I was first introduced to Buddha images close to hand ,while travelling in Southeast Asia in the early 1980's. My base in Bangkok , was the P.B guest house on Khao San road . The P.B at that time consisted of half a dozen rooms and a dormitory above a sleezy snooker hall and sometime Thai boxing Gym. My friend and owner Mr Loo and his wife were besotted with boxing, and the opportunities it threw up for having a bet . They ran a few boxers themselves, and Mrs Loo was later to become president of the thai kick boxing Association.
On the evening before a big fight , candels were lit in the family shrine room , Mrs Loo's personal Medium (Nat Kadaw ,and held in very high esteem ) would appear in a trance like state . There was much wailing and praying.
Eventually a descison would be made as to how much to bet , and sometimes in which round a K.O would occur .
As this was all going on just outside the dormitory , I got a good look at this otherwise private room . It was full of bronze and gilt buddhas, famous Monks and past Kings, all arranged in rows on one of the walls. They were detailed, exquisitly cast, and some of conciderable age, but apart from the obvious exotisism, they left me rather flat .
I was later to encounter less refined, wood and lacquer images from the North of Thailand and Burma. I was immediately drawn to them, and continue to to be so. I like their organic feel ,and the way the forces of nature have had their effect on them .
At that time there was little access to Laos, and not much to buy in the markets. Since then we have seen some amazing primitive images coming out of Laos , that are as far removed from the high art of the bronze foundaries in urban centers, as it is possible to get.
Extraordinary images with elongated necks, arms and feet, that could be mistaken for african tribal art if you were not aware of the country of origin.
Of all the buddha images in Asia, these are my favourite. The following pages contain a selection from my collection.