Thailand has undergone extensive transformation in recent years, a change that is increasingly reflected by the growing avant-garde of talented artists. Finding itself at odds between its traditional values and its rapid modernization, the country and its people are increasingly subject to numerous changes and challenges. Some of its artists, seeking to bridge the gap, have gained fame on an international and national level. We introduce the best contemporary Thai artists and their works.
Born in 1971, Jirapat Tatsanasomboon is one of Thailand’s leading artists and has often focused on the interaction between Thai and Western culture that continues to play a dominant role in the country. After his graduation from Silapakorn University, Tatsanasomboon participated in various exhibtions, from Korea and New York to Bejing, showcasing his works which fuse Thai elements with Western figures. Inspiring the spectators to closely examine Thailand’s social context, the artist has moved from obvious depictions to more subtle hints, increasingly incorporating political elements. The juxtaposition of traditionalism and modernity, and the increasing issues of class, identity and the radical abuse of power that continues to pervade the state are all important themes in his work. Instead of blindly following the rapid Westernization of Thailand, clinging to its traditional societal standards, the talented mastermind prompts us to rethink values and behaviors. Jirapat Tatsanasomboon is the only Thai artist to be featured in the new Thames & Hudson book 100 Painters of Tomorrow.
Vasan Sitthiket, the self-proclaimed anarchist, studied at the College of Fine Art in Bangkok and is one of the country’s most politically engaged artists. Born in 1957, Sitthiket continuously addresses issues in contemporary Thai and international societies, including themes such as the pervasive exploitation of the poor and the increasing corruption of state and bureaucracy. Not limiting himself to any medium, the talented artist produces drawings, woodcuts, and installations as well as performances. Additionally, he is the author of more than ten books and has developed three plays. Often referred to as the ‘enfant terrible of Thai art’, the internationally renowned artist uses his abilities to actively point out the hypocrisy of modern society. Sitthiket counts among the country’s most confrontational artists and his manifold forms of expression make it difficult to categorize him. His works can be inspected up close at the New York Museum of Modern Art, Thailand’s National Art Gallery and the Singapore Art Museum. He was awarded the Silpathon Award by the Thai Ministry of Culture in 2007.
Rattana Salee is a sculptor best known for her works of unfinished buildings. The young Salee, born in 1982, obtained an MFA from Silpakorn University in 2011 and has since set out to bring some fresh air to Thailand’s art world. With her debut exhibition Shell (Shocked), which featured sculptural installations of metal and plaster that aimed to highlight the differentiated accounts of private and communal living within the city, was a raving success. Since Bangkok continues to evolve and rapidly expand it has become a constant site of construction, resulting in the pervasive noise of construction works from which the inhabitants seek refuge within the narrow confines of their apartments. These developments are what Salee seeks to explore with her sculptural work, in an attempt to blend psychology with the developing landscape of the city. The young artist is on the forefront of Bangkok’s urban art scene, seeking to bring forward the changes that have been overlooked by society as a result of the hunger for rapid modernization.
Born in 1979, Jittagarn Kaewtinkoy seeks to reflect people’s characters in his works, often depicting them in a cartoon like way with the use of bright colors and exaggerated features. After graduating from the Rajamangala Institue in 2001, Jittagan moved on to produce a series of intriguing paintings of politicians as well as other well-known personae in regard to their ‘commitment towards freedom and justice’. With the increasing democratization and liberalization occurring throughout the world, the problems of insincere leaders, double standards, selectivism and exploitation have come to the front – this is what Kaewtinkoy seeks to reveal with his paintings. Observant of others and his surroundings, the talented young artist has developed many intriguing character studies and drawn a parallel between the exaggerations in his art and the true issues of political reality. The world continues to wait with bated breath for what Kaewtinkoy will create next.
Born in 1976, Chatchwan Amsomkid obtained his Masters of Fine Arts from King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology and proceeded to work as an Associate Professor at the academy, a position he holds up until this day. The celebrated artist has participated in several group exhibitions while also organizing his own. He received two bronze and one silver price in the Mixed Media category of the annual National Exhibtions of Art in Thailand and has gained widespread international recognition, especially with his latest solo project: the Serpent’s Belly. With a focus on sculptures, the artist seeks to explore the origins of corruption and its detrimental effect on society and the country as a whole. His snake theme symbolizes the extensive greed that is the source of many current problems, which ultimately leads to chaotic effects for industries and organisations culminating in the ruin of society. Seeking to reveal the corruption that hampers our progress, Amsomkid hopes to show its contribution to inequality and injustice, helping us understand current trends in Thailand and all over the world.
Therdkiat Wangwatcharakul can be considered one of Thailand’s most prolific painters. He often uses oil paint on aluminum sheets or canvas in order to enhance his skillful play of light and shadow. Born in 1971 and graduated with a Masters in Painting from Silpakorn Univeristy, Wangwatcharakul draws attention to loneliness as a feature of urbanization and the isolation that created by urban anonymity. His paintings seem very much alive and invoke a strong sense of empathy in the viewer. However, his peculiar painting technique creates at the same time a certain unreachable distance. Seeking to inspire meditation and reflection in his audience, Wangwatcharakul has moved on from architectural depictions to the depiction of dogs or pigeons which prowl the streets of the vast Asian cities in search for food. The behavior of the animals raises a comparison with societal behaviors. The artist has been part of several exhibitions throughout the world, in places such as Singapore, Holland, Japan, Korea and the USA, and he received the Jurors’ Choice Prize in the ASEAN Art Awards in 2000.
Maitree Siriboon is one of Thailand’s most internationally celebrated photographers and was born in the rural region of Isan in 1983. His work is dominated by the figure of the buffalo, which reflects his humble upbringing and stands as a sign of cultural and historical heritage. The buffalo is one of Thailand’s most important contributors to the country’s success as a rice farming nation and continues to be of great significance in the poorer areas. While the original use of the animals is increasingly disappearing, they remain part of Thailand’s cultural identity. In recent years, the symbol of the buffalo has taken on an increasingly negative connotation, often associated with stupidity and ignorance, a sign of the rapid change that Thai society is undergoing. Aside from photography, Siriboon also creates beautiful mosaic collages, performances and installations often connected to childhood memories. The mosaic masterpieces are constructed through a laborious process resulting in truly magnificent specters. Siriboon has been featured in numerous exhibitions in Laos, Singapore, France, the United Kingdom and the USA to name a few. With his ability to express what constitutes Thai culture and society, we can be sure to expect many more dazzling works.
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