"An Interview of Piyarat : An painter who dedicate life for works in Thai arts"
Monday, January 22, 2001
In the late afternoon of Monday 22nd, we had an appointment for the interview with Mr. Uthai Khunchit or "Piyarat", a pseudonym used in artworks. Mr. Uthai has produced numbers of artworks, mostly representing Thai antique cultures and traditions.
When we arrived Mr. Uthai's residence; 39/347 Soi Amornwiwat, Nawamin road, Bung Khum, Bangkok; he welcomed us with smiles, kindly greeting. He took us to the upstairs where he uses as his workplace. We could see his current work, a Song Kran collection, waiting to be completed. Then the interview began
with his current painting ,"Bathing the Buddha images" which is one thai traditions on Song Kran day
Mr. Uthai is now 60 years old. He came from Pak Panung district of Nakorn Srithamarat province. The pseudonym "Piyarat" is named after his daughter's name. Before he became a freelance artist, he used to be an art teacher for 11 years, then went into advertising business, and then served as a civil servant at the map section, the harbor department. He later resigned and worked at Phillips Company, drawing diagrams for radio and television sets. But with strong admiration in arts since his childhood, he again resigned from routine job to be a freelance artist.
He started shining his art efficiency since he was in the first grade. Starting from cutting papers to make all charaters of Nang Talung (a shadow show) by himself. During his days in secondary school, he started producing drawings and he won the first prize in the drawing contest on the National Children's day every year. At this time, he earned income and support himself in study without financial aid from his good financial status family.
Although he seriously dedicated his time in art works, he also performed well in his general study. He was ranked 2nd of the district when graduated from high school. His family wished him to join the military but, with obsession in art, he decided to study at School of Art in Bangkok. The school only accepted 2 student from provinces. With his full determination, he managed to get his place in the school.
"Floating Market " Design Drawing, Water colored on 100 pounds art paper ,one kind of Piyarat's paintings.
Art study and Careers
During his study at the School of Art, he had an opportunity to take part in restoration of mural works at the Grand Palace, which accepted only high quality artists. After he completed his study at the School of Art, he worked as an art teacher for more than ten years but this career did not work out. So, he decided to work at the Map section, the Harbor Department. He soon found that he does not like that job and he later resigned. During his service at the Harbor Department, he also had income buy selling his paintings. After that, he worked for Phillips Company for 3 months and then resigned. He later established his own Advertising Company. He said " I ran the business for only 3 months, the company went kaput".
Entering into producing artworks
Although he has been in various kinds of jobs, he never abandoned his beloved artworks. After counseling with his wife, he decided to be a freelance artist. At first, no one was interested in his works. He used to take his paintings; mostly Thai patterns, designs, and images of Sida; for sale at minister offices (30 years ago) at the price of 10-15 for each painting. He then painted and sold his work to Galleries, tourist attraction points such as the Wat Sai floating market.
Thai blood and Thai Culture are inspiration
He told us that, in present day, young Thai people ignore Thai arts and cultures. So he has inspiration to maintain the priceless Thai cultures and traditions such as Drum Dance, playing hoop, tug-of-war, Mon Sorn Pa, which Thai children become unacquainted and they now know only computer games. He wishes to express these traditions to children as much as possible. For example, A horse riding game that the toy can be easily made; just chop off the banana leave's stem and make a good toy for fun with very low cost. His desire to preserve Thai Art makes him carrying on his artwork.
His paintings combine together literatures,arts and culture.
Maintain art with unique charateristic
Mr. Uthai said "Nowadays, the person who produces this kind of painting is rare. It can be said that I am the only one left drawing and painting to preserve Thai arts and cultures because most of the artist tend to produce drawings and paintings in the western style. My paintings combine together literatures, arts, and culture. They are commercial arts, that is, art combined with commerce. But most of artists now focus on only commercial aspect, ignoring the aspect of arts. Those are entirely copies to make more money. They always copy the popular paintings. My paintings are genuine because they are produced with my brain where all kinds of cultures are contained as if there is a computer in my brain."
With this reason, Mr. Uthai's works are unique. Firstly, they are not copies from someone else's work. Secondly, all of them are produced with imagination and accumulated experiences of Mr. Uthai. That includes traditions and cultures that are recorded in his memories, which he calls "continuous art", such as the tradition of Song Kran. He knows exactly how the bathing of the Buddha images is. He also knows how the tradition of playing water on Song Kran day is. Everything is already in his brain. So, his paintings are not like copies from photo taken.
Unique techniques and method of painting
His method in using colors is unique. He combines an ancient method, using powder color, together with a modern technique, using acrylic color. This is a technique he has been researching and using for more than 30 years. Unfortunately, he cannot disclose this technique as he wishes to keep it as a personal technique. This technique can keep his paintings to maintain in good condition for hundreds of years. Gold leaves are sometimes used to cover some paintings in order to produce even more beautiful artworks. A person who attaches gold leaves is his wife who also has personal technique that cannot be revealed. The other technique of Mr. Uthai is a technique in painting on paper mulberry, which the color does not percolate.
"Gold leaves" are sometimes used to cover some paintings in order to produce even more beautiful artworks.
a technique in his painting on paper mulberry, which the color does not percolate.
Each painting is unique and cannot be copied
He said " Every painting of mine is original. None is re-created. There is no painting can be re-created to be exactly the same to the previous one because I paint them with my feeling, so the painting has its own emotion. The copy one is emotionless. I don't copy anyone else's work. But there is someone copies mine". At this point, he added "There was a person once bought my paintings from my wife. Then he made copies and published as greeting cards for sale. My wife sued him with charge of violating the Copyrights. That was the first case ever of the copyright trials in Thailand".
Each painting is completed with artist's life and spirits
Mr. Uthai said "Each time I produce a painting, I paint it with my feeling, my thoughts, and my imagination, for example, my current painting. The customer wishes to have a painting of Song Kran day. So I paint it in the way that think and feel how it would be like. There are many activities taken place on Song Kran Day that can be drew and painted. The bathing of Buddha images, a cock fighting, a water baffalo fighting, a fish fighting, water playing, and merit makings. I create the image of these activities as my imagination. I do not produce works that other persons demand how it should be like. " That's why I'm still poor", he made a joke.
his tools and materials for painting
Professionals and Art Masters always possesses uniqueness
When asked what is the difference between himself and other artists, he replied " each person has his/her own techniques and aspects. Some artists are interested in literatures, some focus on Buddhism. But I emphasize on continuous arts of all Thai traditions". Some famous artists respect Mr. Uthai as his/her master. Some artists come to watch Mr.Uthai working. Mr Uthai said, "You can watch as you wish, but I cannot tell you my techniques". He added " There were Italian, Japanese, American painters came to ask me to teach. I told them they can watch me working but I cannot explain methods of drawing and coloring".ี
It is fortunate to be in a family of artist
Having adequately talked about techniques and aspects of paintings, we turn our interest into his family. It can be said that his family is an artist family. Besides he is an artist, his wife is also an artist. His daughter has a promising talent in arts. He never taught and never forced his daughter to do any drawing or painting.
What we gain from "Piyarat"
"Piyarat" or Mr. Uthai is a valuable artist of Thailand. His experiences in living with Thai ways of life bring him appreciation of Thai ancient Traditions and Cultures. He then expresses his thoughts and emotion via his works for Thai descendants to well learn and appreciate Thai folks.