Water has special meaning for Thai people. There are many rituals and festivals focused around water and its ability to both cleanse and bring life. Our new year is marked by Songkran, which is a water festival. My village in the south of Thailand, experiences floods every year. My family were traveling performers and we travelled by boat along the river system in the south. Water is a big part of my life. I believe water always brings something. But it also takes. This series of work is centred around this idea of giving and taking, and the circular aspects of life. The paintings capture many childhood memories and stories of my culture and deal with the things I have both lost and gained.

  • Give the Monkey Some Diamonds 2020
  • This painting is inspired by a story I remember learning about in primary school. The story involved a monkey being gifted diamond by a king, but the monkey of course didn't know the value of the diamonds and just liked the way they sparkled. I remember always thinking, what a foolish monkey. Looking back, I can see I was a little bit like the monkey, also attacked by sparkling things or seeing something I really wanted. But because I had very little, I always valued and treasured the few things I was given. This painting is a reminder to always appreciate and value things you are given, even if it is someone's time or knowledge or an opportunity.
  • Honey Bag 2020
  • My village was at the end of a river system. Boats would come into the little port and have to turn around and go back again. But they would always stop for a meal or to sell things. I grew up by the river and had many relatives who all worked either on the river or along the river. There were so many boat businesses that brought products to town. I remember always waiting for the boat that brought the palm sugar liquid, similar to honey, in the drum. Other kids and I used to jump from the bridge when the boat came past to try to get in the boat and see what they had. In my memories is a fun and beautiful thing to do.
  • Naked Boy (Ghost Rat) 2019
  • My family was one of the poorest families in a very poor village. I never had clothes of my own, always hand-me-downs that were either too big or too small, so I often just didn't bother wearing them. I was the naughtiest kid in the village. I was wild and never followed the rules. I was known to help myself to farmer’s produce and proudly take watermelons, pumpkins, mango, palm sugar or anything I could find, back home to my mum. She would then be torn to between having food for the family and teaching me between right and wrong. She would always make me give it back. My family worked in rice fields and the markets so I was always out in the sun. The classism in Thailand was often linked to how dark your skin was. Wealthy families didn't have to do manual labour like farming, so their skin was pale. My dark skin and my scruffy appearance meant I was always viewed as below others. My village names were Naked Boy or Ghost Rat. But this motivated me and ended up being a title I wore with pride. I was determined to prove to them that I was more than what they saw. I worked hard, paid for my own education from age 12, got scholarships in the arts and was the first person in my family to go to university. As a kid I used to tell my mum I would work hard and by her a bus. I never bought her a bus but I did build her a new, flood-proof, house. I like to think of that house standing in my village as a reminder to everyone of how far I have come.
  • Feel Free 2020
  • This painting deals with the feeling of freedom. I have experienced that feeling many times in my life, but often at unusual times. For example, during the many, many floods that ripped through my village and my home. I can remember the sound of the floods coming - the wind, the rain, the calls of both wild and kept animals, the cries and shouts of family and villagers preparing for the oncoming devastation. As a kid, you would think this would scare me but it actually excited me. I loved it. I found it freeing - the idea of the flood coming and washing everything away was somehow liberating. I remember one year we had taken refuge in my aunties house that had a second level on stilts. In the morning when the rain had stopped, we opened the windows on the second level, and the flood water had completely covered the bottom level and came right up to the second level window. I remember jumping out the window and swimming over houses. I felt like I was flying. I reconnect with that feeling often, but I can't recreate it. Sometimes freedom can only be truly felt when you have no control, or even when you look to lose everything, and just let go.
  • Goldfish In My Mouth 2020
  • One summer, when I was 6-7 years old, I went to stay with my aunty in another village. She was married to a policeman and they lived in a police compound. My uncle’s brother was also a policeman and had all kinds of exotic pets. He had a bear, a monkey, a python, squirrels and birds. All of these animals can be seen in this painting. While staying with my aunty, I was invited to play at another family's house. When I got there, they had a fish tank with lots of beautiful fish. They were washing the tank and took all the fish out and put them in bowls around the house. I watched the fish the whole time I was there and really wanted one. Without thinking I grabbed a goldfish, put it in my mouth and ran all the way back to my aunt’s house. When I got there, she asked me how my visit was and I couldn't answer her because I had a fish in mouth. I ran behind the house and spat the fish into a bucket of water. My aunt was shocked and made me take the goldfish back.
