“I explore myself through painting, which reflects my thoughts, my feelings, choosing how we exist and depart. Therefore, what I paint is the reflection of who I really am.”
Rattapoom Piwpantamit was born in a small village in Loie Province, Thailand where he was surrounded by a beautiful rice farm and mountains. He has one younger brother and one older step-brother, he considers themselves the three musketeers. From the beginning of his childhood, his hometown had no electricity at all. This was okay, as he loved catching fireflies and glow-worms, as well as making shadow puppets on his wood walls. Additionally, every night, before bedtime, his grandma told him tall tales from the past. When he became a bit older, they started having electricity, so his best friend and all of his extended family would go over to climb fruit trees and dig a dirt canal in the mud. They also had a small rice mill and a pig farm, where he spent a lot of time when he was growing up. He enjoyed feeding the pigs and taking care of them, as well as doing some work at the rice mill to help his family. When he was in seventh grade, he went to school in a town 40 kilometers away, which is where he first found his love for art. He had a famous teacher, Mr. Sangkom Thongmee, who really cultivated his passion for drawing. He was very fortunate to have him in his life growing up, as he took him under his wing. During this time, he was chosen to attend an art camp, which only further developed his love for the arts. It was then that he began drawing non-stop, to the point that his parents worried that his other classes would suffer.
In middle school, he was offered to attend the College of Art, which meant he was to move out of his house to live in the city (Bangkok), 600 kilometers away from his hometown. While this did not make his parents happy at first, as it was far away from them, in the end they finally decided to let him go and follow his dreams. After he graduated, he applied to get his Bachelor’s in Visual Arts from Chulalongkorn University, the most prestigious university in Thailand. This made both his parents and himself very proud and showed that all of their sacrifices were worth it in the end. After he graduated from Chulalongkorn University, he immediately got a job as a jewelry designer; something he did for the next four years. After this, he started to work as an art teacher at a primary school, which he found to be very inspiring work and propelled him to later obtain his Master’s Degree from Silpakorn University. It was there that he really found himself as an artist, in large part because of Silpa Bhirasri, an Italian sculptor (previously called Corrado Feroci).
Rattapoom Piwpantamit’s unique artwork offers us a certain rawness mixed with elegance. In its full splendor, such images are filled with exquisite details that seem to have been perfectly measured. The lack of colors is not lacking at all because it simply adds more fuel for our imaginations to run wild. Observing his art, is an act of looking inward. The subtle tones are a reflection of our own nakedness, our own truth, our deepest fears and desires. It is simply difficult to look away without wondering what else there is.
Q. Tell us about your particular style and how you came to it.
A. From the beginning, my paintings had a realistic shape and common foundation; the differences were really a matter of surfaces and/or different writing methods, which were adjusted to suit the content or concepts in each set. I also enjoy oil painting, specifically by way of leaving the highlighted part of the artwork to be white in color, which I found helps the image to have more air in its space. As for the selection of shapes, the elements of the image are cut out as unnecessary, as compared to peeling the tree to the core. I chose to present only the essence of the concept by allowing that object to fully represent itself under the presentation in a calm, quiet style, like the main idea of “Zen,” which is one of the sects of Buddhism in Japan and has a significant influence on minimalism.
Q. Tell us about some of the highlights of your artistic career?
A. I would say a skull image set in the name of the artworks Existence 1, is the main theme of my Misgiving (The End) exhibition. I believe that is the summary of all life situations on this planet, an idea I got when I was in the hospital with my grandma who had an oxygen mask on. I sat and looked at her and thought that existence of life is only a split second of wind itself. Getting back to the artwork’s name’s Existence 1, it is a human skull that is isolated and without persistence. Therefore, without any security it can collapse every second, even from the impact of a gentle breeze. “Life is fragility an emptiness. Birth, old age, sickness and death are an ordinary appearance. Friendships, love, relationship and sacrifice are the valued of existence and for departing.”
