Belmore ITCH

Phaptawan Suwannakudt: Next Stop Chiang Mai

Side profile image of artist Pharptawan seated at a table and sculpting the finishing touches of an image of her Mother's head.

I just got news that I won an Asialink Residency to Chiang Mai, Thailand when Josie and Somchai told me about Belmore ITCH. Belmore ITCH presented an opportunity to toy with my ideas which might be of use for my Asialink program for late 2014. I started my time not expecting much of an outcome.      I did not have much experience in ceramic art. I thought of it as an art form with high skill technique which requires long term engagement. So I thought that I would just go along and have some fun with clay to sculpt freestanding forms which would get me out of my normal practice of drawing and painting.  Unexpectedly, I got lots of new ideas through simply engaging with the process of playing with clay and making things alongside fellow artists Somchai and Naidee Changmoh who was also working in the studio at the same time.

20140406_165814_resized  A clay seated Buddha image holding a baby in one arm is being sculptured by naidee. He is working on the floor we can't see his face but he is wearing a blue indigo top and pants which is a traditional dress for the Thai Farmer. The sculpture has great detail and is technically impressive, even though it is some what cartoon like

At first I tried to form clay into shapes of Thai alphabet which I used a lot in my recent work. I then experimented with ways to sculpt with fabric using these forms.  At the same time I started to follow the rhythm and make sense of the methods in a ceramic studio.  Somchai is very knowledgeable when it comes to making moulds, so I gradually observed how he thinks in terms of interpreting an object into codes of reconstructed shapes.  I then tried to use the logic of this making on reverse process.  I tried looking at the shapes I made (Thai alphabet) as the moulds to create a shell made out of fabric and use the reverse side as for eligible context of it.  This will be expanded for my project in Chiang Mai which will involve old Thai poetry in metaphorical context of Thai contemporary society.

Thai lettering shaped from wet clay sits on a  white slab with a damp cloth in the background     Pharptawan's Mother's head formed in clay sits on the studio table.

In parallel to Naidee’s practice as a figurative sculptor who was working in the studio at the same time, I wanted to take this opportunity to create something similar.  I decided to create a bust of my mother from my memory.  My mother has dementia and no longer feels that I live so far away from her, while I feel it and have been missing her tremendously.  For me this process was very therapeutic. I also see this within the context of memory lost in old age which can affect anybody one way or another.  I will then use the bust as a mould to create a fabric container and this may be filled with found objects and memorabilia and or herbs or plants in Thailand.

I’d like to acknowledge the good will of Josie and Somchai to create this space of creativity in which I have learned and made progress with this project.

Naidee and Pharptawan in the studio












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