  • Banana Remote 2020
  • This painting is inspired by images of people riding elephants or buffalos where the person riding holds a banana on a long stick to direct the animal. Sometimes when I see people walking along the street looking at their mobile, I am reminded of this. The painting features a monkey riding a cow. The monkey has a remote control. They are both blissfully happy but have no idea where they are going.
  • Swim with Me 2019
  • This painting captures the feeling of the afternoon, finishing primary school and walking home. It wasn’t a long distance. It should have only taken 20 mins, but there was always so much fun to do. Often, I would stop by the pond and jump in. One day I remember splashing around in the pond with a friend when a buffalo, which had been under the water the whole time, suddenly came up shocking us all. Other times I remember pulling pythons, fish, turtles out of the water. It reminds me of that magical freedom you have as a kid.
  • Chasing Tail 2020
  • Chasing Tail was the name of a kids’ game we would all play in the village during festivals or community events. In the painting you can see streamers or bunting forming a tent-like shape which was the usual set up for festivals. Some of the other small images are of cultural objects and childhood toys. In the game all the children had tails made of sarongs. A child would be ‘it’ and walk around the outside of the circle while everyone else sang and clapped hands.
  • The child would secretly drop their tail sarong behind someone, then when the music stopped and you saw that the sarong was behind you, you had to run after the person and beat them back to their spot. If you beat them, they continued to be ‘it’. If you lost, you were ‘it’ and had to drop your tail behind someone. The games went on and on like this but we all applied it happily for hours. This game and the other use of the phrase, chasing your tail, makes me think about life and the Buddhist idea of it being a big recurring circle. But we get caught chasing a dream, we go around and round like a dog chasing its tail. Then when we get the dream, we stop and find something else to chase. My dog is a very smart dog, but she always chases her tail. She gets so worked up and tries so hard. Once she gets her tail the fun is over. She just stops and holds it for a bit and then lets go and walks off. This painting is asking: what are you chasing?
  • Joe the Brick Man 2019
  • This painting tells a personal story from my Australian family. Joe was my wife’s grandfather. He passed away last year. He migrated from Scotland with his wife and kids (including my wife’s mother) and started his life from scratch. As a bricklayer he got work here and built a life for his family. We were from different times and different worlds but we were kind of similar too. We both migrated to Australia. We were very focussed on family and not afraid of hard work. He talked about a family being like a house and needing a strong foundation. But that you need to take with every layer. With bricklaying, every brick counts. Joe watched three generations of his family grow here. I am just building my first layer, but I hope my sons take care building the next layers. This painting is an ode to Joe but also a reminder to always be proud of your beginning and to take care with what comes next. I hope my sons are always proud of their family history and culture. In the centre of the painting there is a rice cooker that also looks like a cement mixer used by Joe. It is meant to symbolise hard work and providing for the family.
  • Three Silent 2020
  • While this painting is simple and calm and features beautiful angles, this painting is about climate change. You can see images of nature's elements, earth, air, water, fire in the painting. It is about seeing the signs or warnings that nature is giving us - floods, bush fire, draughts. We need to listen to nature. The wave-like image at the bottom left of this painting is a reference to markings in Japan that warn people not to build beyond that point. For generations the markings were obeyed until eventually they were ignored and people built beyond the markings. A tsunami then came and wiped out the new town. It is amazing how we can be presented with warnings and just ignore them. This painting is encouraging people to listen to nature.
  • Rice Flour 2019
  • Growing rice is hard work. It takes nine months from planting to harvesting and there are lots of stages and process for the farmers. As well as hard work it also involves good conditions like the right amount of rain, etc. So Thai people always pray to different angels to help with the harvest. Some of these angels can be seen in this painting. But often after nine months of hard work the rice can be ruined if there is too much rain or not enough. This strain and hard work is represented in some of the images in the painting such as the teeth. But when the rice crop is successful, all the hard work was worth it. One of the signs that the rice crop is going well is when you see the rice blossom. The flowers in this paint represent these signs of hope. In Thailand we eat rice with every meal. But we also ground the rice to make rice flour in cooking which we use in cooking and desserts, but because it is so sticky we also use it as a glue. As a child my dad would cover the inside of our longtail boat with a mix of rice flour and mud to seal it. Rice really did ‘hold’ us all together. This painting is acknowledging the importance of hard work and all the elements that need to come together for something to be successful.