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Metha Kongsonthi is an artist of faith, who truly believes in Buddha’s teaching. Undertaking his formal education, he successfully graduated with Bachelor and Master Degrees in Thai Art from Silpakorn University. Traditional Thai art since became a standpoint for Metha in terms of where he drew creativity from when creating art. As he has a deep engagement with Buddhist teachings, he intends to artistically and creatively pass on these teachings, attitudes, and stories to his audience through his art. With a good intention to spread the Buddhist philosophy and its doctrines all around the world, he is aware that Buddhism is a complicated subject for non-Buddhists to understand. So he combines modern and contemporary artistic techniques, with traditional Thai art narrations, trying to create a piece that is universally approachable and understandable. He has a high hopes that his artworks can give some pleasure to the viewers as well.
Could you please introduce yourself?
I am Metha Kongsonthi. I graduated from Silpakorn University. I currently work as an independent artist.
Can you tell us about your inspirations for your sculpture series ‘Lotus’ that is exhibited in the Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok?
They are sculptures that are inspired by the hotel’s concept for this project ‘lotus’. It is meant to show the connection between the hotel and the Sra Pratum Palace. The palace’s name means Lotus Pond, thus, the hotel wanted to have sculptures in the shape of lotus flowers. The hotel asked for the sculptures to take the shape of traditional Thai lotus pattern while still exhibiting the contemporary elements. Basically, the hotel did not want the works to be too traditional or too antique-like. That is the origin of these sculptures. When I designed them, I based the shape on the actual lotus and the adapted them to take the shape of a blooming lotus to have it curving downwards.
How do they relate to the theme of Siam Kempinski hotel?
These two pieces are related to the composition of the decoration of the hotel’s entrance. However, they are actually special in their own way as they complement each other and turn into one artwork. They are separate pieces but when I put them like this, they suit each other well. Regarding the works, I added Thainess to them which made them different from regular sculptures from other countries. If you look carefully you will see the pattern that’s unique to them. This pattern is not overly traditional Lai Thai. Instead, it’s more like nature-adapted patterns.
Could you explain the difference between contemporary art and traditional Thai art?
Traditional Thai art is exactly like works crafted in ancient times that are more idealistically inclined. Newer Thai Art leans toward realism or as close to reality as possible. The artists already have these patterns from the past but they develop them further. I truly respect the works of the ancient artists. They were skilled and created marvelous works. If we were to create the same style it would not compare but as we adapt them to be more contemporary, the works have a hint of western art and have more movement.
What do you think about the project of the online museum of the Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok where we gather artwork and artists together and then publish these works on the website for the public to enjoy?
It’s wonderful. It’s a great idea. Even though there is a government sector that is already responsible for art related matters it’s not enough to cover all affairs. The Thai art circle needs private sector support. It should be noted that there are many talented artists in Thailand but they don’t have the support needed to raise their profiles. They don’t have the chance to show the exceptional elements of their works. They don’t have the chance to show that Thai artists are on a par with the other countries, especially the younger artists. They are becoming more and more talented which I want to praise wholeheartedly. This project gave much-needed opportunities to these young artists.
What is the most important element in artworks that could add value to them?
Firstly, just like many other exceptional artists have stated, the artists need to have a beautiful heart. They should not make artworks purely to enjoy fame. Their heart should be pure. You should want to create art because you think art is good. You have to prioritise this. The style, idea and concept must come naturally to you.
What is the most challenging part of being an artist?
I don’t know about other people but, for me, it is always challenging to have new ideas for new works. To have creativity and to not be stuck with previous ideas. For instance, if I already tried this idea then I want to try something new. I think this is the principle of everything. The world is moving forward. You cannot stay in the same place forever. If we’re not moving, then there is no advancement in our world. But this advancement needs to be taken step by step. You need to walk slowly forward. Don’t be a radical and think that you need to always be unique to be good. Everyone can be successful. Although being unique can take you far it is not good for everyone.
Since you have been an artist, how have your works been developing?
If I were to explain, I would say that they are in different parts. Firstly, it’s my skill. Secondly, it’s my idea. In my opinion, to every person and every job, these two parts are coming together. The more you work, the more they develop. But when you reach a stage, because of your age or whatever, you will know how much it takes to do a work. Though your works might not be as detailed as in the past but you have gained experience to know what it is required to be a good work. Artistically, it means that you’re sharp and precise. This doesn’t mean that you were not good in the past, but you were purer and still studying. When you mature, you become wiser.
What do you want to tell or inspire people through your artwork?
My inspirations came from myself, my interest in Buddhism. It’s not like I can teach others but this religion has been bound to my life since I was very young. I came from the countryside where our culture is always related to this religion and the temples to the point that we naturally absorb Buddhism. When I was older, I read more about Buddhism and my knowledge on the matter is large enough to be used creatively and artistically to make artworks. When we study more about Buddhism, we gradually want to let other people know about it too. That’s why I use Buddhism as the content of my works. Even if it’s just the name, it can spark people’s interest. For example, if I name a work ‘The Noble Eightfold Path,’ some people might know about it but others might not and they might want to know more about it.
What do you think about the today’s Thai art circle when compared with the circle in the past, what do you think is different?
There’s up and there’s down. It’s the truth of such a circle. If I were to compare the past, I think that people nowadays think only for themselves. I think the current situation of the circle is alright. Looking from the skills and qualities of the works by young artists, they are better than my generation. Like the Realism painting, there were only a handful of artists who did it but there are more now which might be due to the competitive nature of this society. There are more art students and more art workers and they need to work hard and be more creative. In all, I think everything is better. I don’t know others’ opinions but I think it’s okay.
What would you say about the art market in Thailand where it seems that art collectors tend to collect artworks from other countries more than those from Thailand?
You must admit that it depends on the art collectors’ taste. We can do nothing about that. But I think Thai art collectors should support Thai artists. Many projects, many works are cheaper than works by other countries’ artists. I think Thai artworks are more attractive because of the Thainess and it’s something close to you. It’s like the ‘Thai travels Thailand’ (Amazing Thailand) concept. I might be a bit nationalistic.
Do you have any advice for young artists?
I think there’s not much to be said or taught, especially not the skills, but I would tell them that they should look back and take out their own Thainess and use it in their works and to be conscious of themselves. That’s all.
Interview by Art Consulting Asia
Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok, August 2017