Evolving traditions
text size

Evolving traditions

Artist Suphawich Inngam reflects on the changes he has noticed in everyday items and people's perspectives in a new exhibition titled 'Thai Thai'

Evolving traditions
Artist Suphawich Inngam and his painting of a dark blue spirit house for the exhibition 'Thai Thai'.

A chubby lady in a colourful traditional Thai costume holding one hand up in a gesture of invitation sits next to a dark blue spirit house on the 5th floor of Thailand Creative and Design Center (TCDC).

This lady is known as Nang Kwak (Beckoning Lady) and the spirit house is among two highlight paintings by artist Suphawich Inngam, aka Suph. one, at the exhibition titled "Thai Thai". The exhibition is a part of the "Open Space @TCDC" project which allows creative people to showcase their work free of charge. "Thai Thai" exhibits 32 vivid acrylic paintings which were inspired by things that Suphawich is familiar with. However, some of those items are now hard to find.

"The exhibition was inspired by things I have seen since I was young and some of those items are now hard to find or have already disappeared. These 32 paintings were developed from items that are around us that we do not pay attention to. A kratai khood maphrao [traditional coconut scraper] is one of the hard-to-find items today since most people use handheld coconut scrapers. Some children do not even know what a kratai khood maphrao looks like," said Suphawich.

In addition to vivid acrylic paintings, Suphawich added short descriptions next to the paintings so viewers can understand items that they are not familiar with, such as floating jasmines in a traditional silver bowl of drinking water and lao ya dong, herbal remedies mixed with liquor. The artist began to work on his exhibition by researching and choosing items that he felt connected to. Since Suphawich is left-handed, he decided to use his right hand to sketch items.

"I was browsing the internet for items and noticed that most of their appearances had changed over time. I decided to sketch the latest look of each item because I wanted viewers to realise how it is. I used my right hand to sketch because I wanted free form lines. These free form sketches were developed to be neater with my left hand," explained Suphawich.

A total of 32 paintings were developed from items around us.

"I chose to draw floating jasmine in a silver bowl of drinking water because when I was young, I drank rainwater with floating jasmine in a silver bowl which was available in the refrigerator in my house in Nakhon Ratchasima. A cloth rag is another rare item that my foreign friends are surprised to see because they do not use them. However, the item whose appearance I noticed has changed the most over time is Nang Kwak, which in the past was associated with tan skin and being slim. However, nowadays, Nang Kwak is chubby with fair skin and red lips. Perhaps, our social preference has changed."

Suphawich earned his bachelor's degree in Mixed Media from the Faculty of Fine Arts at Silpakorn University. When he was an undergraduate student, Suphawich was interested in skateboarding which drew him to graffiti and street art. He later began a graffiti community project in which he designed and worked with people in communities to create mural art.

"I am interested in the community and want to bring art outside the gallery as well as to have viewers participate in an art project. I have to discuss with community leaders, so they can guide me to places I can work. I enjoy working with children. In the 'Pet Boy Project', I showed children my video about stray dogs and let them brainstorm how to solve the problem. Then, I rearranged the composition of pictures that the children drew in order to paint the pictures on a wall. I did this project without any sponsors, but some store owners gave me paint that had expired," said Suphawich.

Moo krata (a pan for grilling pork).

The community project brought him happiness.

"It is similar to when other people buy things to make them happy. I spend my money on painting tools. Children in the community had fun and felt proud of their large mural art. Some children had never received attention from their parents, so when they showed their parents their abilities, their parents had a new respect for them. The project also changed the community landscape and created community harmony. After creating this space together, people in the community will value and want to take care of the space by themselves. I still have an ongoing project but it is on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic," said the artist.

Besides the graffiti community, Suphawich is interested in culture and viewers can see reflections of Thai culture in "Thai Thai" in which the artist not only showcases rare items but also includes items that reflect changes that have occurred over the years.

"I drew new items such as moo krata [a pan for grilling pork] and the orange vest of a motorcycle taxi driver. When I was young, there was no pan for grilled pork. In the past, local people in Korat grilled pork on stones but grilling in that manner did not provide soup, so a pan was created to grill pork and contain soup at the same time. I think we should preserve both traditional and modern items, so people can learn about how things change or develop over time."

The orange vest of a motorcycle taxi driver.

Suphawich hopes that "Thai Thai" will raise awareness about items in Thai culture.

"I hope Thai people feel proud and value items that we have. If Thai people support these items, it will also be good for our economy," said Suphawich.

"Thai Thai" runs until Aug 29 at Creative Space of TCDC, The Grand Postal Building, Charoen Krung Road. Due to the Covid-19 situation, an online exhibition can be viewed at suph.one and facebook.com/suphawich.inngam. Visit facebook.com/tcdc.thailand for more information.

A draft of moo krata. (Photo: Suphawich Inngam)

Suphawich noticed that Nang Kwak's appearance changed the most over time. (Photos: Pornprom Satrabhaya)

Do you like the content of this article?