity ends.


While Rousseau’s surrealism touches hidden cords in which fascination is edged with an elusive fear of the unexplored, the Thai septuagenarian’s serene attempts at realism are far less psychologically complicated because they simply communicate her own peace of mind and her acceptance of the natural orders of things. Hers is an acceptance that has nothing to do with resignation but enriched with kindness together with a paradoxical blend of innocence and maturity.


I confess to being captivated by the serenity of her works when my eyes took in the violets, greens, yellows of her landscapes where roads pushed up into the blue skies, where unruffled rivers laze between kindly rocks and lush green banks on which campers put up their red, orange and purple tents, and where straight-gazing ducks hung in the totally transparent air.



Chumsai and Saksiri ,


Chumsai’s flowers are bright and colorful with the same simplicity, freshness and placid immobility as those of her landscapes – it doesn’t matter whether they are in the grassy fields or staring at us from invisible vases. They probably bear some resemblance to the artificial flowers that she used to teach her students to make at a woman’s vocational college where she spent a few years in the course of her teaching career, or to those real ones that she used to help arrange for funeral rite at temples in Chumsaeng and Chainat.


Though the flowers charm me less than the landscapes, I could not pass them without giving them a grin like one sometimes does to happy children playing at being serious.


Far more vivid and vivacious are the works of her son. Where the mother’s paintings are characterized by their untroubled clarity, her son’s veritable plays of tropical light and bright shadows. Where hers are placid and immobile with smooth unhurried lines, Saksiri’s is filled with movement – his strokes are spirited almost to the point of impatience.


One can feel Saksiri’s fascination with the strong scintillating light of the tropical sun which he communicates through burning shades of red, orange and yellow which are at their most dramatic when biting into shadows of purple, indigo and black. Light for him is a challenge to be grappled with and captured with the pigments on his canvas – captured but far from tamed. Not so for his mother, for her light is there to bathe and illumine the sky, the trees, mountains, flowers and, of course, those rivers and roads, a few of which looked like a smooth branch growing down from the sky.


A sizeable number of Saksiri’s canvasses feature tree-lined country roads or pathways through leafy woods. One can almost feel underfoot the rough uneven surface of these sun-speckled unpaved ways that lead, one feels, to somewhere positive though the destinations lie somewhat beyond the canvass. This artist’s paintings, like his poetry and his songs, are artistic channels for his unfeigned optimism and salubrious love of life that make any roughness experienced on the chosen roads worthwhile. Even the leafy shadows on the paths are bright and full of life, and the scarlet heat of the sun seems somehow to hold hope for a cooler dusk.


The poet is, without doubt, a skilful artist with a passionate love for his local environment. His mother is a technically naïve artist and a lovable person who has come to terms with life possibly through the serenity and the wisdom gained from her years of daily Buddhist meditation practice. Both have more than physical eyes for colors.


Sophisticated art connoisseurs who visit “A Poet and His Mother” may find faults where technical ingenuity and innovations are concerned, but it would be hard to come away from it without a comfortable feeling of warmth and love in their hearts.

 

Saksiri Meesomseub :Poet


Born September 23, 1957 Chainat Province north of the Central Plain, Saksiri spent his childhood and completed his secondary education in the neighboring Nakorn Sawan Province.


From1972 to 1977 he studied at the famous Poh Chang School of Art and had the opportunity to study art, literature and philosophy from Chang Sae Tang, one of Thailand’s most significant poet-artists.


In 1978 Saksiri became a teacher in the Ministry of Education, and in 1981, he graduated with a Bacholor Degree in Art Education from Phra Nakorn Teachers College .


While teaching in a rural school in Nakorn Sawan, three books of poetry – Tukata Roi Sai (Doll-Print in the Sand), Kon Soi Dao (The Man Who Plucks Stars) and Mue Nan Si Kao (That Hand is Whites) were published in 1983, 1985 and 1988 respectively. In 1992, his song album “Kiew Koi” (Linking Little Fingers) appeared.


One year after receiving the 1992 S.E.A. WRITE AWARD for poetry, he resigned from government service to pursue his three loves - Art, Literature and Music.


Exhibition of Saksiri’s paintings, “Changed Perspectives”, was held at Na Bangkok Gallery in 1995, the same year as his first collection of short stories “Ta Tung Ta Terng”. A new collection of poetry “Kor Por Jai Yak Ja Hai Rak Nak Na” (Happy to be Very Much Loved) followed in 1998.


At present, he lives, writes, paints and composes songs at 39 Mu 5, Tambon Tha Mai, Ampur Chumsaeng, Nakorn Sawan Province in a little house which he named “Kiew Koy Hut by River Yom”. His hobbies including reading while lying on a homemade hammock and sweeping leaves.


Awards:


In1992, “Mue Nan Si Khao “ won the acclaimed S.E.A. WRITE AWARD.

In 1999, Saksiri’s songs for the children television series, “Thung Tharn Tawan” (Sunflower Meadow) won the Golden Pikanetr Award.

The most prized memory from his younger days is the “Kru Paoe” Prize for elementary teachers for his “Bot Glon Rueng Nok” (A Verse On Birds).


The most prized art award was the box of colors he received from his secondary school art teacher.


Chumsai Meemomseub : Mother


Chumsai Meesomseub was born April 5, 1929 in Chainat province. Married to Boonlue Meesomseub, she is a mother of four children, of whom Saksiri is the second.

This exhibition marks Chumsai official debut as an artist-at the age of 71.


A graduate of Woman ???? College in Chainat, She began teaching at an elementary school, Chainat Five years later, together with her husband and brother, she founded Nimit Suksa School, small school in a temple compound for village children in Nakorn Sawan in 1961.

She left her teaching career in 1977, aged 48.


Chumsai has always enjoyed drawing and painting, and has, at times, taught art to children during her years as teacher.

 

From: Bangkok Post. Saturday, February 19, 2000.

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