INTERVIEWED BY JONATHON THOMSON, REGIONAL CORRESPONDENT:

Published in ASIAN ART NEWS (July/August 2006)

Thai artist Uttaporn Nimmalaikaew’s “Body (Mom) No. 8” is a portrait of his mother, someone who has had a profound impact on his life and work. It is a stunning and somewhat unconventional work. Uttaporn is one of the emerging artists currently working in Bangkok, where he was born in 1980. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Painting) from the faculty of architecture, King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology, in Bangkok. He is currently studying for a Master of Fine Arts at Silapakorn University, Bangkok. He spoke with Jonathan Thomson, regional correspondent for Asian Art News about his work.

Jonathan Thomson: It was John Ruskin, the 19th century’s greatest critic and sublimely eloquent writer on the arts, who said “fine art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together.” Do you agree? How do these things come together in your work?

Uttaporn Nimmalaikaew: What I try to do in my art is to illustrate and explain the inevitable cycle of birth, life, and death. I also want to show in my work the people who are important to me. I start from the things that are most important to me, and one of the most important things is my relationship with my mother. My mother is my motivation and inspiration. I try to put the feelings that I have for my mother into my work using my mind and the skills that I have.

JT: The art of portraiture is the art of trying to capture character. What is the essence of the character you try to capture?

Uttaporn: For me, it all starts with the relationship that I have with my mother. Everyone has to lose the ones they love, but I don’t want to. As I see my mother every day growing older, growing weaker, I know she will eventually be gone from me. It makes me fearful and I worry. But I also know it is a part of life. I would like my art to tell people and teach people the truth of life. I would like my art to give the message to people that they should take care of the ones they love. I don’t know if all the people that see my art can feel that way, but I hope they feel that the people they love are close and loved, no matter how far away they are.

JT: Your work is passionately felt and intensely personal. Is it important for you to have a close relationship with the people you portray in your work?

Uttaporn: Yes. I have to have an experience with that person and that person has to make me feel I want to make him or her part of my art. I cannot make my art of just anybody. But, when people look at my work, they can see it is of a mother. They don’t know me and they don’t know her, but they can see from my art what drives me and it is my hope that the people who see my work will think the same way about their mother or father or people they are close to.

JT: There is poignancy in your work, in that it has life forever when the earthly life of the person that inspired it is finite.

Uttaporn: Yes. This is the concept in my work. I want to produce art that shows the uncertainty and sadness associated with the changes in stage of life. I am a Buddhist and I follow the teachings of Buddha. I study and practice to try to get myself into a position to be able to understand the teachings of Buddha. I try to translate the teachings of Buddha into a simple work, a picture, so that people of every religion, of every national can also understand. I would like to tell people about something that is closely related to them and to their lives and that is related to Buddhist teaching. I look around my world, I look at my mother, and I feel that these things are all a part of what I learn through Buddhism. Buddhist teachings tell me that Birth, Life, Old Age and Death are all parts of a journey. What I want to show in my art are the feelings that I don’t want to lose. Someone may not know how my art relates to Buddhism but I hope to get them to understand it through my art.

JT: Your work is made up of layers that are barely seen and threads that link them like strands of desire or some sort of umbilical cord. How did you come to this technique? Are you interested in theories of perception and how we process information and come to an understanding of the world?

Uttaporn: It took my quite a long time to develop my concept. The layers help represent the complexity of life and relationships and all of the stages of life. The actual technique started with a mosquito net and things seen through the netting. I intentionally draw the threads through the netting and leave them drooping to suggest a life flowing, of aging, and physical degeneration. It is part of my concept that people have to look through my work, not just at it. People have to see my work and experience it and not just look at a photograph. It is impossible to replicate my work in a photograph.

JT: After winning the Sovereign Art Prize, what do you plan to do next?

Uttaporn: I’m thinking. My work is more international now and I would like to share my Thai feelings, my Asian feelings, with an international audience.

