The idea for this painting starts with a story told throughout Southeast Asia, about Twelve Sisters. In Thailand we call it Nang Sip Song (นางสบิ สอง) or Phra Rot Meri (พระรถเมรี). It is an epic story that sees twelve sisters overcome numerous trials and betrayals, but has strong themes of loyalty, love and resilience. With many characters, all with differing motivation and agendas, the story has many perspectives. I have represented these perspectives with the multiple horizontal and diagonal lines in the background and other symbols and imagery. I have also included images representing small moments in my own life when I have had the clarity to see the many perspectives present and how they are influencing me.
This was the first piece I painted for this series. It was the beginning of my experimentation of adding a perspective or dimensional element to my work that can be seen, to a lesser degree, in the other pieces in this show. In this painting I was pulling on old techniques I used in my signwriting days that included lines, colour and lettering.
Avocado and durian are both bold yet unusual fruits, and an even odder combination. People often love them or hate them. I have a feeling that's how some people might feel about this experimental piece.
This painting is a reflection on how easily it is for relationships to go wrong if we are not careful with our interactions. The bird crash landing is symbolic of the misunderstandings that can occur when someone explains themselves the wrong way. The angles and orange lotuses at the top of the painting represent the peacefulness experienced before that one mistake and how one bad exchange can cancel out 100 good ones.
For me there is nothing so pure and grounding as walking barefoot. Feeling the ground under my feet connects me back to nature and my innocence. Walking barefoot takes training. At first it is painful as you feel all the lumps and sharpness of the ground. No matter how physically strong you are, a soft sole limits your ability to move forward. But with time, resilience and focus, your feet toughen and you barely feel the rough terrain. I find this a good metaphor for life.
This painting is inspired by a classic Thai story about a crocodile lord called Chalawan, who ruled over a group of beings that could take on both human and crocodile form. When Chalawan kidnaps the daughters of a wealthy man, Krai Thong, a crocodile hunter and tamer is hired to defeat Chalawan and an epic saga unfolds. The story is so popular there is a temple dedicated to Krai Thong in Nonthaburi Province. The story reflects how Thai people in old times had a strong relationship with animals. They believed that crocodiles and humans can have relationships and crocodiles do have feelings like humans.
While painting this I was reflecting on how important it is to recognise and respect an animal's true nature and how many people are surprised when an animal will display its wilder, instinctive side. Sometimes this can be true of human interactions and systems of being. We can be let down, or even betrayed by the same people and systems we put our time and energy into.
When playing in open fields in my village when I was a kid, the shadow caused by an eagle overhead would strike fear into me and my friends. Parents would often tell their kids that the eagles would swoop down and take them, just like we had seen them do to baby chickens. This was a way of getting kids to come in out of the heat or to come and help with chores, but it always sparked my imagination and added to the excitement of being out in nature.
Tied in with this childhood memory are Thai and Buddhist beliefs and approaches to birds. Birds symbolize freedom and are often used in ceremonies where one sets a bird free to free their own negative thoughts, fears and sufferings. In this case, catching a bird is seen to be ok, however, taking a bird from its mother or nest is thought to bring bad karma and would result in you being separated from your own mother and family. Fascinated with nature as a child, this did not stop me, but maybe the birds I took from their mothers and tried to keep as pets, lead to me living away from my family since age 14. In this image, I am the black bird. I am not sure if I am swooping at something or falling from my nest.
Let’s Talk represents the need to actually take time to sit and talk, face to face. To listen carefully and to be heard. Connecting meaningfully with others. The rabbits represent people always being on the run, always distracted and not listening carefully. When this happens it is easy to not catch the real meaning.
Usually when painting, I am pulling stories and ideas out of my mind and memory. But this painting dragged me in. It built up by itself and gave me space and time to relax. It is a lot calmer than the other paintings in this collection and gave me a sense of calm when I was painting it. Images within the painting, including the shower head and the multiple baths, representing ways others relax. For example, my teenage son and his love for long showers and my wife's love for long, warm baths.
My grandfather was a fortune telling and spiritual healer. Some of my siblings also now work in this space and through meditation and buddhist practices, communicate with spirits. I have never been interested in doing the same, however, since my mum passed away in 2022, I have wished I could communicate with her, but there is just no signal. My way of communicating is visual and done it through my art.
This painting is very much linked to No Signal. It is a representation of me searching for, and wishing for, signs from my mum. It is a hopeful painting, because while I am hoping for a sign, if there are no signs maybe that means she is at peace, which is all I wish for her.
The painting is a reminder to look for positive signs and hold on to them.
My grandmother used to say to make sure you always had at least one baht in your pocket in case you came across someone seeing an elephant for one baht. The saying suggested that we be open to possibilities and opportunities. It only takes one idea, one chance, one try to make something happen. One idea can equal one opportunity, but you need to be ready to take hence the one baht in your pocket.
