We chat with Thai artist Knakorn Kachacheewa during his visit here for the opening of his exhibition and talk about where he draws inspiration from and the often-larger impact of seemingly small, personal experiences
WORDS ROSSARA JAMIL
PHOTOS BANGKOK UNIVERSITY, KNAKORN KACHACHEEWA AND ALBERT TAN
Thai artist Knakorn Kachacheewa’s latest series of paintings is a confluence of colours that range from rich pinks and greens to the pastel hues of sky blue and ash. While there’s a tinge of pop art and the fantastical visual style of Rosseau, Kachacheewa’s paintings bear an air of mystery and surrealism. Through these elements in his paintings, the artist creates windows to his imagined worlds. For the assistant professor who teaches printing and etching, painting became an exploration of a new medium of expression. Symbols play a significant role in his paintings, from the lotus leaf to the zebra, which are important icons in Thai culture. The artist took three years to complete The Jungle of Form, Colour and Tempo series, on show at Ode to Art in Raffles City.
Tell me about your art journey to art.
My father studied art. He wasn’t an artist, but I was influenced by him. We didn’t have much connection to contemporary or international art, but he was influenced by traditional Thai art like those from the artist Chalerm Nakeerak. I didn’t have any artists who influenced me when I was young, but I loved to draw.
Where did you draw your inspiration for this series?
I love to collect photographs from social media platforms like Instagram, as well as old photographs. As for the process, it’s about drawing outlines of each figure and erasing all shades and tones out. Even though the figures are from real people, they disappear after I erase all that’s inside the outline. Then I draw from my imagination to combine them all together in the painting so that their identities evolve into something else.
You’ve said that you started with the main figure, and then you fill in the background as you go along and get inspired by your experiences and situations encountered. Can you share the story behind one of the paintings?
With the Zebra on Victoria Waterlily piece, I started with a woman sitting. Then I combined it with many things in my memory and experiences. In Thailand, we have a shrine. We believe in spirits that help people achieve their goals conveniently and quickly. It’s like a zebra-crossing. For the Thai people, we put zebra statues as offerings for the spirits. The lotus leaf represents unconstant situations. They are symbols put into the painting.
Why do you pick female figures?
Because I’m a man! Actually, I also want to represent human beings. I’m a male, but I have the feminine side to my mind. And the works are a celebration of femininity.
How has your working process changed through the years?
My background is in etching and printing. I’ve done solo exhibitions. The first two were about mixing painting and printing. The last one was 100 per cent painting. So I work on developing on and perfecting the technical painting skills.
What do you find most challenging about this series?
I began by questioning the language of painting and how I could communicate through painting. I try to understand to communicate using technique to paint. The way artists have to communicate their own expression, especially through painting. Coming from a background in printing, the main challenge was in learning a new medium as a form of expression.
How would you describe your personal vision?
Many Thai artists like to focus on big, important events like politics and topics that are big for the country. I think very personal small things that happen to me could affect me more. Smaller, more personal things like relationships with family, parents and friends inspire me. These affect me more and make a deeper impression. It’s just like when you’re broken-hearted. It could be something very big in life. With my paintings, I know each piece is complete when I feel that it satisfies me. But each one feels complete in different ways.
Lastly, how would you say painting is different from printing?
Painting can free my mind more than printing because I can work directly through feeling and imagination. But through printing, there needs to be a lot more knowledge about the process and special techniques. Plus, I have to stay in the room.