Q. What role does the Artist/ Painter have in society?
A. The duties of each person in society are different; the important thing is how responsible we are. I used to teach a group of children with HIV and then put the work printed on t-shirts for sale, as well as organized an exhibition of children’s work. I believe that art can also create self-esteem for children as well. At this moment I also teach a senior group of Alzheimer’s patients at the Cognitive Fitness Center at King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital. They are a very tight and warm group, so regardless of your occupation in society. For me, what we have done for others is a nice and cute moment rather than only doing things for ourselves.
Q. What’s your best childhood memory?
A. I like the feeling when I was sitting, painting on a poster color on paper in a small room at the pig farm at the end of the village, which is surrounded by fruit trees and vegetable plots, including ducks, chickens and dogs. At night, it became a bedroom, so I would have my relatives of the same age or my younger brother there, watching me work at the drawing board.
Q. As a child, what did you wish to become when you grew up?
A. As a child, I loved singing and was very confident in myself. At that time, I thought it was a special skill in me. But since then, I was determined to be an artist and focus on painting.
Q. Do you remember the first art you made? What was it and how old
A. I can’t remember the first artwork. But when I was 9-10 years old, I used to search for campaign posters of politicians that were placed on electricity poles because they were the biggest size. So, I frequently practiced my drawing skills in the back of those frames. Such as drawing portraits of politicians, the King Rama IX. So, I was very happy with the elections as I got to practice my drawing skills on the bigger size posters.
Q. How and when did you first become seriously interested in art?
A. I started painting seriously and continuously from middle school on. When I finished my painting, it would all be sent to Mr.Sangkom Thongmee, who had an important role in suggesting and supporting with painting equipment and I considered submitting my work into the contest as appropriate. How I found the inspiration for my paintings is that I found and cut images and collected them in my personal art folder as a data file. On the weekdays, after finishing my homework, I would work at night by hiding a painting paper under the bed. Then during the weekend, I would be seeking an opportunity to paint while I was in the farm, so I could practice in a whole day long.
Q. What does your art aim to express?
A. My artworks recognize the importance of accepting and understanding the conditions of existence of things, an expression of internal maturity of the outside world. The transmission of sensitive and fragile matters is to realize the value of life. Although the work has simple, straightforward shape, it carefully interprets various connotations to be discreet, kind and profound, not shallow.
Q. What personality trait has gotten you in the most trouble?
A. Bragging, impolite and bad manners.
Q. What have you had to sacrifice for this career?
A. I didn’t sacrifice anything. Instead, it made me see my own value, especially time becomes precious and being used economically.
Q. Who are your biggest influences? Are you inspired by the work of your peers or anyone else in particular?
A. Gerhard Richter is a great inspiration for me because of both his work and the way he lived his life. Luc Tuymans is an inspiration that I have always been pursued with surprises of his artworks as well.
Q. Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
A. Loneliness sticks to everyone, everywhere. I sometimes like it rarely. Being alone for me is quality time to pause my mind, consider ourselves, indulge in mistakes, and some forgiveness. I love to hang out with a group of my close friends because you can choose who deserves the quality time you spend with them. It becomes the most enjoyable and relaxing time. I would not prefer to hang out with a friend who I do not know well because in my in my view, you will become lonelier.
Q. Apart from art, what do you love doing?
A. I have a small garden on the balcony where I like to plant trees. In addition, every Saturday night, I watch football with my friends, especially Liverpool’s games.
Q. What is your philosophy in matters of art?
A. Sincerity and honesty is important because good art occurs for the intellectual growth of both themselves and society.
Q. What does “success” mean to you?
A. The painter’s success is painting a work as true love. If you don’t love it enough, it’s too easy to give up. In the other words, you would be searching for any other jobs instead of it. On the other hand, if the art is such a true love, no matter how difficult it is, you will return to it with love.
Q. What are the biggest things you've learned in life thus far?
A. The biggest things I have learned in my life is Self-defeating and I never lose hope in myself.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given, and by who?
A. “You must distinguish the work of student’s art and artist,” said by Mr. Thawatchai Somkong, Director of Fine Art Magazine.
Q. What advice would you give to the next generation?
A. BE YOURSELF.