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Could you introduce yourself please?
I am Watcharaporn Yoodee. My former surname is Srisook. Currently, I work as an art teacher at Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts, Dhurakij Pundit University. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Thai Art and a Master’s degree in Painting. I am going to study for a Ph.D. in Visual Art at the Faculty of Painting, Sculpture, And Graphic Arts, Silpakorn University. This is where I used to study.
Could you explain to us about your artworks: the ‘Lotus’ and ‘The Journey of the Peacock Flower’?
For ‘Lotus,’ the inspiration went back to the time I was an art student studying Thai Art. During that time, I had to find a way to create my own identity in my works. However, my interest was not in narrative wall painting (traditional Thai paintings) at all. Thus, I turned to Buddhist paintings and lotus is one of the symbols in Buddhism. It was the starting point in which I paint the lotus in my works. In the case of the Siam Kempinski Bangkok’s art project, they used the lotus as a theme concept. I was assigned to create an artwork that would be displayed in the spa of the hotel where the vibe is peaceful. This was the reason why I decided to use the image of lotus flower to create this work. However, the style of this work is quite different from my other works about lotus flowers. The change occurred from the first stage of creating this work as I started it on paper. Then I put other materials on the paper such as beads, coloured glass and even grains to make a collage. Nevertheless, I realised that the hotel’s project needed a work that was serene. In the end, I decreased the number of varieties in the materials as well as focusing the work in monochrome and earth tone colours such as yellow and brown. The shading creates dimensions to the painting and the painting’s pattern. It’s to make the painting interacting with the audience.
What about the other work, ‘The Journey of the Peacock Flower’?
Let me explain about the reason why I chose Peacock Flower (Flame Tree) to create this work. There are many flowers that I could have chosen to create artworks but the Peacock Flower reminds me of my home town. I am from Nakhorn Phanom which is located beside the River Khong. Usually, along the river, people would plant this Peacock Flower alternately with Coon (Golden Shower Tree). In summer, and especially in April, flowers from both trees would bloom and their red and yellow colours would line the river. For this work, I didn’t choose to paint both flowers, instead, I only chose Peacock Flower for this project because, after I moved to Bangkok, this flower has always appeared in the places that I lived, whether in my dorm or at my house. I always see them. That is why they remind me so much about my home town. It’s like it’s a symbol of my life journey. I picked the Peacock Flower to be a symbol of my journey. It can be seen that I used a different technique in this piece compared to the ‘Lotus’. You can see that its shape is based upon a real tree with views of sky in the background.
What kind of artistic style you are creating now?
There was a turning point after I got married and I was trying for a baby but it was unsuccessful. After 4-5 years and counselling with various doctors, I found out that I have a problem with my uterus and needed medical help to conceive. However, in the end, I lost my baby when I was seven months pregnant. It was the hardest time in my life which also turned my artistic style into something completely different from before. I was determined to use art to heal myself. My artworks prior to that time were depictions related to my pregnancy, such as a painting of me being pregnant with images of the placenta and blood veins as well as the Peacock Flower as details. My own thoughts on my lost baby. Sometimes, the baby is in the painting.
Was there any particular reason for this choice that you used paper pulp as your technique to create to ‘Lotus’ and ‘The Journey of the Peacock Flower’?
Back to when I was studying art and still finding my own identity, I once wanted to learn sculpturing. However, the condition of creating sculpture requires a person skilled in three-dimensional perspective and drawing. I thought that my skills had not reached that level of precision but my determination persisted. I liked the feeling when I sculpt with my bare hands. And then, one day, I saw my friend sculpting with clay, although she put them on a canvas. That’s why I thought of a way to create texture that was different. I came up with the idea of using paper instead of clay. I mixed paper with glue and water, without any paint at first, to turn pieces of paper into a sculpturing material and used it as paint colour. This is the starting point of using paper to create texture in my works. Once it started, I found myself enjoying the process. I felt like I’d got to do both painting and sculpting in one work. After that I mixed in the colours and added more materials.
