Friday, August 22, 2008

Prison portraits

Prison portraits

Inmates trained as painters get in touch with themselves through art - and also find their talents in demand from other convicts, who want pictures done of family and friends

Jetjaras Na Ranong

Art can soften the hearts and allow inmates in Bang Khwang prison to explore their hidden talents and express themselves.

The first-ever art therapy class initiated by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn for inmates has just concluded with a collection of more than 300 works of art.

The inmates' artworks were put on display at a makeshift art gallery inside Bang Khwang prison on Tuesday.

It was a climax of the summer art class, offered to 69 prisoners from March 12 to May 31 for two hours a week for a total of 40 hours, said Corrections Department chief Nathee Chitsawang.

He said inmates learned first-hand from national artists and experts who were eager to lend a helping hand.

The Princess wanted the class to equip them with skills to make a living after they leave the prison.

However, only 52 inmates passed the course and were awarded a certificate. Prizes were granted to artists on Mother's Day, Aug 12.

"I was inspired by the photo of my cellmate's wife breast-feeding a baby," said the winner. "Painting helps cool me down and makes me concentrate."

Other striking paintings include a self-portrait of an inmate in jail while his mother falls ill outside, a picture of a dove, and a finger reaching out from a cell.

Most paintings come from photos, such as scenic views and nude pictures.

Prison artists are busy sharpening their skills with fellow inmates asking them for paintings of their children, wives or relatives.

Most artworks were given to the subject of the panting as a surprise birthday present.

"The art class is not just a candle, but a spotlight which shows me the way. I know I will not be jobless out there and will not return to a life of crime," said one prison painter.

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