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Dow Wasiksiri is a well-known commercial and artistic photographer working and living in Thailand. The son of a Thai diplomat, he spent his childhood years experiencing a variety of countries and lifestyles, depending on where his father was posted. This helped shaped his perspective about cultures around the world, and especially that of Thai culture. At around the age of 13, he found an interest in photography. During this period, he began taking portraits that reflected the popular culture of the time - this was the beginnings of a central concept that would become part of the distinctive character of his later work. After receiving degrees from universities in both New Zealand and USA, he moved back to his hometown in Thailand, with the aim of taking up work in the film industry as a cameraman. However, a lack of working connections in the film industry meant he ended up finding work as a photographer. He worked for a few commercial agencies and fashion magazines in Thailand and subsequently abroad; during this time significant work included a cover shot for Forbes Thailand magazine. Despite his success, the commercial work was personally unsatisfying – the constant impossible quest for perfection through retouching and effects did not agree with his aesthetic. Instead his interest turned towards creating fine art with photography. Working as an artist-photographer has allowed him to express his perspective and notions to the public. Indeed, it is an opportunity for him to avoid taking perfect photographs, whilst reflecting on the imperfect beauty inherent within them.
Could you please introduce yourself?
I’m Dow Wasiksiri. I’m a photographer-artist. I graduated from Los Angeles City College in Films and Photography. Afterwards, I studied for my bachelor degree at California State University Los Angeles in TV Broadcasting and Radio.
What is the inspirations of your artworks?
The overall of this job, I picked up everyday objects and found the distinctive character of them (i.e. colour, and form) and thereafter presented in my artworks through my perspective. The main purpose is to make people reconsider about the objects themselves as well as the stories behind the photographs.
The series of ‘Life Cycle’ was influenced from the wonderfulness of the lotus. The lotus can grow over as well as under the water. Regards the Buddhism belief, the lotus that grow over the surface of water indicates to wise persons. On the background, there are a few petals that signify that everything can change and fade away throughout the period of time, nothing last forever. The negative B&W technique is meant to enrich this piece. In order to make it even more interesting and attracting, the artist plays with the mode of reception of audience by making a complex composition; it seems like there are three pictures within the frame.
For the series of ‘Garden’s Palette’, I made a collage of various elements of the garden, i.e. stones, cactuses, and flowers. The use of colour is aimed to unite all the forms together in one piece.
For ‘Petaleque’ artwork, the picture of ‘Kalanchoe’ are meant to depict the bold character of ‘Cigar Lounge’ in Siam Kempinski Hotel since it is a place where manly people hanging in. In the other way around, ‘Kalanchoe’ can give a sense of delicateness of the flower which make the environment of the room more subtlely. The complex composition of this picture could trigger audiences to criticise about the extraordinary forms of flower as well.
The hidden idea of Wang Saphan Kaow is the optical illusion technique. I used a traditional film frame which is too-small frame to fit this photograph, the reason is to make the photograph looks bigger than its actual size. (the photograph would possibly come out of the frame) This reflects that people should think out of the box, the autonomous imagination would lead us to break the norm.
Those photographs are in Black and White, why did you choose that format?
Actually, I used the Black and White technique particularly for the photograph of lotuses. When I got the chance to work here, I had to create an artwork along with the concept of the hotel which was the lotus. However, I tried to make something different. I thought there are a number of photographers who already have taken photos of lotuses in Black and White. So, I transferred them in a negative format; I mean the sets of ‘Life Cycle' both first and second editions. Then I presented them in a triple linear panel, it’s called ‘Triptage’. But I tweaked the linear a little bit to make people curious and reconsidered them. When people see something imperfect, they can stay put longer. That is the story behind the technique that gave me the idea. I think it’s about the personal experience of each artist, create what you have experienced. So, I made my Black and White photograph in this negative way. It doesn’t mean the story is negative, it’s only a technique I used for attracting people and triggering their thoughts.
What about the process of creation and production in particular for this project? How did you think about it?
Speaking of the process of thinking, I actually start first with where my artwork will be displayed. As I previously mentioned, the cigar lounge, that was how I planned it. Let’s say, if it was for a different room, I would create an artwork in a different style.
Does your style change from when you started working in this field? If yes, how?
I mean I do so many things at the same time, I also take portrait photos. I like everything equally; they are the same. Let me expand this a little bit. My background was in advertising design. I worked there for over ten years. There were many advertising job offers, so I took them. We know that the point of advertisement is to sell. When we sell things, when we take a photo, we have to retouch and edit them, don't we? Make it neat and perfect in the post production. Before the retouch process, we could work for years. Back in that time, I tried to make my photo as perfect as I could, make it ready to send out publicly. Sometimes, retouching could make a photo look too good. I felt like the over-perfection photo wasn’t for me. So, I decided to work in fine art later on. I could relax. I like to see the trueness of photographs better.
The project of the online museum of Siam Kempinski where we gather artwork and artists together, and publish on the website for the public, what do you think about this?
I think anything that encourages art, whether traditional or online museums, they are all good. In this contemporary circumstance, we need something like this. Art can bring peace to our mind and heart, make us appreciate the beauty.
What is the most important element in artworks that could add value to them in your opinion?
In photography terms, I always like to think that at the moment when you push the shutter button you are recording history. So, it’s the reality. As I’m being an artist, I have a responsibility to pick the right moment to push the shutter button with the right angle. It depends on what I want to say. Fine art photographs seem to reflect the personal reality of an artist because we choose that moment. It’s not necessarily real. For example, when we go out, we see a hundred or two hundred groups of people on the road. That’s the reality. But we could take just one person out of the group, that’s the reality through the photographer’s eyes and lens. It’s real but not a complete reality.
What do you want to tell or inspire people through your artwork?
I create artwork without caring about other people too much. I think that is not a point for me to create artwork to make people like it, and I don’t need all of them. I mean even if someone comes to me saying they don’t like my art, I would say thank you. That means they are interested to criticize my artwork, it’s better than if they ignore it, and just walk past by. But I like to hear feedback. I feel like, yes, this is me, I make this for myself. When I want to say something, I speak through the art. For feedback, I accept it either way.
What do you think about Thai contemporary art?
I think the younger artists have various concepts and fresh ideas. The art in Thailand seems to be more open than the past. I can see that over the last 20 to 30 years, artists focused on merely artistic skills, they have to put so much effort to create nearly perfect pieces of art. But it’s different nowadays.
What do you think about the issue that Thai art collectors buy more artwork from other countries in Asia, like Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, or Tokyo, rather than Thailand?
I think there are two issues we need to concern. Firstly, in our homeland, artworks, if we arrange many art exhibitions in galleries or wherever. It would draw the attention from art collectors from other countries to buy artworks by Thai artists as well. I think art exhibitions could gain attention from Asian art collectors. For example, in Singapore, when they create an art event, they invite collectors from everywhere, Indonesia, Philippines, etc., or even from Australia, or the U.S. Secondly, in particular, photography, it is very tough to sell here. Bangkok based art collectors don't seem to understand about ‘editions of art’ well enough. They think it could be reprinted, so they ignore them.
Anything you want to tell young artists?
I wish they can sell their artwork for a good price, be famous as well. But also be aware of self-esteem. I think it’s better to stay humble as we used to be.
Interview by Art Consulting Asia
Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok, August 2017
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