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Tippanet Yaemaneechai’s fascination with art began at a young age, taking up drawing early and entering a few art contests for children. Although he didn’t always take away first prize, there was a burning ambition that would never fade away. He believes this chance to practice drawing and create artwork majorly paid off in the long term. When his interest in art had waned slightly – a point where he was majoring in science and math – he listened to himself and realised where his true desire lay. So in taking art more seriously, he decided to apply to the Faculty of Painting, Sculpture and Graphic Arts at Silpakorn University. His impressive skill in drawing helped him sail smoothly through university studies. Recognising the value of Thai arts and culture, he would take Thai art as his major there. Tippanet would also grow to consider that local and indigenous traditions should be considered more durable, as opposed to new technological developments that will come and go. This has led to an ambition to keep on producing and enhancing Thai traditional artwork, in order to retain Thai heritage for future generations.
Could you please introduce yourself?
I am Tippanet Yaemaneechai. I achieved both Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Thai Art from Faculty of Painting, Sculpture, and Graphic Arts. I am an art teacher at Faculty of Painting, Sculpture, and Graphic Arts.
Could you please explain the idea behind your artworks ‘Elements of Object – Elements of Culture’?
The idea of these artworks come from the fact that I wanted to raise awareness of audiences to realise and appreciate the value of cultures. I found the development of technology becomes a major part of our everyday lives and people seems to indulge in them so much. Whilst they seem to leave their culture behind, I do think cultures are still something that people can count on. But people stop developing their cultures. I mean Thai culture in particular. They do not develop in parallel the culture and the technology which I think they should.
Could you tell me why did you add metals in your artworks?
The use of metals is meant to symbolise technological innovations. They also illustrate roughness and glossiness which come from the character of the metals. The glossy parts help to create movement. In contrast, images of Thai traditional art and culture appear on flat surfaces of canvasses. This means it gets stuck and there’s no movement at all. I painted them with a powerful pigment which is a technique of traditional Thai painting. This could emotionally connect with people because it could give Thai audiences a sense of their own indigenous culture and way of life.
Could you explain the process of the production?
The initial step was a rough sketch that I used for organising my thoughts and concepts. Then I took turned that sketch into a drawing. I also marked positions where to put metal collages. This step helped me to envisage the finished work. I could see where the copper and brass pieces, the traditional Thai paintings, would be in my artworks and I would therefore understand how each material would correspond to one another. This is how I organise my ideas.
Did you intend to make the metals in your artworks rotten?
These rotten metals were meant to connect with traditional Thai paintings. They correspond with the paintings that I created and placed beside them. They also connect with other metals in the works. They imply that both the metals and the painting can be developed together. I used the printmaking techniques to make the metal looks old and rotten. I adapted the technique and use acid to corrode the metal model to make a mould for casting the metals to create marks similar to traditional Thai paintings.
Do you normally create artworks by using this process and technique?
The origin of the process and techniques of ‘Elements of Objects – Elements of Culture’ arose when I did my Bachelor Degree. At that time, I had the idea about the change of cultures. Since then, I’ve always been using this idea to create artworks. The style at that time was comparable to the artworks in t5he Siam Kempinski Bangkok project. I’ve gradually developed my style but the concept of my works changed when I studied for my Master’s Degree which turned into the idea about educational procedure. This changed my working process. I turned back to create works on the subject of culture. I didn’t want to copy my own previous works and so I started to develop my idea. I need to express the same idea but what techniques I use to impart my idea are developed into a new project which became the ‘Elements of Objects – Elements of Culture’.
Do your artworks relate to Thai Art or Buddhism?
Regarding Lai Thai, it’s only the details and decoration of my artworks. Regarding Buddhism, the artworks might not directly relate to it but the painting parts might remind the audiences of traditional Thai paintings seen in temples.
Are your artworks narrative paintings?
My works do not focus upon narrating stories but rather they express my feelings and memories in the temple to the viewers. I always feel calm when I go to temples so I brought out those memories into my artworks. Although my artworks might look like traditional Thai paintings, they are not. I did not do my painting after the real paintings in the temples. They solely came from my experience, what I’ve encountered, what I’ve learnt. The paintings probably remind the audiences of paintings in temples. The audiences may think they have seen the paintings before but if you really compare them with the ones in the temple you will never find them in any temple because I did not copy from them.
