From product developer to painter

Artist Aimi Kaiya hopes for international success after winning the Chianciano Biennale Award for Romance In Venice

Aimi in Venice, Italy. Aimi Kaiya

Thai artist Aimi Kaiya felt discouraged after she saw artwork by other international artists at Chianciano Biennale 2022 in Italy. Aimi felt the works were creative and of excellent quality. Therefore, she did not expect to win any prize at the Chianciano Biennale Award. Surprisingly, Aimi was the only Thai artist at the biennale who won the Chianciano Biennale Award for abstract artwork for her mixed media painting Romance In Venice.

"I was honoured to win the Chianciano Biennale Award. It was unexpected as I did not think my work could compete with other artists. My abstract painting Romance In Venice is on display permanently at Chianciano Art Museum in Italy and because of this, Thai artwork can get more recognition internationally, especially since Chianciano Art Museum has been commended by The New York Times for its impressive collection," said Aimi.

According to biennalechianciano.org, the Chianciano Biennale was launched in 2019 to provide a platform for artists without discrimination. Artists are judged exclusively on their work, talent and creativity.

Romance In Venice displays vivid colours from several types of paints such as oil, acrylic, acrylic spray and charcoal. Due to various kinds of paints, the painting features two layers with more dimensions. Aimi said she went through a lot of trial and error before understanding how to make different paints blend together.

"I had never been to Venice before, so I used Google Street View to roam the city online before painting Romance In Venice. I also used my imagination and visualised Venice as a city where people openly express their affection for one another. The painting includes abstract images of a river and people hanging out in the lively city. Its landscapes were created in my abstract style. I was surprised when I travelled to Venice, the vibe was like how I had visualised," she said.

Aimi Kaiya, abstract expressionist artist. Photos courtesy of Aimi Kaiya

Aimi is a self-taught artist who earned a degree in clinical psychology from the Faculty of Education, Ramkhamhaeng University. Even though she has a strong interest in psychology, she felt uncomfortable working with patients because she prefers to work as a researcher. Before being a painter, Aimi worked as a product developer. During the Covid-19 lockdowns, Aimi felt frustrated she could not leave home and began to have insomnia. As a graduate in clinical psychology, she knew that art therapy can have a positive effect on mental health, so she began to paint.

"I drew a painting of my dog with a background of Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night and began to fall in love with art. I initially practised drawing and painting using images on the internet. I later discovered that I have a passion for abstract painting, especially abstract expressionism because it has no rules. There is no right or wrong. I can express my identity and true self through it," she said.

As a self-taught artist, Aimi has to develop her artistic skills by painting every day.

"A side of being a self-taught artist is I do not have to compete with others and nobody judges my work. In today's digital age, there are many resources to learn. I learned from media such as documentaries, art news and e-books. Working on art allows me to create something and feel proud of myself as well as build my self-esteem. Art is like food for the soul which helps me to realise the meaning of life," the artist said.

Aimi in Venice, Italy. Aimi Kaiya

After becoming a full-time artist, Aimi worked for five months to exhibit her debut solo exhibition "Freedom, Isn't It Good?" at Palette Artspace. The exhibition questions Thailand's education system and family issues that can affect children.

"I created the exhibition in order to share my childhood experiences. Since the Covid-19 pandemic caused difficulty for many people, I hope that my exhibition can inspire and heal viewers. Family and educational institutions are important roots for children's development. Young people should be encouraged to think outside the box without feeling guilty. However, family and educational institutions sometimes draw a line for children which causes them to give up their hopes and dreams. 'Freedom, Isn't It Good?' received positive feedback from young viewers. They sent me messages via Instagram to thank me and shared their feelings with me," said Aimi.

Despite well-received feedback on the debut exhibition, being an artist in Thailand is a struggle due to a lack of financial support.

"Art materials are expensive and spaces for exhibitions are limited. 'Freedom, Isn't It Good?' did not receive financial support for further development in spite of the fact that children are building blocks for future world peace and harmony. If young people are able to express themselves positively, their actions can cause a positive impact on our society in the long run," she said.

Aimi in Venice, Italy. Aimi Kaiya

To challenge herself, Aimi decided to participate in the Chianciano Biennale 2022. Then, she travelled to Italy to experience the Chianciano Biennale and the Venice Biennale and visited many museums to view the works of legendary artists.

"Artists at biennales have their own unique style. I also visited many art museums in Italy, France and Spain such as the Joan Miro Foundation, Picasso Museum, Peggy Guggenheim Collection and the Orangery Museum. The experience broadened my horizons and helped me improve the quality of my work. After seeing naïve art by Joan Miro, a Spanish painter, sculptor and ceramicist, I was inspired to create a sculpture using elements from my paintings, but I still have to wait for financial support," Aimi said.

Many people want to understand abstract art, but Aimi said one art piece can be interpreted in different ways.

"I believe abstract art is similar to the Rorschach test which psychologists use to assess a person's personality, character and emotion. Each patient sees the ink blots in different ways. Viewing abstract art requires personal experience and perception, so there is no right or wrong interpretation. Each viewer can interpret and appreciate the aesthetics in their own individual way," Aimi explained.

Romance In Venice won the Chianciano Biennale Award for abstract artwork. Aimi Kaiya

In the future, Aimi aims to be accepted internationally. She is now searching for an artist-in-residence programme abroad.

"My short-term goal is to have success internationally while my ultimate goal is to create art that relates to psychology research. I hope that it will benefit other people. Also, I plan to write a book that is a mix of fiction and fact about psychology to entertain readers. I am still in the process of gathering information," said Aimi.

To view Romance In Venice and other abstract expressionism by Aimi Kaiya, visit facebook.com/AIMIKAIYAART.

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