Though Bundit Puangthong studied both traditional and contemporary art making in his native Thailand, his emergence in contemporary Australian art happened almost as an afterthought. Having travelled to Melbourne to study English, Puangthong earned extra money as a street artist selling paintings to tourists and sketching chalk drawings on footpaths to the delight of passers-by. Trained in Thailand to paint billboards and puppet theatre backdrops, his large dioramas so impressed that complete strangers were compelled to suggest he apply to the Victorian College of Art to formalise his studies.
Over 20 years later, Puangthong is now noted for his unique aesthetic that blends traditional Thai iconography with Pop and Street Art references, as well as contemporary techniques in art making, to explore the tension and permutations of his bicultural experience. West and East, new and old, rural and urban – polarities of being that are deconstructed, abstracted, and reconstructed as modern reflections on cross-cultural life.
Initially Puangthong was wary of being too didactic in his compositions, of delving too deeply into tradition at the expense of his new life in Australia. Early paintings, though definitively inspired by Thai culture, were more tentative in their approach, featuring broad swathes of colour and lightly sketched icons that danced around the edges of his canvases. Now a more mature artist, Puangthong is revisiting his early years with renewed pride, and relishing the opportunity to share the myths and memories of his rich heritage. Bold and bright, with characters that beckon the audience into his world, Puangthong’s recent works celebrate his newfound confidence and pleasure at passing on his stories with each show.
Bundit Puangthong was born and raised in Thailand. Undertaking initial studies at the Academy of Arts, Nakorn Si Thamarat, Thailand in 1989, he was awarded a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Chiang Mai University, Thailand, in 1995; a Diploma of Visual Arts, Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT), in 2003; a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Honours), Australian Academy of Design, Charles Stuart University (2004); and a Master of Visual Arts, Victorian College of the Arts (2005). A finalist in the invite-only Gold Award at Rockhampton Art Gallery in 2018, he was also included in the Sunshine Coast Art Prize (2020, 2018, 2017); Paddington Art Prize (2018); Arthur Guy Memorial Painting Prize (2021, 2017, 2011, 2009); and the Eutick Memorial Still Life Award, Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery (2009). In 2021 he was selected to create a 20mt high mural in Rose Lane for City of Melbourne’s Flash Fwd project. His work has been exhibited in solo and group shows throughout Australia and internationally in Hong Kong and Thailand, and his work is held in public collections including Artbank, Sydney, and Rockhampton Museum of Art.