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Wasinburee Supanichvoraparch is a well-known Thai artist-designer who is also the owner of the Tao Hong Tai Ceramic Factory. Tao Hong Tai was initially launched by his family in 1933. The factory was meant to manufacture large, traditional Thai-Chinese earthen jars. When it came to Wasinburee’s generation, with his youthful energy, he developed their products and broadened their target group by re-branding the factory. Tao Hong Tai began to produce contemporary, trendy, and fun ceramics. His contribution not only helped the growth of his business, but also widened the range of ceramic designs and practices in Thailand on a national level. A small movement started amongst Thai youngsters, who began to become more and more interested in ceramics-making. He also built a few sub-businesses: D-Kunst Art Gallery, Tao Hong Tai Studio, and Tao Hong Tai Academy. His ceramic designs are functional, in the same way as traditional ceramic potteries, and saturated in deep colours and quirky patterns. This character can be found in his works of art as well, where his ceramic practices and techniques have inspired some remarkable and outstanding pieces. Wasinburee has had artworks exhibited in many places around the world, including the 55th Venice Biennale.
Could you introduce yourself please?
My name is Wasinburee Supanichvoraparch. I’m currently working on ceramic works in Rachaburi province. I graduated in Fine Art from Universität Gesamthochschule, Kassel, Germany.
Could you explain to us your artworks ‘Ball’ that are exhibited at the Siam Kempinski Bangkok?
Actually, creating ceramic works is to play with the form, the shape and the colour of the artworks. Usually, when I want to create something, I will search and learn for the style and process that answer all of my requirements.
What do you think about the online art museum project undertaken by the Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok to collect artworks of emerging Thai artists and then publish them on the website?
Regarding this project and the online art museum, I have to thank the Siam Kempinski Bangkok Hotel for giving Thai artists the chance to let them be known to the public. As you probably know already, although there are more accessibilities for the public to get information about artists and artworks in nowadays, I don’t think it’s enough. In this case, the hotel launched an online art gallery. It could be an alternative route for the public to access to art easier and better. This project broaden supports and opportunities for the artists. This kind of project can also apply to help new generation of artists, not merely for us artists who had a chance to display our works here already. I think it would be nice if we can see the Siam Kempinski hotel as an art hub where everyone can enjoy easy access to art. Additionally, how could the project support the new generation of artists who are so talented but have never been given the chance to show their potential? This project and online museum provides answer to these issues.
What are the key factors in creating artworks that would make them valuable?
I think the term ‘value’ differs for each person. It’s like a person loves one thing while the other doesn’t. I think the most beautiful thing in art creation is diversity. It’s challenging to make a person who has never been in an art circle before find a form of art that he or she likes. For example, if the art circle produces and promotes solely one particular style of art, I have no problems because I like this style. But I can tell that this is not fun. The repetitiveness and restriction might let me say ‘I don’t like art’. If the artworks are diverse in styles and are put in the same place, I might find the one that I don’t like but I might be able to find the one that I like as well. This might be a turning point for people who have never been interested in art before, allowing them to learn, feel and like art.
What is the most challenging part of being an artist?
Making art in our country is challenging in itself already. The challenging task to be an artist is the chance to make the artist’s dream come true. Whether it’s right or wrong, it doesn’t matter. The most important thing for the artist is how to solidify our imagination, idea, and perception into an object. It doesn’t matter whether your audiences agree with your idea or not. What is more important is to transform your thought into objects. This is the key step that makes the audiences touch and relate with your ideas through your artworks.
What/How do you expect audiences to understand and/or feel from seeing your artworks?
As I mentioned earlier, most of my works were created based on inspirations at the time I made them. And the styles of my works are likewise dependent upon my own experiences and knowledge of that time and so they always change. Depending on the experiences and perspectives, what I perceived as one thing today might not be the same tomorrow. I try to use this change to my advantage and making my idea into reality to the best of my ability. This has been the style of my artworks. It might not satisfy the audiences from all over the world but it can satisfy the need to express my idea of that time. Another important point in creating artworks is to make the artwork become the inspiration for someone else. These are my goals.
Have your artistic styles and techniques ever changed since you started?
In term of using ceramic as my technique, the work process is ever-changing, especially in the form and shape of the ceramics. I should mention that I am a person who loves to experiment. I have been creating and seeing the process of creating pottery since I was young. Thus, one day, I felt that I was packed full of pottery and become bored of it. However, my love of forms and shapes is what allows me to continue. For ceramics it isn’t only the elements of earth, wind, fire and water that make it but there’s also the element that most have forgotten about. This fifth element is the coincidence or faith or whatever you may call it..
Lately, I’m not the one who controls the shape of the work but I let the shape form naturally. Sometimes I let accidents happened or let it be out of control and let it be a part of my work. For example, normally a pottery is heated at 1200 degrees to get a perfect piece. But, I might be curious with what would happen if I heat a perfectly shaped pottery at 1260, 1300 or even 1400 degrees. A transformation, a change, a distortion or melting would probably happen. I found this to be a play with the elements of nature and the unpredictable which make creating ceramics even more fun. It’s the enjoyment of creating pottery. Like many other things, even with our familiarity with art, our love for it might let us to make a change or lead to the birth of new thing, even though we still use the same materials>
What do you think about today’s art circle in Thailand?
