Art and one’s appreciation of it must be one of the most subjective things around… I can remember when I was first introduced to painting. My father – who had been to art school, had finished a portrait of my mother, which was stunning. I, as a five-year old said, “Who is that beautiful lady?” Which goes to prove just how subjective art is. My father had painted my mother from his heart, with all the love he had for her transferred onto the canvas by his elaborate brushstrokes. But a five-year-old boy could not equate his father’s vision with his own perception. He only saw his mother as… his mother.
When I was older I was reacquainted with this painting, and was able to see it in a different light. Yes, my mother was indeed beautiful, and had been made even more so by the portrayal of her as seen through my father’s eyes.
So, from an early age I had been introduced to art, and my love and appreciation of it has endured throughout my life. In Thailand for over three decades, as a writer or editor for several magazines, I am fortunate to have been able to follow my passion for art in the Kingdom, through having been invited to many exhibitions and galleries, and even becoming friends with some of the artists. Today I would like to introduce you to two of these souls. Two people coming from very different backgrounds, and giving us very different artistic creations to enjoy, when we visit their exhibitions or showings in galleries around town. Or even to purchase one of their pieces, to appreciate in the comfort of our own homes.
First up I would like to introduce you to Arash Groyan. Arash was born in Iran – known as Persia in ancient days in Teheran, where he studied art at university, gaining a B.A. and a Master’s. Arash told me that from a young age he had been inspired by ancient Persian mythology, which continues to stimulate him to this day, in particular from the poem Shahnameh.
Shahnameh is an epic poem by Persian poet Ferdowsi, and can be likened to Homer’s Odyssey or Iliad, although it is considerably longer, comprising some 50,000 couplets. The influence this literary masterpiece has had on Arash can be seen in many of his paintings.
Arash Groyan is one of the best exponents in the world of painting Persian ‘miniatures’. He has, though, made Thailand his home since 2009 and says said he feels comfortable living here, he likes the feeling of freedom and easy pace of life, and has made many friends… Thai, foreign, and those from both within and outside of the arts community. It is important, he told me, for an artist to feel comfortable in his or her surroundings, in order to encourage the creative juices to flow.
Arash said, “As an artist, I’m always active. 2020 was difficult, because of restrictions on travel and a lack of exhibitions due to the worldwide pandemic. But over the past three or four years I have participated in a number of exhibitions, both in Thailand and around the world. The highlight for me, though, has to be an exhibition in 2018, at the Louvre, Paris, that I was shown in. I sold some of my art there, too. An unforgettable moment for me to find acceptance in one of the most iconic and prestigious art museums in the world.”
I have been to several well attended exhibitions and gallery showings featuring the work of Arash and other foreign artists in Thailand. His quiet spoken demeanour as he explains about his latest pieces of artwork to the interested visitors is absorbing… he draws you into his world. But I have seen more to Arash, firsthand. Whilst being an undoubted expert at his own chosen field, Arash is also an erudite scholar. His knowledge of art surpasses all boundaries, and he surprised me, as I heard him answering questions about one of the pieces of art being shown in the gallery. The piece was not his own work, or had not even been created by one of his many friends from the arts community in Thailand. This was a painting new to him. Yet Arash was able to explain in detail about it. From the medium used, the brushstroke work, the technique, the lighting, et al. I don’t think the actual artist could have done a better job of explaining about the piece had they done it by themselves.
Arash’ talents focus not only on miniature painting, but also include other areas such as Middle Eastern rug and carpet design, stage and set decoration, and jewellery design. Arash has also acted in several films and television series in Iran.
The arts community in Thailand is a close knit one, that I feel rewarded to have been accepted into. A friend of both myself and Arash from this eclectic grouping of talented people, is Leyla Sandshiko, hailing from Elista, not far from Moscow. She has been ferrying back and forth between Bangkok and Russia for the past eight years or so.
Leyla is a rather different kettle-of-fish to the softly spoken (yet passionate) Arash. This is a girl that stands out in a crowd! Diminutive she may be, but her colourful clothing with matching accessories, energetic selfie-taking, and seeming ability to be in two or three places at the same time make her an unmissable focal point of whichever gathering you see her at.
Leyla told me her academic background is very different from that of Arash, studying finance and accounting, following in the footsteps of her mother and father, and other family members who worked in the financial sector for the government, However, it was also her parents who infused her with a love of art. They took her along with them to art museums and galleries, which she loved, and never missed an opportunity to go to. Her mother and father also bought works of art for their home, so Leyla grew up surrounded by paintings, sculptures and other artistic ephemera. After a few years of working in the business sector as an accountant Leyla decided that the rather sombre world of account ledgers and numbers was not really for her. Which comes as no surprise to anyone who knows her.
Leyla is a bundle of energy, and always stands out in her apparel wherever she goes. After leaving the financial world, she embraced her creative energies and entered the world of exhibition management. She put on events in Moscow and its surrounds that were memorable for their inventiveness, Being at the forefront of these exhibitions gave Leyla another opportunity to showcase her creative skills, Most of the clothes she wore to the opening parties were her own design. They were loud, colourful, wild, and original… as is their designer. The influential people attending the exhibitions put on by Leyla took notice of her clothing designs, and it was not long before Leyla was making money from sales of her clothing, her designs, and accessories to go with them. She had also found time to create her own art. Unsurprisingly she favours the abstract genre. She told me that when she is in the throes of creating her artwork (usually in the hours of darkness) she goes into another zone, and does not really know what she is doing. In the morning, when she wakes up, she is often surprised at what she sees on the canvases. ‘Bloody hell… where did that come from,’ she thinks.
When she came to Thailand eight years ago she naturally gravitated towards the arts community in Bangkok, and was soon a regular at art show openings, where she quickly made friends, and was soon being invited to more and more openings. She has also had several solo and group exhibitions of her own at galleries around Bangkok. The latest exhibition was in Bangkok in January, called ‘Counterpunch 2’. Leyla became interested in Muay Thai, after coming to live in Thailand and she says that studying and training in the Thai martial art has given her a new lease of life, and even more energy.
Leyla explained, “The main message of this series of artworks is to never give up! Be strong! Find your passion and follow it. Be free and do what you love and what brings you joy. Never worry what others might think about you. Even if you feel completely broken, stand up over and over again and follow your dreams. Create instead of destroying. Remember that there is always a way out of any problem, always!”
In the annus horribilis of 2020 the art world, the leisure sector, and even the business sectors were sent reeling, thanks to the global spread of Covid-19. Hopefully in 2021 we will start to see a recovery. Things will not be back to normal anytime soon, but there are a few things to look forward to.
Arash did not let the extra free time he found himself with in 2020 go to waste. He worked on his art, and this year he will be having two group exhibitions in Bangkok, and another exhibition in October at the Louvre. He is also developing teaching courses in Bangkok, working on his jewellery designs, and completing the production of his painting training video courses.
But the thing I am most looking forward to is the collaboration between these people of two very different personalities and artistic styles.
Leyla and Arash have become firm friends. Leyla is going to unleash her wild spirit onto a few canvases, and no one knows what will come out of that, leastwise herself. She will then give her canvases to Arash, who will interpose his own Persian miniature artwork within the free spaces of Leyla’s abstract designs. Arash and Leyla (and myself) are both excited to see what comes out of this idea of Arash’s, as it’s a juxtaposition of styles that has never been tried before. Look out for it in early April, at a gallery near you. Check out Arash’ website, or the Facebook page of Leyla for showtime. Hope to see you there!
[email protected], @Lolis2001
FB: Leyla Sandshiko