The Art of Life and Death with Vern Rattapoom
Thai artist Rattapoom Piwpantamit (Vern) moved from a small village in Thailand to the city (Bangkok) to pursue his art career. He talks of heart-wrenching personal experiences that pushed him to explore primordial forms and themes of life and death in his series ‘Misgiving’, with Buddhist philosophy teachings informing his creative process along the way. His delicate and sensitive painting style is a true testament to his skills as a painter and artist. With multiple exhibitions in Bangkok under his belt, he hopes to expand and share his work with European and American audiences.
When did you start your art practice?
I started painting seriously at the age of 13. The art teacher called Mr. Sangkom Thongmee was available to provide care, guidance and support for the students and the art supplies. Including sending the paintings to art contests domestically and internationally. Finally, they endorsed me to continue my studies at the College of Fine Arts in Bangkok.
Your art studio is in Bangkok, Thailand (The Land of Smiles!). Does the city inspire you? If not, what inspires you creatively?
I originally come from a small village surrounded by fields and mountains. I moved to study in Bangkok at the age of 16. The prosperity of the country is united here. I feel free and comfortable in making art. People seem friendly. I like to observe people when I travel. The main inspiration for my creativity arose from the study of Buddhist philosophy, which is always connected to my way of thinking. When there is an incident or experience, I picture new ideas in my mind that are replaced with symbols or shapes that I am interested in conveying.
In your recent work it seems you’ve been focusing on the primordial form. Life, and death and what remains. Why are you drawn to those themes?
I had this experience from caring for my mother at the cancer center. And later my grandmother at the hospital, which was not long apart. I spent almost a month in the hospital. One night, I watched Grandma alone and fell asleep, unaware that the oxygen in the tank connected to Grandma’s nasal aspirator had been depleted, causing her to twitch and tense until I was startled. I rushed to tell the nurse to replace the oxygen tanks, and she charged me not to let it go depleted again. I sat and stared at the meter that came with that tank until the morning. Grandma had to depend on this bucket all the time until two months later she passed away peacefully. This experience is the origin of the exhibition name “Misgiving”, which means apprehensive breathing in Thai and is the main idea of this painting series.
Your colour palette is so delicate and sensitive. Why did you choose to limit it?
I used clear acrylic plates as a palette to clearly see when blending the colors. If there is any dust and dirt, it’s easy to see. I cut a sheet of various sizes to keep and use as appropriate.
How long does it take you to finish a painting?
Each task takes a different time to complete. They range from a month to six months depending on the size and difficulty of the details. One week, I’ll spend five days in the studio.
What is an essential item in your studio besides your art supplies?
I have a Mac computer to play YouTube on, listen to music or interviews with interesting people while I paint. As well as planted a group of small trees in one corner to sit and think over there.
How has your work evolved over time?
My work patterns change with time and interests. As you can see, this is the third set. I have created a unique technique for painting. Create different styles, have a memorable impression. But the main goal I am trying to achieve is to keep my work simple. But there is depth of mind and wisdom. It creates new meaning by fostering interpretation based on individual experience. I am extremely careful not to make my work too careless and superficial.
What are you working on right now?
I am currently painting for a solo exhibition at the end of this year at Number 1 Gallery, Bangkok. As well as trying to paint a new series of works too.
Where would you like to see your work in 3 years?
Over the next three years, I want my work to be exhibited at an art fair or gallery in Europe or America. Which is now in the process of being negotiated and may be my next project. I hope it will come really soon.