The art of growing

Celebrated artist Pinnaree Sanpitak talks about her latest work as part of the Jim Thompson Farm Tour 2018

the Jim Thompson Farm Tour 2018 Tatat Bunnag

Food and art come together this cool season at the Jim Thompson Farm. Open to visitors every year during December and January, the annual Jim Thompson Farm Tour, in collaboration with the Jim Thompson Art Center, treats foodies and art enthusiasts this year at its site in Pak Thong Chai, Nakhon Ratchasima, with a special programme featuring northeastern cuisine and eye-catching artworks by Pinnaree Sanpitak.

Combining agro- and eco-vision, visitors can have an up-close experience of the brand growing its hydroponic vegetables, weaving silk and cotton products. Tour the vegetable and flower plantations -- for plants such as giant pumpkins, sunflowers and flowers, as well as learning more about the fascinating cultures and traditions of Isan.

With this year's theme of "Food", entitled "Zap Nua Huamuan" -- which means "Happy Flavours" -- the Jim Thompson Farm Tour 2018 is celebrating culinary delights of the Northeast with a variety of Isan's favourite cuisine.

Among the main highlights on the 600 rai farm is the "Art On Farm Project", where every year Jim Thompson Farm invites guest artists to contribute and exhibit their works around the farm as part of the event.

This year the Project featured an impressive art installation titled "Breast Stupa Topiary Jim Thompson Farm", which has been contributed by Pinnaree Sanpitak, a renowned contemporary Thai artist, developing sculptures and installations in relation to the landscape and the unique Isan Village at the farm.

"I always see myself as an Isan descendant," said Pinnaree.

"Although I was born in Bangkok, I spent most of my childhood in Khon Kaen, where my parents moved to work at a hospital when I was 10. So Khon Kaen hospital was used as my little playground as a kid. And I also believe that I have absorbed a lot of Isan culture from back then."

Pinnaree was born in 1961 and raised in both Chiang Mai and Khon Kaen. She attended the University of Tsukuba in Ibaraki, Japan, and Northern Territory University in Darwin, Australia. She has exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Thailand and internationally, and is the 2018 resident artist at STPI-Singapore Tyler Print Institute, Singapore. She received the Silapathorn Award for Visual Arts from the Thai Ministry of Culture in 2007.

Pinnaree is known for her unique artistic practice that usually evokes the female body, especially the breast as symbolic of a sensual and sacred form. The similarities between the shape of a woman's breast and the architecture of the Buddhist stupa highlights an ongoing body of work called "Breast Stupas".

Her sensorial inquiries also reveal a keen feeling towards materials, urging her various approaches in painting, collage, printmaking, sculpture and installation, which she explores through a variety of media -- textiles, glass, ceramics and metals.

The inspiration of the female breast became intensified after giving birth to her child many years ago. While nursing her son, she became conscious of how the breast upheld itself. She has looked beyond the mother and child connection to the breast as a metaphor for womanhood and self.

"Most of my artworks revolve around life and humanity. Many of them are about my personal experiences and issues," Pinnaree described her work.

"There is a lot of feminine symbolism in it. Each work pays homage to womanhood and motherhood, on different subjects and angles."

For this year's the Art On Farm, Pinnaree has developed three different projects relating to "Zap Nua Huamuan", which includes Breast Stupa Topiary Jim Thompson Farm, created to be a permanent site-specific work at the Jim Thompson Farm, made from steel and covered with climbing edible plants, such as gac fruit, butterfly pea and ivy gourd, a reminder of the importance of breast-cancer awareness.

The Mats And The Pillows Jim Thompson Farm, located at the main pavilion of the farm, is an interactive installation made out of thread waste from Jim Thompson's silk production. These pillows are laid out for the public to share.

And the same pavilion was used as the site for "Breast Stupa Cookery By Samuay & Sons", an exclusive diner on Dec 8, where Pinnaree collaborated with chef Weerawat Triyasenawat of Samuay & Sons restaurant in Udon Thani, creating a dinner where the sacred and the sensual come together through food.

"I started the Breast Stupa Cookery project in 2005. It's one of the first collaborative art projects I've done," said Pinnaree.

"Most of my earlier works were very personal, and they were created from many different materials. They may look lovely to the eye, but audiences are not allowed to touch. So I started working on the new projects, where audiences are able to interact more with my work."

In 2016, Pinnaree exhibited her installation titled Noon-nom (Resting On The Breasts) where she brought the bodily form together and invited exhibition visitors to rest within the sea of soft-sculpture "Breast Stupas" in varying shades and textures, through which the artist evokes the sense of nestling against a breast.

"With all these 'Breast Stupas' series, including 'Breast Stupa Cookery For Jim Thompson', where I created all this dining ceramic kitchenware -- they allow my work to get closer to everyday life and become more tangible," said Pinnaree.

"So lately, aside from my normal work, which I've usually done on my own, I would usually find more time to do more of this type of fun, interactive art. And people seem to be happy about it too".

Breast Stupa Topiary Jim Thompson Farm, an installation by Pinnaree Sanpitak. Photo courtesy of Jim Thompson Farm

Breast Stupa Topiary Jim Thompson Farm, an installation by Pinnaree Sanpitak. Photo courtesy of Jim Thompson Farm