What do you think about the Siam Kempinski project promoting art on the website to create an online gallery?
It looks like a great idea because, from my own experiences, there’s never been a hotel that has an idea of cataloguing the artworks in the hotel and then publishing them to the wider public. I think this project can be a model for other hotels or companies to follow. It allows people to see the value of art and not see them as decoration. It enhances two things. Firstly, it enhances the value of Thainess. Secondly, it enhances the value of art.
What are substantial factors to create ‘valuable’ pieces of art?
We need to turn back to ourselves. We need to be serious with our works. Don’t think that once you finished an artwork, you’re done with your work. You must think about the process before the artwork finishes. You must think ahead of yourself, what will you do after this artwork is done. For example, you wouldn’t always use the same concept or creating the same style for 10 years. As time passes, everything changes. For example, your ideas and your environment change. These things affect artist and so artists should regularly search themselves for new ideas that can be used to create artworks. I view this as being serious with my works. For my own works, I work on a series for only three years. Then, I will search for new ideas and develop my works based on new ideas and new knowledge.
Where do you find the new ideas?
I use the same technique that I teach to my students. I bring my students to learn drawing outside the classroom where they would broaden their ideas and imagination. When it comes to realistic drawing lessons I recommend that they draw from reality, rather than from photographs, because they can learn and understand better. I think that taking a picture can be done in a minute but a drawing will take longer. And when you spend your time at the location, which is reality, it is an opportunity for art practitioners to get an idea that can be used to create new artworks.
Do you mean that we can feel and learn from the actual location better than draw in a studio?
Yes. I think this is important. The feeling that we use to create work is important. If you go there for a short time and take a photo that you will use as your model, I think it’s way too superficial.
What do you find challenging as being an artist?
To continuously create work after work. Usually, when we come up with a good idea, we want to use it for a long time. However, to progress, there’s a need for new ideas. Like the ‘Elements of Objects – Elements of Culture’, as of now, seven years have passed since the time I created them. Presently, I’m working on another set of artworks called ‘Culture in Mind’. It’s still about culture and its value. However, I change the presentation of the idea in the work. I’m not using metals but I am using other materials to express the idea which is the parallel development between technology and culture.
What do think about the today’s art circle in Thailand?
As an art lecturer I can see that some of my students are growing artistically but some are not. The latter might not be growing because they might not be serious in art as a career since the time they were students. For those who are growing in this path, it shows that they’ve been determined for a long time.
What do you mean by saying ‘artistically growing’?
It means they can live as artists. To live and to earn money by creating artworks. Some of my student can do this, but not many. This situation reflects the current situation of the art circle in Thailand. It shows that there are not enough art collectors. It also depends on how art collectors look at the artworks. It could be either for anticipated profit or for personal consumption based upon their interests and tastes. This would be quite a story between consumers and producers.
Do you think there’re more art investors than art collectors in Thailand?
There are art collectors in Thailand but the number might be little. But if an art collector buys my works, I would say that my works are not that profitable. It’s not exactly ‘in’ the art market. Some artists can stay in the art circle thanks to auctions such as Sotheby’s that increase the value of art. This is how the art business system works. Thus, when there’s an art collector that wants to buy my artworks, I have to say that my works are not for sale but if he likes it, he’s free to buy it.
What do you think about international art collectors that might not choose Thailand as the first target when purchasing arts?
You should know that Singapore and Hong Kong are the link to other continents such as Europe and America. There are many art events and exhibitions there. That’s why international art collectors would prefer to go to those countries. I think there are more chances for artists to grow there and the businessmen have more ability to purchase artworks.
Do you think if there were more big art events or exhibitions in Thailand the art market in Thailand would grow better?
It depends on what kinds of events and exhibitions we are holding. If it’s a painting exhibition, I think our art market will remain the same. If there are art fairs in Thailand, similar to those held in Hong Kong and Singapore, then our art market has the chance to grow.
Do you have any message to pass to younger Thai artists?
They have to be determined and have confidence in their chosen path. One of my own teachers once said that ‘to be an artist, it’s better to have a hen tomorrow than an egg today,’ which means you have to be patient. Please let all the young artists and art students know that the only thing required from them is patience.
Interview by Art Consulting Asia
Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok, August 2017