Timeless Stories: Investigating Contemporary Approaches to Hindu and Buddhist Art

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Fragar, Julie F

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Woodrow, Ross D

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Art has been a form of communication used to convey religious lessons in Thailand (formerly the Kingdom of Siam) since ancient times. While present-day Thais are still intensely committed to religious practices, many understand less and less of the precise information embedded in this art form. Moreover, religious artworks in Thailand do not reflect current society and do not have much in common with contemporary art. Therefore, this research investigates the potential causes that have disconnected religious art from Thai society and explores possible ways to utilise elements from the Thai religious art style in a contemporary painting practice. This research is primarily a studio-based investigation, but is supported by traditional discursive research practices, including a historical and contemporary analysis of the original functions and the evolution of painting styles of religious art, specifically Ramayana-inspired paintings across periods of times and regions. Relevant theories regarding iconology and visual representation are employed to guide the understanding and interpretation of these religious paintings. This research also investigates the interrelation between art and nationalist ideology after the political regime change in Thailand during the 19th century. The new state system intensely sought to promote national identity and imbued religious art with a new meaning that supported this nation building. What is now known as Thai “traditional” art has strict rules in place in terms of preservation, reproduction, and standardisation. Also, part of the pre-studio research was a visual survey I undertook of relevant artworks, including a range of contemporary paintings which utilise elements from traditional art to create works that reflect contemporary society. In the studio section of this creative research, I have created four series of paintings that experiment with the artistic value inherent in traditional art and attempt to modernise Thai traditional painting, making it meaningful to contemporary audiences. This may not only offer another way of creating religious painting but could also possibly be another method of preservation, ensuring the longevity of Thai traditional art.

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Thesis (Professional Doctorate)

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Doctor of Visual Arts (DVA)


Queensland College of Art

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The author owns the copyright in this thesis, unless stated otherwise.

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studio-based research


traditional discursive research practices

Ramayana-inspired paintings


Kingdom of Siam

Thai traditional art

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