Hero or villain? One can only wonder when one views Preyawit Nilachulaka’s latest artworks, part of the Dramathais exhibition at Adler Subhashok Gallery. Devoting most of his time to his role as the front man of leading Thai rock band Instinct, painter Preyawit is also highly involved in the local art scene and has been showing his work since 1997. Producing almost comic-like images using bright pop-ish colours, often on large-scale canvases, his interpretations of stock Thai characters such as policemen, monks, students and members of the ‘hi-so brigade’ are witty, mocking and yet profound, raising questions about the influences of authority and media on society. He chats to Nan Thochoodee.
How do you divide your time between music and painting?
I would say that I give my music career first priority because I have an obligation to my band mates. Working as a group, you have to be considerate of others and think about the needs of the team. Whenever I am not working on music, I devote most of my time to painting. Of course, this balance can be skewed when I have to complete paintings in time for an exhibition. But on the whole music comes first.
In what ways does music influence your painting?
I wish music had more influence on my paintings. But this is a challenge given the themes of my work, which basically question Thai society and the moral priorities we seem to have. My work gently mocks society most of the time. The musical side of life is different because, as I said earlier, you have to compromise with producers and band mates to achieve something you all agree on. Perhaps things will work the other way around and the views I express in my paintings will work their way into the music. At the moment our music is about love, relationships and life’s lessons, but we may grow into darker, more sarcastic social commentary in the future. Who knows?
Who inspires you?
There are a few artists who inspire me. I have a lot of respect for Damien Hurst. To have the guts to produce the work he does…you must be completely insane! I can’t just wake up one day and think “hey, I’m going to put a dead shark in a tank” and just do it. He’s very daring in his approach to work. I also admire Jeff Koons and Murakami Takashi for their amazing attention to detail. Yue Minjun’s work has had an impact on my painting too. He uses bright and seemingly cheerful colours for quite dark and sometimes controversial subject matter. These artists have assistants to help them with technical aspect so they are free to have the mental space to think about concepts. That’s really interesting to me because they show that it’s not all about craft. Much is to do with the main ideas that go behind the works. The problem with some Thai artists is that they put too much emphasis on the technical aspects of painting, missing the chance to fully explore the conceptual ideas behind their pieces.
Your latest works offer a sardonic view of society and authority. Why so anti-establishment?
I suppose I approach painting with a degree of mockery, with an almost anti-art feeling if you like, because in many ways I am bored with the current state of Thai society. For example, people are being overtaken by social media, with the whole Facebook and Instagram thing. It has become obsessive and a way of showing off. That said, most of the work I have produce for the current show derives from stories I have heard and seen via social media. Take the homosexual monk, and the policemen paintings, which contrast how seriously these characters are taken in real life with the general fun being made of them on social media.
Contemporary Thai art is growing. What defines contemporary Thai?
In a sense whatever can stay timeless counts as being contemporary. I’m not so sure about the definition of being Thai because that comes down to each individual to define for themselves. For my pieces though, I use obviously identifiable contemporary Thai characters – the policeman, the monk and the student in uniform etcetera.
What more could be done to promote Thai art?
First of all I think that artists need necessary funding so that they can keep on producing work. We are fortunate that the likes of Adler Gallery, and many other amazing galleries, are supporting local talent more and more. This needs to continue. Secondly, Thais from all levels of society need to be more open-minded and supportive of the various styles of art out there. Art shouldn’t be solely about decoration, it should be thought-provoking too.
Your plans for the future?
In terms of art, I’m hoping for a solo show in the near future and I’m keen to experiment with different mediums.
Until November 30
Adler Subhashok Gallery
160/3 Sukhumvit soi 33 | 0 2662 0299 | sacbangkok.com | Tue-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat-Sun 11am-6.30pm