Having emerged onto the Thai artworld in the later half of the1950s, Damrong Wong-Uparaj embodies the archetypal image of the Thai modern painter conscious of tradition, one who upholds the values of traditional Thai everyday life while competently working with western imported methods of painting. The single question - what is constitutive of the essential character of modern Thai art? - preoccupied many artists working in the decade of the mid-1950s to the 1960s. Damrong's answer to this question lies in the idealised depiction of the Thai rural and traditional deployed through a modern palette.
Wan 5 Canal shows a forceful and dynamic scene of a pier. Damrong had titled the scene simply, giving no clue as to the precise location of the pier. Strong and well-etched angular lines criss-cross the canvas, forming an intricate lattice. Looking closely at the canvas, one observes that the lattice of lines are heavily textured and superbly preserved. The paint layer is heavily laid on, but not compromising the clarity and lightness of appearance of the pictorial elements. Colour accents are distributed judiciously throughout the canvas. The open-top boats that Damrong is depicting are supremely detailed; the careful observer is duly rewarded. The traditional is rendered a fresh breath of modernity in this work.
On the reverse of Wan 5 Canal is an unfinished painting, most likely an earlier composition that the artist had began but had abandoned. The unfinished work reveals the dominant character of Damrong's practice, where compositional lines are devised, rendered visible as lines demarcating pictorial elements before colour is layered on.