Artist Pichaya Osothcharoenpol On Bringing Thai Heritage Back To Life
If you've visited the Peninsula Bangkok lately, you might have noticed the lobby freshly flourished with flowers and butterflies. The five-star hotel positions itself as a significant supporter of Thailand's art scene with its Artist in Residence programme, which is now in its second edition with artist Pichaya Osothcharoenpol. As we enter into the artist's suite, we feel like we've just found Narnia. Walls, bed sheets, pillowcases and even the bathrobes are covered in colourful floral patterns and mythical creatures; it's a wonderland.
Thailand Tatler sits down with Pichaya O, the woman behind the Peninsula's latest integrated augmented reality (AR) artwork, to discuss her ambitions, inspirations and where her unique style of art comes from.
Let’s get to you more first. What were you doing before joining the Peninsula's Artist in Residence programme?
I graduated with a bachelors of arts in product design from Raffles International College. I got a prize for my thesis because I designed the bio-mass stove, which was later patented. I worked with a car brand after that but then quit. I joined the fashion brand Disaya and did a few collections there, but what really got me started was when my dog got sick. I started a foundation for dogs. Doing something that supports others made me feel like my life had found purpose. From that point, I’ve always worked for charities.
What shaped you as an artist?
I grew up along Lanluang Road and on every corner of that road, there would be a temple. My family taught me to go to temples since childhood, and I became attached to temples. I also got inspired by the works of Khrua In Khong, an artist during the reign of King Rama IV. He’s never been to Europe, but he painted temple walls with Western techniques. With my other fondness of Renaissance engravings, I have mixed the two, drawing characters from the Jataka stories with Western-style lines. The flowers in my work are actually flowers from Thai literature: roses, medlar and agarwood blossom. The colours are also very traditional, colours used since the Ayutthaya period.
See also: Kawita Vatanajyankur Strikes Bangkok Again With A Piece To Accompany Your Afternoon Tea
It started when I went to Siriraj Hospital. Patients with terminal illnesses are not allowed to have fresh flowers in their rooms due to hygiene concerns. As a solution, I drew flowers with AR butterflies for the patients, and they were extremely grateful. Some even said they felt like they were alive and well again. As someone who already loves flowers, seeing that it could reach so many people motivated me to keep drawing them.
Why do you use AR technology in your artwork?
At first, I thought I just wanted people to play with my butterflies and animals, but then I realised that people have such different reactions for augmented reality art. For example, boys would play with butterflies very differently than how an older woman would. It fascinated me that you could have a hundred reactions from an audience of a hundred, so I kept doing it. I love the interaction.
What's next for you and your work?
I want people to realise how rich Thai cultural heritage is. I will be showcasing my work in New York next year, and I hope to break stereotypical Thainess, such as tom yum kung and muay Thai. I want the world to see other sides of our culture, like the fact that we have great mythologies and folk tales. I want younger artists to make this traditional heritage popular again.
Related: 4 Unique Afternoon Tea Sets To Experience In July