Let your love flower
Artist Praiya Ketkool wants people to appreciate the beauty of weeds
The aesthetic beauty of flowers is always a common theme in paintings but artist Praiya Ketkool prefers to depict grass and weeds, which are overlooked by most people. It all began when Praiya visited her grandmother in Chachoengsao during a school break and was riding her bicycle past stunning, flowering grass. She became so captivated by the scene that she decided she would return to capture photos of the gorgeous spread of grass flowers she had witnessed. Unfortunately, when she returned to the same spot the next day, all the flowers had been destroyed. Farmers had decided to get rid of them as the weeds were stealing nutrients away from their crops.
"It dawned on me that what I thought was exquisite might be worthless to other people," Praiya said.
From that moment, Praiya felt that she wanted to portray the aesthetics of grass flowers and weeds to the world. The aspiring artist travelled to Chachoengsao to do research and explore the different kinds of weeds that grew around her grandmother's home and the rice fields nearby. Due to her strong interest in grass flowers, her thesis for her bachelor's and master's degree in visual art at Silpakorn University focused on the natural exquisiteness of glass flowers.
"I visited Chachoengsao during the end of the rainy season and the start of the cool season several times. When I was there, I reacted to what I saw in front of me. I just looked at the grass flowers and took photos of them. I didn't reorganise or touch the flowers in any way. In my first thesis, my paintings were truly realistic. I painted weeds, grass flowers and landscapes that I had seen," she said.
After her last solo exhibition five years ago, Praiya has returned with her latest solo exhibition, "Floriography" hosted by Subhashok The Arts Centre. "Floriography" displays 10 of Praiya's realistic grass flower paintings with acrylic on linen technique. This time, the collection reveals how she looks at weeds and grass flowers through her own painting "language" and techniques.
"Floriography means the language of flowers, but Floriography in this exhibition refers to my own language. It is the way I interpret each grass flower individually since they are all different in their own way. It is a language to express my feelings with regard to their beauty. For instance, the painting Red Zone was a result of how I felt when I looked at the tangles of leaves, which I felt was like an abstract painting. It was like a splash of colours. The paintings are how I see nature," said Praiya.
Praiya particularly appreciates flowers in their natural surroundings. She doesn't like them in a vase, a pot, or other man-made environments. She prefers to see how beautiful grass flowers and weeds are as part of nature and she feels bad that these plants are not welcomed by people.
"If we look up the definition of weeds in a dictionary, it means an unwanted plant. We gave weeds this name. I believe weeds don't want to be destroyed. This is what triggered me to create artwork related to weeds and grass flowers. My work focuses on weeds and grass flowers in rice fields, not the ones which are used for decorating cafés. I prefer plants in nature," explained the artist.
Flowers can be used as symbols to represent different feelings and often have their own meanings. In the West, roses usually refer to love and romance. In Thailand, jasmine means gratefulness while in Japan, cherry blossoms represent gentleness and kindness. Last but not least, grass flowers symbolise independence and strength.
"Many people think grass flowers are sturdy and difficult to get rid of but I actually think they aren't difficult to kill. In fact, they can be disposed of easily despite the fact they try to survive in any situation. Grass flowers may not be important for people but they are vital for insects, worms, soil and the ecosystem," Praiya said.
Flower Cracker 2.
"Floriography" is a remarkable form of art with complicated composition and elaborate details. Layers of each petal, each branch and each leaf can be viewed clearly in different dimensions. The collection also portrays grass flowers as part of an ecosystem and the universe
While working on paintings Star On Earth and Everything, Praiya found a quote from a monk, Phra Paisal Visalo, who said: "When we stand in front of a tree, we all see a tree. However, behind a tree, there are many elements such as the Sun, cloud, rain and wind. Without these elements, there wouldn't be a tree."
What Phra Paisal said made the artist realise that grass flowers and stars are all part of the universe.
"I saw grass flowers at twilight and I felt like I saw stars in the sky. We don't need to look up in the sky to see stars. We can find stars on the ground. They are elements in the universe," she said.
In Thailand, art appreciation is still limited to only certain groups of people. However, the artist hopes that her work may encourage villagers to see the hidden beauty of grass flowers.
"Art can't reach all people. I sometimes sketch my painting in a field while some villagers watch and they ask what I am doing. I explain to them so they can realise the natural aesthetics of grass flowers. One day, when they see a group of grass flowers, it might remind them of my paintings. They may see grass flowers like seeing stars. I wish they will realise that herbicides are hazardous. Humans try to control everything but using herbicide to control grass flowers is scary. It can cause negative effects to our ecosystem in the future," said Praiya.
"Floriography" runs at Subhashok The Arts Centre, Sukhumvit 39, until July 26. Admission is free. Visit facebook.com/sacbangkok or call 02-662-0299 for more information.