Swapping souls
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Swapping souls

Two artists switch personalities of well-known characters to explore the other side within each of us

Swapping souls
Battle of the Souls.

On display at River City Bangkok, "The Other Side" is an exhibition and unusual collaborative project between two well-known artists — Kasemwit Chaweewat and Takrit Krutphum, who is better known as October29.

Kasemwit is notable for his character Poorboy, a white furry monkey created to narrate stories of natural and environmental conservation. Meanwhile, Takrit is known for his playful and evil rabbit character, Hele, which usually appears with dark humour in a pop-art style. However, "The Other Side" surprises viewers who know these two characters by swapping their personalities and souls.

Kasemwit explained that he came up with the idea for the exhibition after noticing the contrast between the two characters.

Takrit Krutphum.

"The owners of Trendy Gallery suggested that Takrit and I work together to present a duo exhibition. They allowed me to present ideas for the project. I pondered the offer and started noticing that our characters, Poorboy and Hele, indeed have opposite personalities. While Poorboy is friendly, Hele is aggressive. I decided to propose the idea of swapping their bodies or souls. As a result, the owners found the idea fascinating and discussed it with Takrit," said Kasemwit.

Takrit said people at Trendy Gallery usually tease him for being a bad guy while Kasemwit is considered a nice guy. When Kasemwit suggested the idea of swapping the souls of characters, he found the idea intriguing.

"There is an inside joke at Trendy Gallery that I am a villain and Kasemwit is a nice guy. Our personalities and characters are totally different. Thus, I think the idea is intriguing, but we had a serious discussion since this kind of exhibition may cause our characters to lose their identity. We eventually agreed to do it," said Takrit.

I See A Darkness.

Both Poorboy and Hele are result of each artist’s own thoughts and ideas. When they had to think like the other person, both had difficulties.

"Hele often appears alone and his personality is similar to mine. He is playful and likes to tease other people. In order to make Hele a friendly character like Poorboy, Hele has to make friends with other characters. As Poorboy tackles environmental issues, Hele, with the soul of Poorboy, tries to make friends with wildlife. Working on the project was stressful because as an introverted person, I can’t relate to this kind of friendly personality," said Takrit.    

To make the friendly Hele, Takrit transformed the evil rabbit character into a pastel fairy with a natural background.

"I talked to Kasemwit about why he created Poorboy and gathered keywords related to the character such as environment, forest, nature, friendship and wildlife. I tried to make connections between these words and the character," he said.  

Kasemwit Chaweewat.

"I still like monster characters, so I thought about guardian spirits and fairies because they are in a natural environment. Therefore, Hele became a fairy who protects forests. To make the character more friendly, I changed the dark background into bright colours."   

While Takrit created an opposite character from his original version, Kasemwit created a new version of Poorboy based on the exhibition title "The Other Side".

"The idea of the character connects to the phrase ‘The Other Side’. I’m a man of few words and a soft-spoken person, but I have anger inside me. In the exhibition, Poorboy expresses his anger and there are reasons to be angry. For example, the painting Invader Must Die depicts Poorboy destroying backhoes that invade a protected forest. Poorboy is still an environmentalist, but his violent attack may make other people consider him a bad guy," explained Kasemwit.

Working on changing the personality of Poorboy also made Kasemwit struggle, but he was able to create a new version.  

"At the beginning of the project, I thought it wouldn’t be difficult. I changed Poorboy from white to black. But then, I had difficulty working on his facial expression. Poorboy always has a smile on his face, but I had to make him look mean. Takrit suggested that I add horns on his head to make Poorboy look fierce," explained Kasemwit.

In addition to the separate frames of Hele and Poorboy, there are several paintings the duo created together. The largest painting, Battle of the Souls, depicts the fairy Hele floating on a cloud and getting ready to shoot a flower arrow at an angry Poorboy. Vines with angry flower heads are attached to Poorboy’s limbs.

"I got the inspiration of the flower arrow from a Ramayana-based movie where Rama transforms arrows into flowers. Battle of the Souls depicts a fighting scene. However, as a nice fairy, Hele shouldn’t attack Poorboy, so he fights back with a flower arrow," Takrit explained.

Another painting, I See A Darkness, depicts fairy Hele looking into a mirror, but his reflection appears as Poorboy. It is a painting that reflects the theme of the exhibition.

"I want to convey that people have both good and bad sides. This is the reality. Although Hele is a nice fairy, he still has an evil side to him. In this painting, I left the mirror blank, so Kasemwit could fill out Poorboy in the space," said Takrit.

"It was weird," Kasemwit said, reacting to the personality switch. "The colours and character designs are softer. I’m glad that we both could express our internal conflicts through work."   

"Kasemwit’s work is unexpected. I thought Poorboy would become a villain who destroys things unreasonably. However, Poorboy is still a good person who expresses himself differently. I was impressed with his idea. I learned there are many ways to present a narrative," Takrit said.  

Kasemwit hopes people who know him and Takrit will be wowed.

"Our friends and colleagues told us the exhibition was unexpected and different. I hope people understand there is another side to us. People should also know there is another side to them which can appear at a different time and place," said Kasemwit.

Takrit added: "This exhibition means a lot to me since I had to go out of my comfort zone. I had to change my whole system and the character, colours and other details. It was also the first time I used oil paint. I enjoyed working on things I had never tried before. It was the first step that broke down the wall of fear. I am happy with it."

Although the results are rewarding, both artists said at this moment they do not want to swap characters with other artists again. Kasemwit said because they are acquaintances, it was easy to communicate and work together. Takrit agreed with him. 

"Kasemwit has a different character to me, but I have known him for over a decade. If I have to switch characters like this with other artists, I don’t want to do it," said Takrit.

"The Other Side" runs at Trendy Gallery, 2nd floor of River City Bangkok. The exhibition ends today. Admission is free. Visit facebook.com/RiverCityBangkok.   

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