To start, we’d love to know where your artistic journey began. In what ways did your creativity manifest when you were younger?
I’ve loved making things by hand ever since I was young – making my own toys and then making toys for friends. The act of making makes me happy. I think it started from there and expanded to making other kind of works when I grew up. I also love painting, but usually end up painting on my ceramic works.
Throughout your career you’ve worked in a variety of mediums including paper, mixed media, bronze statues and public art, but you’re perhaps most well-known for your porcelain sculptures. What is it about ceramic art that you are most drawn to as a creative outlet?
I love the touch of clay – it’s quite sexy, I think. I also like the idea of making a hump of clay into something fabulous. Clay works well with my hands. Somehow my hands know what to do with it. I think clay is such a versatile material – there are so many different ways to work with it. I also like the excitement of opening the kiln after a firing. You just never know what the piece will look like after firing.
When it comes to starting a new work, do you have any go-to sources of motivation or methods for getting the creative juices flowing?
Google is my best tool for research. Once I’ve got an idea, I go online and use Google to do more research and get deep into the topic. I also like to start my studio day with making a cup of sencha tea – it is a ritual to tell my brain and body that the creative work is about to begin. So, when I have an artist block, I go make a cup of green tea!
Despite touching on important subjects like social inequality, climate change, cultural displacement and the migration experience, much of your work is also imbued with a sense of humour, fun and vibrance. What is your reasoning for balancing serious matters with traces of levity?
I like to make work that is fun, happy and beautiful. These three elements help connect the audience with my work more easily. Once the audience connects with my work, they also connect with the message in my pieces.
You’re fond of including audience participation in many of your works – what do you like about engaging audiences directly and how do you feel it fosters cross-cultural appreciation and an understanding of your artwork and ideas?
I think it adds life to the piece and creates a brief bonding time between the audience and the artist. I love working with people as it gives me energy. I usually work alone in the studio, though it can get a bit lonely and isolated. Including interactive components in my artwork creates a sense of connection for me.
Your work, ‘Shrine of life / Benjapakee shrine 2021’, features as part of The 10th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art. Can you tell us a little bit about the concepts and ideas that inspired the work?
I created ‘Shrine of life / Benjapakee shrine 2021’ to celebrate and mark a significant relocation of my life from Thailand to Australia and to honour what Australia has given me. The shrine is based on the Lak Mueang shrine in Bangkok, where I went to ask for blessings before moving to Australia.
The deities depicted in the work represent equality, spirituality, security, identity, and creativity – what do you hope those that interact with the piece take away from the experience?
I hope audiences will appreciate different expects of their life in Australia where they may take it for granted or not think about it before and how lucky we are that we can live in this country.
APT10 will wrap up later this month with a massive, free, two-day festival on April 23–24. We’ve heard you’ll be hosting some art-making workshops over the weekend – any hints as to what attendees will be making during these sessions?
From 10:00 am to 3:00 pm on both days I will be hosting a Deity Crowns workshop at the APT10 Festival. It’s a drop-in workshop where you can make your very own crown design inspired by my five deity sculptures in the APT10 exhibition. At the festival I will also sharing my secret spicy tuna sandwich recipe during a cooking demo with former Masterchef contestant and chef Emily Yeoh from 11:00 am on Sunday 24 April.
Finally, when you’re not in your studio creating, how do you most like to spend your time?
When I’m not in the studio I’m at home working hard to entertain my two cats. They are so hard to please, so it’s quite a challenge!