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Determined young woman sketches a career in the arts
Publication Date : 18-09-2013
Although a 24 years old Orlasone Soukpathoumvanh is a new Lao generation, she plays an important role to keep the artistic traditional alive.
Neither the loud music booming from the speakers at the Chao Anouvong Park aerobics class nor the passing crowd seem to bother a young female artist, who sits completely silent whilst concentrating on her works.
She sits alone in a zone of contemplation, absorbed in her paintings and sketches, bringing the sights and sounds of Laos to life on the canvas for all to see.
An energetic and gifted artist, Orlasone Soukpathoumvanh, 24, is keeping the artistic tradition alive, part of a new generation of painters exploring the themes of times past, how things have changed and what remains the same.
She might sell her works to tourists and passersby at the night market in Vientiane, but for Orlasone painting is not so much a business as it is a passion of hers. She never tires of sharing insights into her paintings and sketches with those that stop for a look, pleased that they have shown an interest in her works.
“I never get tired because I am passionate about my art and I could not imagine doing something else,” Orlasone says. “When I pick up my pencil or brush, I am completely in my zone, absorbed in my work, and I sometimes I even forget to eat.”
Born in a small town in the far northern province of Huaphan, Orlasone moved from her place of birth when she was only five, migrating to the city to stay with relatives. The years saw her mature from a country girl to a confident young lady who makes her living through her art.
Being without the support of parents, it is hard to get by financially in the city, especially as a young woman trying to be independent and pursue further studies. But this is no obstacle for someone as determined as Orlasone, who makes money through her paintings whilst studying as well.
Her hard work and dedication paid off after many years of effort when she was accepted to take part in a five year programme at the Fine Arts School some time ago, where she is now in her third year of study.
Nowadays, business and finance are the most sought after subjects among young people, and art is not a main subject that many women would consider, but that was nothing that was going to deter this young woman.
While many people are moving into business, Orlasone stuck firmly with her passion for the arts, which she perceives as a medium to communicate her thoughts, feelings and philosophies, capturing something of society as she paints.
“Education is diverse and people are different in terms of capacity and what their talents are. I chose art because I recognised my aptitude,” she explains.
Her oil paintings of elephants, Buddhist trees and local lifestyles have intrigued visitors from all walks of life, enticing them to explore the world of Lao traditional art, her works concentrating largely on paintings of days gone by and the lifestyles of rural Laos.
Orlasone's artwork has become better known after she started using social networking sites like Facebook to showcase her work, and now many young people order their sketches online, some orders coming from as far away as America.
“Apart from digesting our local art, it is necessary for artists like myself who live in the digital age to inspire ourselves by looking at sites like Youtube for instance, to come up with creative and different ideas,” she adds.
Orlasone understands the fact that the limited space in society has restricted local artists from expressing their talents or exhibiting all the works they have produced. As part of the new generation of artists in Laos, she feels she needs more space and that the street arts need more exposure.
Modern street art is not really recognised here and graffiti is rare, despite its potential as a medium for youth expression or the fact that creative street art can help create vibrant neighbourhoods that tourists want to visit.
In a more classical sense, Laos is not exactly famous for its art scene despite the French colonial legacy, compared to neighbouring countries like Vietnam, or Thailand for that matter as well.
However, Orlasone is fortunate enough that she can display both her class assignments and private works at her stall, as she continues striving to broaden her skills and offer up works that are recognisable throughout the region.
At the moment she focuses mostly on Lao tradition, religion and culture, capturing the beauty of Buddhist temples, depicting rural lifestyles, ethnic people and buffaloes plowing the fields.
She does both oil paintings and charcoal drawings, with her lead pencil sketches capturing the most intimate of details and her paintings awash with colour.
Because of her long experience and strong connection to this area, she has many repeat customers who still follow her, and receives orders from abroad as well as some companies here in Laos.
Besides that, her school has given her the opportunity to exhibit her works together with artists from Vietnam and Thailand. She has received a lot of support and encouragement, primarily from her school but also members of the public, which has inspired her to stick with her chosen career.
However, some people, especially young teenagers still suspect that perhaps not all the paintings at her stall are actually her own. “Many people don't believe a female artist like me can reach such a point,” she explains. “Many young people, including students, keep asking me if these works are my own.”
But the vast majority of passersby can't help but be impressed by her art. A customer named Ms Sounthone pauses to admire her work. “I am very impressed with the paintings. Normally, most artists in Laos are male, but this young lady is obviously very talented,” she says.
These days, Orlasone's shop may be full of customers all the time but no matter how many people come to visit her shop and how noisy the surroundings are, she calmly focuses on her next piece of work, patiently putting her pencil to the canvass – artists are never in a rush.