New take on old-school art

Thai artist Sukit Choosri and his artwork, One Life, at the 2017 UOB Painting of the Year Awards ceremony.
Thai artist Sukit Choosri and his artwork, One Life, at the 2017 UOB Painting of the Year Awards ceremony.PHOTO: UOB

Thai artist Sukit Choosri last week became the first from his country to win the UOB Southeast Asian Painting of the Year award, since the regional competition started in 2013.

The annual art competition held for artists from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia offered a US$25,000 (S$34,000) UOB Painting of the Year award to winning paintings in each country, as well as a US$10,000 award for the work judged best across all four countries.

Choosri, 40, swept both the Thai award and regional award with his meditative composition One Life, which he completed in only two weeks.

The art professor at the Nakhon Si Thammarat College of Fine Arts turned to his wife's face and the cartoon styles he loved in his youth for inspiration.

He created a wide-eyed figure of a girl holding a lotus, in the shadow of a decaying bodhi tree. Her eyes reflect a silhouette of Buddha.

He says in an e-mail interview that his work focuses on the hope of the young and the future of society, though he has no children yet.

He adds: "One Life focuses on religion and life. It reflects my views that life is uncertain and that it is continually changing from birth to death.

"I grew up in a Buddhist society, which influences how I think and live life, so it's undeniable that Buddhism has influenced my creative work."

His parents were both in the agricultural industry, but supported his passion for the arts. He used to draw illustrations from children's books, later turning to magazines and movie posters for inspiration.

He enrolled in art school at age 15 and has an arts degree from Silpakorn University.

Like other contemporary artists, he experimented with multimedia and other art forms before deciding that old-school two-dimensional art was now unique.

It is also more challenging to create a painting that is distinctive, he says.

To achieve the results he wants, he uses tempera, a mixture of powdered paint and acrylic, applied painstakingly with a small brush. Tempera used to be popular with painters, but has been eclipsed by more modern materials.

The artist says: "The way of thinking and creating painting nowadays is changing. Contemporary art mixes patterns and techniques. But, for me, I have continued working in two-dimensional art; blending traditional painting with drawing techniques and new formats."

Akshita Nanda

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2017, with the headline 'New take on old-school art'. Print Edition | Subscribe