Since the turn of the century, few Thai artists have received the same global acclaim as Thaweesak “Lolay” Srithongdee. The Silpakorn graduate’s work has appeared in places far and wide, from Japan to the Netherlands. This January, Lolay will take part in the second Bukruk, the urban arts festival revitalising the riverside and Chinatown with live installations, workshops, food, and music. Before he turns his attention to this artistic invasion, Lolay chats with Bangkok 101 about what keeps him ticking.
Where did the name “Lolay” come from?
I got this name when I was a freshman at the Faculty of Painting, Sculpture, and Graphic Arts at Silpakorn University. All students were given nicknames when they enrolled, because the faculty wanted everyone to be equal. Whether you were rich, poor, or elderly—whatever your background—you became a new person with a new name once you stepped foot on school grounds. Some seniors asked me what I wanted mine to be, but they didn’t seem to like anything I came up with, so I just listed name after name. Finally, one of them shouted, “You are so bloody lolay (indecisive)!” And that was that.
Where do you go to find inspiration? Cafés, bars, malls, football pitches?
I like to observe people, animals, trees, machines, clouds, mountains—all kinds of natural things—and examine their shapes and textures. For example, in my hometown, there are lots of cows. I’ll spend hours watching them grazing in the fields. But I’ll do the same in urban environments, too. And when I travel, especially abroad, I find that I tend to see the same things, just from altered perspectives.
When did you begin to experiment with video and sculptures?
I’ve been interested in video production for a long time, especially sequence shots produced without any editing. My film “Hero” was screened at the International Film Festival in Rotterdam in 2008, and now I’m working on a music video and documentary about my band, Happyband. I’ve been making sculptures since 2007. I have a lot of projects planned. I’m just trying to secure funding to start them.
What is your favourite medium to work with at the moment?
I enjoy using traditional art equipment, like brushes and pens, and also paint on paper, canvas, fruit, and bread. I’ve been using musical instruments, such as the bass and guitar, for recent installations, too.
How did you get involved in Bukruk? What are you going to present during the festival?
I was amazed by Bukruk in 2013, and so I really wanted to be a part of it this time. Luckily Mimi, the curator, contacted me. I’m still deciding what I will put on display. It will definitely include live painting.
Looking back on the last 15 years, do you have a favourite exhibition of yours, or a moment that stands out in your mind, when you thought, “I can’t believe I’m here, doing this”?
I would say the Happyband Project. It’s not only about music—it represents the unpredictability of life. I had no idea how the band would grow when we first started; no one could say if we would be successful. But it became a major part of my life, even when we took breaks as some of the members started families. I still can’t believe we’ve performed at more than 80 stages in Thailand and abroad.
Is there anything you’ve always wanted to try, but haven’t yet?
Actually, I’d like to be a motorcycle road racer.
How can other young Thai artists rise to greater prominence on the global stage?
You have to work extremely hard, focus on your goals, and determine the best way to achieve those goals. At the same time, you can’t forget to take care of yourself.