Globally Known Painter Tawee Kase-ngam Opens Up about Baan Silapin
Following the success of the Hua Hin Arts and Craft Centre in 1996, four years later Chula Fine Arts alum Tawee Kase-ngam launched Baan Silapin, also known as the Artist Village. Along with 18 other artists in the village, Tawee has helped place Hua Hin’s fine arts scene in the international limelight. But Baan Silapin is above all a community, where anyone can practice without fear of failure. It’s an interconnected place, and art is the local lingo.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Baan Silapin opens for adult classes (paid by the hour), inviting all ages and abilities to paint, take pictures, or test their skills at any medium they wish, with prominent artists at hand to offer advice and guidance. On Saturdays, the village welcomes kids to its shady grounds next to Hin Lek Fai. Throughout the week, the artists in the collective ply their trade, with rotating exhibitions showcasing their latest work.
Tawee recently spoke to Bangkok 101 about his work at Baan Silapin, as well as the state of fine art in Hua Hin.
Where do your artists come from—Bangkok, Hua Hin, further away?
The 19 of us come from many places around Thailand. Many of the artists are my family. My wife is from Sakon Nakorn, my brother-in-law is from Nakorn Prathom, and my brother, sister, and I are from Ubon Ratchathani. Some artists come from the north and south, but we don’t have so many local artists represented here.
What media do you all mostly work with?
The majority of our work is painting—watercolour, oils, acrylics. We also work in sculpture, photography, and any other kind of art, really. We’re not limited to any particular media.
Before Baan Silapin opened, what was the art scene like in Hua Hin, and how has it changed since then?
Before Baan Silapin opened, art in Hua Hin meant carpentry and home décor, but, still, there wasn’t a very huge scene for it. Baan Silapin produced the first work that gained international recognition, as a lot of foreigners living in or visiting Hua Hin became interested in our collective. They saw they could study any kind of art and also exchange ideas. Emerging artists found they could promote their through exhibitions here, too.
It’s a popular destination for both Thais and foreigners, and it’s not too far from Bangkok. Plus, Baan Silapin is only 5 kilometres from the centre of Hua Hin, so it’s a convenient location. Nowadays, the town has become more and more developed, with traffic getting busier by the day. But tourists and, really, all art lovers don’t mind travelling here, since it’s so close. Our place has a special tranquillity. It’s beautiful, shaded, and full of trees and simple structures, which are not so easy to find in the city.
What are your most popular classes?
Our workshops are open to any kind of medium. We do have some restrictions, but very few. Basically, we let the imagination run free, no matter one’s age. We see Baan Silapin as a playground for international arts, but not a school. No teachers or teaching—only experienced artists who enjoy sharing their knowledge with others. They’ll demonstrate proper techniques, but they let you create and experiment as much as you please. If you don’t like the finished product, you can fix it or give it another try until you’re happy.
Right now, out most popular activity is painting on a variety of materials, such as canvas, wood, masks, paper, and more. For these activities we use water colours or acrylics, which are easy to use, they’re bright and vibrant, and they dry easily.
Where can a visitor go to experience the “real” Hua Hin?
Go to a night market, Saphan Pla (the pier), Hin Lek Fai viewpoint, the fisherman’s village, and stop in at some traditional houses around town—the true old shophouses. There aren’t so many of these in Hua Hin anymore. Just walk around and explore.
Our house has many projects—some big, some small. We always have something to do at Baan Silapin. Now that we’ve been accepted by society at large—thanks to the quality of our art—our work is displayed at many places around the city, including hotels. We also help the local government by leading charity auctions that benefit social programmes. And internationally, we are a core member of a large network of watercolour artists. We lead a lot of activities that connects us with ASEAN as well as the world further afield.
Just two years ago, Thailand played host to a worldwide watercolour exhibition, which was hugely successful. The Thai art scene really made a name for itself then. We got a lot of outside interest in what we’re doing here. In the future, there will be even more activities in our network, including an upcoming exhibition with artists from Vietnam, Myanmar, Japan, Hong Kong, Italy, Greece, the UK, Canada, Switzerland, and more.
I’m currently working on a series called “Beung Bua” [“lotus lake”]. It’s made up of extra-large watercolour paintings with very fine details, telling the story of life and death—the circle of life, in other words. The series has already gained a lot of attention from Thai and foreign art collectors.
What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring young artist?
Pure love and a passion for creativity will bring infinite happiness and success in your career, as long as you don’t give up.