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Montien BOONMA

Thailand 1953 – 2000


Temple of the mind: Sala for the mind 1995 Place made: Thailand
Materials & Technique: sculptures, wood, brass bells, medicinal herbs

Dimensions: 395.0 h 220.0 diameter cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1995
Accession No: NGA 95.602.A-P.1-5

Montien Boonma was a leading contemporary artist who studied in Thailand, France and Italy. His art drew on Buddhist concepts related to healing, prayer and meditation. He is best known for his work in sculpture and installation, in which he combined modern industrial and found materials with organic substances used in Thai traditional art. Boonma’s strong Buddhist faith came to the fore when he was tested by a series of personal misfortunes throughout the last decade of his life.

His Temple of the mind: Sala for the mind invites the viewer to enter and experience a visual, spatial and olfactory relationship with the work of art, which takes the form of a sacred enclosure. The stupa-like installation replicates a Buddhist pavilion (sala) that provides shelter from the natural elements and metaphorically promises refuge from life’s suffering. The interior of Temple of the mind: Sala for the mind, imbued with the fragrance of spicy pigments, is intended as a place of rest and contemplation.

The sculpture is constructed from rough wooden boxes which the artist has anointed with a range of natural pigments made from medicinal herbs, including roots, barks, seeds, vines, flowers and fruits. In this way the sala alludes to the healing of physical as well as mental ailments and impediments. The hollow forms of the bells suspended at the apex of the sala represent the concept of emptiness in the Buddhist faith.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014


This is a sculpture by Thai artist, Montien Boonma (1953-2000) depicting a temple. The work of art is shown in two enlargeable images. Accompanying the work of art is a website resource presented by the National Gallery of Australia on the exhibition, ‘Montien Boonma temple of the mind’. Text onscreen gives detailed information on the artist, his life, and artist practice. Montien Boonma’s contemplative installations are a sensory experience, as his works create space for reflection, escape, relief and replenishment. The sculpture measures 395.0 cm high x 220.0 cm diameter and was constructed out of wood, brass bells and medicinal herbs.

Educational value

  • This is an excellent resource for the Responding strand in the visual arts curriculum for students in years 9 and 10, especially for those content descriptions that refer to considering the broader context of works of art, such as their social, cultural and historical context and role of the artist and of the audience/s. Montien Boonma was one of Asia's most distinguished contemporary artists.
  • The resource would be useful for the Asia and Australia's engagement with Asia cross-curriculum priority, especially for promoting an understanding of the religious diversity within Thailand and other parts of Asia. In particular, Buddhism and the associated traditions and belief systems could be further examined using this resource.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra