The artist who gives the junta headaches

The artist who gives the junta headaches

FCCT exhibition showcases the subversive nature of political art

The artist who gives the junta headaches
Headache Stencil and Alex Face's collaborative piece.

Criticising the government is part of a normal functioning democracy, but perhaps not in Thailand. The junta government who claim they came from an election frowns upon any kind of criticism, even political art.

In 2018, after the street artist Headache Stencil -- who keeps his true identity anonymous -- painted graffiti of Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon's face on an alarm clock, he was harassed by plainclothes men visiting his home at night. Since then, Headache Stencil received much more public attention and especially caught the authorities' eye. His other famous works include the silenced black panther and memes of Wanchalerm Satsaksit, who was a Thai political exile abducted outside his home in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Such harassment, however, didn't stop the artist from creating more political art with his latest exhibition titled "Do Or Die", now on view at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT). "Do Or Die" consists of 15 stencil paintings divided into two sets. The first set (eight paintings) has been on display since July 31 and the second since Aug 21. Headache Stencil said he couldn't announce the exact date for the display of the second set for fear that the paintings may be banned.

"Before I created this exhibition, I thought about what topics are prohibited to talk about since I was a kid. Everything that is prohibited will be presented here. After the second set is hung, I'll go into hiding for my own safety. I have only one life," said Headache Stencil.

From the first set, Really is a map of Thailand in red with five golden stars on top, similar to China's flag, with the inference that Thailand is one of China's provinces. The artist said he felt the need to address this issue because many believe the Thai government is too submissive to China.

"We are dominated by China. There are many nominees for Chinese business people to run businesses in Thailand. There are long-term contracts to allow Chinese investors to run many businesses and enter Thailand easily. We also lose balance of trade with Western countries because we are too submissive to China. We please them like we are one of their provinces," he explained.

Headache Stencil with #SaveWanchalerm, left, and You're Safe Now. (Photos: Pornprom Satrabhaya)

In addition to his own paintings, Headache Stencil also collaborated with three street artists -- Alex Face, Muebon and Mamablues -- for this exhibition. Alex Face is recognised for his three-eyed childlike figure in a rabbit suit while Muebon is famous for his graffiti of a skull with mouse ears.

"Alex Face, Muebon and I shared an art studio together, but after I was harassed by police officers, I moved out. Some people may be surprised to know they collaborated with me. We discussed concepts before working on paintings. Mamablues is a rising street artist. Working with her was most difficult because I thought her painting was already complete when it arrived. It took me a long time to add a toy soldier in the frame. Collaboration is difficult and takes time. Alex Face spent six hours painting fur on the rabbit suit," he said.

With international fame, the first series in "Do Or Die" was viewed by ambassadors and representatives from many embassies including Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland. These honourable guests expressed appreciation of his works as well as concern for his safety.

"Ambassadors and embassy representatives were concerned that I was harassed by plainclothes men and there has been no progress about the case. Because of their interest and concern, I feel that I'm not alone. If I am abducted, my news won't be only in Thailand. It will be around the world," he said.


The name Headache Stencil was created in 2014 when the artist participated in the world's largest competition for stencil art at "Stencil Art Prize" in Australia. His artwork Chicken Soldier entered the final round and he flew to Australia to experience the international street artist lifestyle there.

"I took art seriously after that because I found their lifestyle interesting. I use the name Headache Stencil because I intend to give a headache to people who are the subject of my artwork. And stencil is the technique that I can do best. I created Chicken Soldier, which is a picture of soldier with a chicken on his head, to depict that the government dared to launch a coup d'état, but they are chicken about accepting criticism," the artist explained.

Headache Stencil grew up with a father who is a university instructor for mass communication, so he was taught to read various newspapers. He noticed that the same stories were reported differently in different media. After reading so much, he became hooked on political news.

"It is like a soap drama. I see politicians come and go, but the system is still trash. It is like a remake of a popular soap drama like Dao Pra Sook in which only the actors are replaced, but the other elements are still the same," said Headache Stencil.

Due to his interest in political issues, as a street artist, he believes every artist has the right to depict whatever they want to express.

Headache Stencil and Mamablues' collaborative work.

"Every artist has the right to refer to anything that they want through their artwork without any limitation. Nobody wants to worsen the society we live in. Anyone who feels bad about political art or thinks political art is something that sabotages the country must adjust their attitudes. Art doesn't destroy things. It just represents another viewpoint. Street art educates and encourages Thai people to walk into an art gallery. This should be supported rather than discouraged," he said.

As a person who is interested in politics, Headache Stencil didn't miss the recent news about the student protests. He supports the protest, but he thinks it will never work.

"The protests demonstrate naïveté of young people who think the world or the country should be like this or like that. The protests are creative, but they don't affect the authorities or the government. The authorities don't feel shaken up. If they feel that, they would have resigned a long time ago. I think the protest should focus on investors who support the government or authorities. For instance, we should protest [certain businesses] to be unable to deliver their products. If investors lose their benefits, they will not want to continue to support the government," Headache Stencil suggested.

Headache Stencil risks his life to work on political art. Despite his enthusiasm towards criticising the government, surprisingly he doesn't think he will see true democracy in his lifetime.

"We'll see true democracy when probably the students participating in these protests become grandparents. However, I will already be dead by then," said Headache Stencil.

"Do Or Die" runs at The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand until Sept 18. Visit for more information.

Don't Speak. (Photo:

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