When I was young, I was not particularly into art and didn’t want to be an artist. It was an opportunity for me. One day, I had the chance to study abroad, even though I didn’t like art at first. I did not go there to study art at first. You could say that I hated art in the past. Art classes in the past were not taught as they are today. The current approach to the students and the diversity of the class that lets the teachers pass knowledge about art to the students is different to how it was in my days. Teachers who were free from teaching maths, history or English could teach art. This was not right. Thus, people from my generation grew up thinking that art was not understandable or was about catering to the taste of the teachers to get good marks. For me, I once got a 0 mark for my assignment which the teacher instructed as ‘draw whatever you’d like’. Imagine that when I got 0 marks. My friends laughed at me because of an art assignment that a history teacher gave. For a kid who wasn’t interested in art, this instruction was too vague. It’s better to be told to draw a tank, an airplane, a battleship or whatever. When I followed the instruction, I drew things that I found easy for me such as a boat, the sun, clouds, water, a stick bird. The result was I got 0 marks and laughter from my friends. Thus, I concluded that art was an embarrassment for me. Then the chance came when I went to study in Germany. I discovered the artworks and styles that I like. As I told you, what is important is how to provide a chance or choices for the audiences as many as we can. The audiences might find an artwork that they like some day.
For me, it’s quite late as I was almost 22 years old before I found the art that I like. That was the first time I knew about Picasso. I think it was too late. Even though the art circle in Thailand has improved as well, as there is a variety of artworks - perhaps because of the accessibility of the internet - I think that the audiences are restricted with limited choices by the artists.
I’m not saying that creating works by following the trends or the concept is a bad thing. It’s one of the styles, but the diversity of the artworks in Thailand is still too little in my opinion.
If you compare between Germany and Thailand, you would say?
I would say that in Germany or in Europe there’s higher chance for audiences to discover the works that they like. But, presently, we see the news about the artistic trends, artworks that are full of heavy content or artworks that are criticised. Even though this is good news, it might be too much for people who aren’t interest in art. I think these texts and concepts are inaccessible, untouchable or not even related to the life of many people.
Although there are more people able to access art, it’s limited to a specific group of people. Thus, it’s like the model I’m working on in Ratchaburi. Some people ask what would happen if there’s an art in Ratchaburi but my work is only a tiny little pixel of colours in the whole million pixels of colours from the artworks in Ratchaburi.
However, this tiny pixel might catch a person’s interest. If you ask me whether there’s a development in Thai art circle or not, I would answer that there is. There are more chances for our artworks to be recognised which might due to the booming of art being accessible that didn’t happen many years before. When the art gallery was first established there were just a few people walking along the corridors but, right now, there are more and more people browsing the collection. I think building these art spaces increases the chance for people to found art interesting and the chance that the art circle is not limited to art lovers or artists. For the question about how is the art circle in Thailand right now, it’s better now.
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?
I think there’re actually more art collectors that collect Thai’s artworks. Because the styles, techniques, processes and concepts have all been improved to the point that they are noticeable for the collectors and they also become easily accessible. In the past, to be able to display works in an art exhibition was a privilege of a certain group of artists. There was no hope for art students to exhibit their works. When your name wasn’t known to all, you wouldn’t have a chance to exhibit your works in art galleries which were few to begin with. Sometimes, it would take 3-4 years to reserve a gallery space and some artists had given up. But now, there are more art galleries comparing to 17 years ago. I think this is the age that art collectors start to see diversity in Thais’ artworks and can choose whichever piece they like. This makes it even more obvious that audiences and artists didn’t have many opportunities in the past.
I don’t mean the masterpieces from famous artists but rather the regular artists of that time or those beginner-artists. People needed to go abroad to see artworks that they might like and wished to buy but now there’re more international art collectors that collect works in Thailand. I think this is the point where we need to support the creating of opportunities for people to be able to access the art world. The Siam Kempinski Bangkok Hotel is a nice starting point for exhibiting artworks for people outside the Thai art circle. It shows a great number of the combinations of style in the artworks presented by Thai artists.
Lastly, do you have a message for younger Thai artists?
I want them to create something that they like. Something that they have in their mind that can turn into reality. This is a real and important factor of art. I think that people’s love, like or beliefs are always changing. They don’t need to wait to be confident that what they do will be the right thing. All they have to do is trust in their belief in this moment and make it into an artwork. They might not find the thing that most people agree with but this process is a learning process for them to know what they should and shouldn’t do. Learning is crucial in being an artist because creating an artwork is like experimenting with one’s own ideas and how to best present them. The result might not be correct tomorrow. But today, what they can do is to make their ideas become touchable as much as possible because this is the right way to learn. It is all about learning, practicing and experimenting. A change or improvement might come from learning or actually making it.
Interview by Art Consulting Asia
Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok, August 2017