How long you usually take to finish a piece of art?
This matter depends on the weather of that day and the size of the artworks. As the paper pulp is full of moistness from water, glue and paint colours, if the weather is quite humid then it might take a few days to dry. Normally, I don’t use the heat from a drier or the sun because the colour might change.
Do you mean that the process starts from putting the paper on the canvas, letting it dry and then painting it? Can you explain in more detail?
There are two ways to do it. Either you mix the colour with the paper and then put it on canvas or you can add the colour later. There are many ways to do it but the weather has an effect on the time used to create it.
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 publish these works on the website for the public to enjoy?
I think it’s a good idea. Some of my artworks are displayed in this hotel and I have learned where exactly they are hanging. This is such a great benefit for the artists to show their artworks to the wider public because displaying artworks is what all artists want and need. As the hotel has such a project I think it’s a great opportunity.
How/what would make artworks valuable in your opinion?
Whatever inspirations of the artists are, it can be whether happy or sad stories, I think all they are expressing the same thing in their works: beauty. I think beauty is the heart of creating artworks. It is not about where or how an artist gets inspired. The key is when and how an artist expresses it. He or she creates beauty. By saying ‘beauty’, I don’t mean a pretty drawing or painting. Beauty might come from the ideas behind artworks. The image might not be as beautiful or perfect as the reality but the colour, the shape and the expression of the artist is the core of creating artworks.
What do you think are the challenges to become an artist?
As a career, it’s hard to live in Thai society because it’s hard to find art collectors that would buy your works every day. If you’re not a famous and widely-accepted artist it’s hard to find a collector who would keep on buying your works. Even for renowned artists, I don’t think it’s easy for them. To make a living just being an artist, you need to be absolutely patient. For me, even though I am an artist, I also work as a teacher to make a living while creating artworks.
What do you normally want to tell or inspire people through your artwork?
In many cases of my artworks, I usually think about beauty first. To affirm, my term of beauty doesn’t only refer to beauty of the appearance but also the inner beauty. I like to think that I can trigger audiences to receive something useful from seeing my works. In other words, I think it’s the knowledge or inspiration that they can receive from my artworks that they can use or adapt to their lives. Mostly positive things that they would be inspired from to change themselves or cheer them up during hard times. I want to create artworks that can lift the spirits of the viewers.
What do you think about the today’s art circle in Thailand?
I think there are a lot of galleries run by private organisations and a lot of newer artists that are supported by these galleries. I think the atmosphere in the art circle is quite bustling. For example, I went to an opening of one of my senior artist’s art exhibition and, on the same day, there were other art exhibitions opening elsewhere. So, if you ask me whether the opening was bustling or not, I would say ‘yes’. However, if you ask me about the art business, then I would have to say that it’s not as bustling.
What do you think is the reason that the art business is not so bustling?
It might be so because the popularity of buying artworks in Thailand does not compare to other countries. Even in Asian countries such as Singapore or Malaysia there are more art collectors that see the value of artworks more than in Thailand. The social values or popularity of buying artworks are low in Thailand. For the style, I don’t think we lose out to other countries. We have our identity of Thai artists that will never lose to others. But I think it is the popularity in buying artworks among Thai people that is low. Apart from experienced collectors or galleries it seems as if people need to consider buying arts very carefully if they only want to use artworks for decorating their house.
What you think is a factor that will allow Thai art circle to grow better?
Thailand still lacks good curators that mediate between the artists and the audiences. We also lack art scholars that help to explain the arts to the public. Together with these two groups of people I believe that the popularity of art collecting would be improve.
Is there anything that you want to tell young artists?
To be an artist in Thailand, I think that the young artists need to have lots of patience, determination and confidence. If they have all these things, one day they will be successful.
Interview by Art Consulting Asia
Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok, August 2017
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