Bundit Puangthong: Reliving

For 16 years artist Bundit Puangthong has developed a unique art practice that fuses his training in both traditional Thai art and study of contemporary Western-based aesthetics, balancing between two cultures.

Puangthong’s paintings explore, in depth, the cultural differences experienced since his arrival in Australia in 2000. Utilising a range of techniques from stencils to detailed, academic brushwork and an evocative colour palette, Puangthong creates texturally layered paintings that highlight his interest in American pop and Australian street art. Captivated by Melbourne’s creative ambience, its feast of colour, ideas and energy generated from public spaces, cross-cultural similarities became apparent. Puangthong reminisces, “When I came to Melbourne and saw all the street art everywhere it reminded me of the stencil work in the temples in Thailand.” Incorporating this approach with a modern medium, Puangthong brings a fresh art style onto the canvas.

Vibrant shades of pink and orange complement more blues, greens and yellows creating a layered, abstract palette. Once colour and texture are added to the canvas the concept or meaning of the work unfolds; “I see something within the colour and then I build up an idea. It just comes out when I paint.” Through this ‘build up’, Puangthong creates complex, chaotic compositions, filled with detail. Drawing on his formal studies, his paintings are rich in religious and cultural symbology from temples and gods to village houses and fishing boats. Accented with evocative colour, swift brushwork, graphic lines and occasional paint drip, these images rest on the threshold of dreamlike, or fairytale.

‘Reliving’ at Brisbane’s Edwina Corlette Gallery is an exhibition comprised of Puangthong’s new paintings. The series continues his exploration into inherited and adopted themes and techniques through depictions of a cultural landscape, both old and new. Recently returning to Thailand to visit his ailing father, Puangthong reconnected with his youth, the primary source of inspiration for this new body of work; “The landscapes represent the imaginary worlds of my childhood. Worlds I imagined and played in. Worlds that were inspired by things around me – rivers, creeks, trees, plants and animals”, says Puangthong. Everyday objects such as fishing nets, mortars and pestles, fruit peelers and rice steamers are hidden amongst the loti, mudras, elephants, Hanuman (the monkey god) and oversized fish, juxtaposed by pulsating yet peaceful pigments in what the artist calls his “secret world”.

“In my imagination, the small muddy creek near my house would become a vast, beautiful secret world and I would play for hours… To me it was beautiful. In those worlds I felt calm, free, safe and protected. Even though I was alone, I felt part of something, something much bigger than me. With this new work, I wanted to recreate that feeling. I wanted to create inspiring, harmonious spaces where the possibilities are endless. Spaces that make you feel free, safe and protected. For this reason, this work is much more personal than my previous work. My older work was my attempt to make sense of the world around me. The new world I found myself in. With this work I am making sense of myself.”

Distinct to the artist, the subject is open to interpretation. The circular shape of the canvas and Puangthong’s unique method of working on the floor without a determined viewing angle, allows us to focus on different narratives. Puangthong encourages us to rediscover ourselves through the dialogue of an interconnected world, a connotation implicit in the exhibition’s title.

Edwina Corlette Gallery
20 September to 15 October, 2016
Queensland