INTRODUCTING UTTAPORN NIMMALAIKAEW, WINNER OF THE SOVEREIGN ASIA ART PRIZE

Uttaporn Nimmalaikaew is one of Thailand’s – indeed, Asia’s – most exciting young and rapidly emerging artists. The unique style of Nimmalaikaew’s has recently won him the Sovereign Asia Art Prize competition of 2006. Nimmalaikaew has developed a mixing of media that produces magical results. he Sovereign, now in existence for some five years, is widely regarded as having become one of the, if not the, leading Asia-wide painting prize. Prior to the Sovereign, Nimmalaikaew had already won several national prizes in Thailand (selected list below), and he is a finalist in Japans’ 2007 BEPPU Biennale.

Nimmalaikaew’s works start from a canvas backdrop that is set inside a deep casement, and that is then lightly veiled by multiple layers of thread and netting. The artist paints (as well as prints with an Ink Jet) not only on the canvas but also on the thread and netting in order to create shimmering portraits and figurative scenes. He creates a depth of field that goes beyond three-dimensional space; rather, his work captures a time-space dimension in a way that has few parallels in the history of art. Yet, to put it that way is still an understatement, for Nimmalaikaew’s genius lies in the way he imagines, and is able to execute with astonishing virtuosity, what might be called a ‘meta-dimension’ that fuses time, space and spirit. At a thematic level, his present work expresses a deep reverence and love for family.

Nimmalaikaew speaks of his work in an interview with Jonathan Thomson of Asian Art News shortly after being presented with the Sovereign Asia Art Prize at a Hong Kong ceremony:
“It took me quite a long time to develop my concept. The layers help represent the complexity of life and relationships and all of the stages of life. The actual technique started with a mosquito net and things seen through the netting. I intentionally draw the threads through the netting and leave them drooping to suggest a life flowing, of aging, and physical degeneration. It is part of my concept that people have to look through my work, not just at it. People have to see my work and experience it…It is impossible to replicate my work in a photograph.”
From “Inevitable Cycles,” (July/Aug 2006) 16 Asian Art News [Interview of Uttaporn Nimmalaikaew by Jonathan Thomson]

At age 27, Uttaporn Nimmalaikaew is at the forefront of a new generation of artists in Thailand. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts (Painting) from the Faculty of Architecture, King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology in Bangkok. He then completed his Master of Fine Arts (Painting) from the Faculty of Painting, Sculpture and Printing, Silapakorn University, Bangkok. He is now an Art Instructor of Painting, Faculty of Architecture, King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology, Bankgkok; he plans to continue on to doctoral work in art.
Amongst his recent honors are the following:
Selected finalist for BEPPU Biennale of Contemporary Art award exhibition to be held in Japan 2007 First Prize,
The Sovereign Asian Art Prize 2006 (Hong Kong) First Prize,
Gold Medal, Painting Section: The 51st National Exhibition of Art, 2005,
Bangkok Thailand First Prize,
7th Panasonic Contemporary Painting Competition, Bangkok, Thailand First Prize,
17th Toshiba “Brings Good Things to Life” Art Competition, Bangkok, Thailand First Prize,
18th Thailand Petroleum Authority’s Art Competition “Painting the Dreams for a Virtuous Society,” Bangkok Thailand First Prize,
5th Panasonic Contemporary Painting Competition, Bangkok, Thailand First Prize, Gold Medal,
19th Exhibition of Contemporary Art by Young Artists, Thailand Special Award, 14th Toshiba
“Brings Good Things to Life” Art Competition, Bangkok, Thailand
Thailand is a country noted for exceptional technical training of its artists and for a culture brimming with artistic creativity. Thai art, too long a hidden gem in the art universe, is poised to make the world sit up and take notice in the coming years, on the coattails of a group of senior Thai artists who have established themselves on the global art scene in recent years and with the energy and vision of a new generation.  

 

 Press Release for "Introducing Uttaporn Nimmalaikaew," Craig Scott Gallery, 2007

 

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