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Chutchawan Wannapo and his interest in art grew up in parallel. Since he was a kid, he had the chance to see the formation of art every day, with his family working as craftsmen. His father painted, sculpted, and fixed walls and decorations in temples. Chutchawan wanted to be good at art, just like his father. He thus took up drawing, painting, and sculpting, all under his own steam. His family acknowledged that he was extremely talented, and generously supported him from that time onwards. In an effort to enhance his artistic skill, he applied to study fine art further at Srinakharinwirot University and later at Silpakorn University. In that time, he discovered that he had a fascination for printmaking, and he would decide to make it his major. Chutchawan found printmaking such an enjoyable medium, creating more and more through it, especially using wood-cut printing. Moreover, this artistic technique has helped him to broaden his visual perspective. He began observing things from unusual angles, defining an ‘Ant’s-eye view’ technique. This particular perspective drove him to observe reflections of shade and shadow on the ground. By uniting the themes upon the canvas, he developed his distinctive style. After graduation, he wanted to remain creating artworks and follow the career of an artist. He attempted to promote himself and his art to the public by taking part in art contests. Those efforts really paid off in the long run. He received plenty of awards – he has recently won the first prize of a big art contest held in Thailand, The White Elephant Art Award. His long and intense engagement in art has ultimately brought him to be one of the most outstanding Thai artists of modern times.
Could you please introduce yourself?
I am Chutchawan Wannapo. I did my Bachelor’s degree at Srinakharinwirot University. I majored in Printmaking. Afterwards, I continued to study at Silpakorn University. Printmaking was my major as well. I usually use painting, drawing, and printing techniques in my recent artworks. Apart from that, I also work as an assistant art teacher at Khon Kaen University. I teach Printmaking.
What was the inspiration for the series ‘Shade in Memorandum’?
The main inspiration was the reflections of shadows. The shadows that reflect on the ground, such as the shadow of a tree. I generally create artworks within the concept of time and space. I think shadow reflections can signify the time and its moment. And I also consider that everything has its own period of time. For example, a flower does not long last forever. It will fall down one day. A flower can only stay in bloom for a short period of time. I thus wanted to freeze and keep that beautiful moment. Good times are limited. I wanted to capture them in my artworks so that I would have a chance to appreciate past moments again and again.
What were the ideas behind a stone and stumps in your artworks?
For stumps, they refer to the conception of birth and death. Things come and things go. People are born, live and then die. In terms of a stone, we all know that stones are strong and solid - although my kinds of stones are quite different. They have slits on their surfaces which means even the solid objects can be eroded. In my artwork, you can get a sense of the rainy season vibe. There is also a stream of water that erodes the stone continuously. It seems like there is a tiny puddle on the stone as well. It’s all about the change of things.
What about the flowers in your artworks, Leelavadee and Chompoo-Punthip?
The special thing about Chompoo-Punthip is that there are so many Chompoo-Punthip trees in my neighbourhood. And when Autumn arrives the road is covered with their pink petals. This is exactly what can make me happy. Especially with the shadows of the trees. In terms of Leelavadee, the former name of Leelavadee (in Thai) was ‘Lunthom’. The meaning is negative, referring to sadness and so not many people wanted to plant them at home, although there are a lot of these trees at temples in my neighbourhood area. My friends and I liked to play with Lunthom leaves and flowers. We created miniature boats with the leaves and just played along in different ways, depending on our imagination. Such good memories and I miss them.
What is the artistic technique you have used in the two artworks?
In the series ‘Shade in Memorandum’. I would say mixed media. In the base layer of the papers it looks sandy. I used a printmaking technique called ‘Collagraph’. In other words, it’s a technique where we use objects, such as sand or a leaf, to be the moulding plates. My first step is I put the paint on papers and just right after I put sand and/or a leaf on top. Then I press on those objects a little and wait until the pigment is almost dry before removing those objects. And then I use vanishing liquid to cover them to keep the texture long lasting. And then I clean off the unwanted parts. I mean, for example, when you want a shape in brown colour you put brown pigment on a moulding plate, clean off the surface of a plate. Then the brown colour will be only in a shape that you want which is in the bottom of a plate. So, when we take off a moulding plate, we will see that brown colour.
How long you usually take to finish your artworks?
At least two months because I need to wait for the paints to dry, layer by layer. And then I do paintings or drawing over them so as to emphasise the main subjects, such as a flower or a leaf. This stage could be done more easily with painting rather than printmaking.
What do you think about the online art museum project of Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok, where artworks of emerging Thai artists are published on the website?
I think it’s a great idea. We can gain bigger audiences because they can easily access these artworks on the website. It’s the way that we may expand people’s interests in art.
What factors do you think are the key elements in creating artworks?
Honesty of artists - and how artists express what they see and appreciate something, I think it should be honest and genuine - not like just making it up. It’s important to express the inner thoughts of artists to the public. To express something ‘real’. I think the basis of creating artworks is the honesty of artists.
What do you think is the most challenging task of being an artist?
Firstly, to live and survive. It is challenging because, in the past, it was very tough to sell artworks. Especially, artworks produced on paper. It is not quite so popular amongst art collectors. It is therefore challenging. How can we survive by doing what we love, which is to be an artist, whilst our artworks perhaps do not match with the demand of art market? In my perspective, I know that I want to make artworks. But, if we could not earn any money from being an artist, I would probably start doing something else or finding extra work.
In general, what do you want to communicate or perhaps inspire audiences through your artworks?
First and foremost, for me it is very important to make audiences happy. When they see my artworks, I expect them to be relaxed, pleasant and satisfied with them.
What do you think about the today’s Thai art circle?
I think it’s getting much better from the past. Because the number of art collectors has increased. Also, when they collect artworks, they tend to appreciate values in art more deeply.
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, it depends on individuals’ interests and needs because art is all about personal tastes. I would never know what/how art collectors truly think. When they make a purchase, they probably consider prices first? This is totally fine for me. I think it’s their personal interests.
Do you have a message for younger Thai artists?
Work hard and be patient. Taking me as an example, when I started this career, it took so long to sell the first piece. Over ten years I would say. At first, I created printmaking artworks, and I gave them to people for free. Sometimes, some people resented me for giving them pieces of paper. This is the truth. And when I sold the first piece, I was absolutely happy. It was a 70 x 100 size artwork. I sold it for 1,500 THB which I used for study expenses. So, that’s why I have to say ‘be patient’ because after a long wait to sell the first piece, things get better and better.
Interview by Art Consulting Asia
Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok, August 2017