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The Symphony of the Universe

The Symphony of the Universe
signed with artist’s monogram, signed and dated ‘P. Emjaroen 1971’ (lower right); gallery label affixed (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
143 x 133 cm. (56 1⁄4 x 52 3⁄8 in.)
Painted in 1971
Collection of Sathien Sathirasut (acquired directly from the artist)
Private collection, Thailand (acquired from the above by the previous owner)
Acquired from the above by the present owner
T. Sinsakul (ed.), His Life and Artistic Works 1962-1990 Pratuang Emjaroen, Saha International Printing Co. Ltd., 1990 (illustrated, cover page, p. 28, 29).
T. Sinsakul (ed.), Spirit of Art: A RETROSPECTIVE 1963-2005, Pratuang Emjaoren, Amarin Printing and Publishing PCL, 2005 (illustrated, p. 28).
Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, PRATUANG EMJAROEN: Traces and Trails,, Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, Bangkok, 2015 (illustrated, unpaged).
Bangkok, Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, PRATUANG EMJAROEN: Traces and Trails, September - November 2016

Brought to you by

Jacky Ho (何善衡)
Jacky Ho (何善衡) Senior Vice President, Deputy Head of Department

Lot Essay

Pratuang Emjaroen is a self-taught artist who is heralded as the Father of Abstraction in Thailand’s art history. As a youth his paintings reflected his emotional angst and revolutionary spirit, notably finding solidarity in Figurative Expression as a means to represent his views of the external environment. However, in the mid-1960s he found solace in the natural landscape and saw the influx of Mother Nature to best represent his revolutionary ideals. A prolific artist who is revered in Thailand for his oeuvre, it should be said that his Universe series of paintings are the most sought-after pieces in his career.

The Symphony of the Universe was painted in 1971 and fully embraces Abstract Expressionism to convey the artist’s inner turmoil as a man. This work epitomizes the creative ideals of the series for it combines all the desired motifs that would come to establish this collection of works as an important part of Pratuang’s artistic evolution. He abandoned political and worldly affairs in favour of the Universe as a natural phenomenon. Inspired by the shapes found in Mother Nature, he digested these forms to their simplest, most abstract essence. The sun and moon became circles, wild foliage expressive bursts of greens and blues, the energy of the natural landscape conveyed in warm colours.

The artist was inspired by the French Impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh, notably in the way the French artist respected the natural landscape and found Mother Nature to be his muse. The painting Starry Night conveys the very angst of the natural environment through a distinctive colour palette and brushstrokes that can be seen as an extension of the human mind. It is this creative ideology that Pratuang sought to encompass within his own paintings, and from the late 1960s onwards his paintings moved towards this direction of embracing the landscape to personify the inner conflict that he felt as a man.
Pratuang was a devout Buddhist and as a Thai artist he embodied this spiritual ideology within his paintings. His connection to religious artistic studies was expressed throughout his oeuvre as a positive joyful connection to the world around him. The artist utilized colour as a means to communicate his emotions, and he was an avid listener of classical music whilst painting. The Symphony of the Universe was painted during a period when he actively listened to Beethoven and Bach, and the influences these composers had upon his creative expression are evident in the dynamic usage of bright colours and active brushstrokes. It is a work dedicated to celebrating the beauty of life and how everything is interconnected.

The present work is part of the revered Universe series of paintings. The artist only made three specific works for this series, while other pieces were commissioned from 1967 to 1972. This work is one of the original three. This decade marked a new direction for the artist where he fully embraced abstract trends that would continue throughout his lifetime and cement his influence as a pioneering Thai abstract painter. The present work is a vivacious expression of the natural landscape through vibrant colours and active brushstrokes–it is a visual testimony to the external world and celebrates the beauty and violence that makes up a unified whole that is the Universe.

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