The chicken, pig and fish at the center of this painting refers to a simple Thai farming technique that many Thai families used when I was growing up. It was a simple system that placed the pig pen over a fish pond and a chicken coup over the pig pen. This way the above animals' uneaten food and droppings would fall down and the animal below would eat it. It was a very effective system, making the most of the family's food scraps. This painting is a reminder to keep things simple and ensure our ways of doing things are effective and making the most of our time, energy and resources. Keep it positive.
This painting is an extension of the ideas in Positive, 1 which explores simple and effective sustainable systems, and makes reference to global environmental issues. Instead of a fish, this painting features a whale, who are filter feeders and who also are able to store carbon in their bodies. If whales were protected and numbers of whales increased, they might actually help clean the ocean that humans are actively poisoning. This painting aims to highlight that there is always a simple solution and that we need to use natural resources positively.
Part of a Story
Each of the 21 wooden panels is a study of characters that are present in many of my larger works. Instead of developing the characters in my sketchbook like I usually would, I decided to paint them this way. Many of the characters are inspired by Thai folk stories, traditional Buddhist stories and Chinese Zodiac animals, and some represent aspects of my childhood. For example the first panel acknowledges the Year of the Rabbit, while the sixth panel references a southern Thai story about a crocodile hunter, and the thirteenth panel depicts the buffalo skins my grandfather used to make his shadow puppets. In this way, each panel is part of a story, my story.
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.
Born 1969, Thailand
Lives and works in Melbourne, Australia
Master of Visual Arts, Victorian College of the Arts
Visual Arts (Honours), Australian Academy of Design, Charles Stuart University,
Diploma of Visual Arts, NMIT Preston, Melbourne
Bachelor of Fine Arts, Chiang Mai University, Thailand
Academy of Arts, Nakorn Si Thamarat, Thailand
'One Part of The Story', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'What Water will Bring', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'The Object of Life', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'New Works', Olsen Gallery, Sydney
'Reliving', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'Full Circle', Fehily Contemporary, Melbourne
'Heaven Nine', Chalk Horse Gallery, Sydney
'Animal Magnetism', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'Buffalo After the Rain', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'Heaven Nine', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'Boys Don’t Cry', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'Bundit Puangthong', Mossgreen Gallery, Melbourne
'The Cat Street Gallery', Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
'Bundit Puangthong', Iain Dawson Gallery, Sydney
'Recent Work', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'Tales of Old Siam', 45 Downstairs, Melbourne
'Risk', Self Preservation, Melbourne
'Second Step', Red Gallery, Melbourne
'Under the Lotus Leaf', Artholes Gallery, Melbourne
Sydney Contemporary Presents, EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'The New Gallery Show', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
Grau Projekt, Victoria
Adelaide Festival Group Show, BMGART, Adelaide
Sydney Contemporary Art Fair, EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
Sydney Contemporary Art Fair, EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
Melbourne Art Fair, EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'NOW', Fehily Contemporary, Melbourne
Small Works Show, EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
Melbourne Art Fair, EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
Finalist Group Exhibition, Sovereign Art Prize, Hong Kong
Group Exhibition, EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
Faculty of Fine Art Exhibition, Chiang Mai University, Thailand
Geelong Regional Artists, Gordon Gallery, Victoria
Clement Meadmore Gallery, Australian Academy of Design, Melbourne
Linden Postcard Show, Melbourne
Athenaeum Club Visual Art Award, Melbourne
PRIZES AND AWARDS
Finalist, Sunshine Coast Art Prize, Caloundra Regional Gallery
Finalist, Gold Award, Rockhampton Art Gallery
Shortlisted, Sunshine Coast Art Prize, Caloundra Regional Gallery
Finalist, Paddington Art Prize, Sydney
Finalist, Sunshine Coast Art Prize, Queensland
Shortlisted, Arthur Guy Memorial Painting Prize, Bendigo Art Gallery
Finalist, Arthur Guy Memorial Painting Prize, Bendigo Art Gallery, Victoria
Finalist, Eutick Memorial Still Life Award, Coffs Harbour
Shortlisted, Arthur Guy Memorial Painting Prize, Bendigo Art Gallery
Shortlisted, Sovereign Asian Art Prize, Hong Kong/United Kingdom
Merit Award, Australian Academy of Design, Melbourne
1st Prize (judged by John Cattapan), Melbourne Polytechnic (formerly NMIT), Preston, Melbourne
Rockhampton Art Gallery
Amelia Winata, "Between Worlds", Art Guide Australia, 19 June 2020
"Picture This: Bundit Puangthong", Feature, Daily Review, 4 August
Alexandra Brown, "Art Buying Novice? Why Art Fairs Are Where You Should Start" Vogue Australia, 11 August
"Gallery: Buffalo After the Rain", Map Magazine, 12 November, p. 44
Inga Walton, "Bundit Puangthong: The Culture Chameleon", art4d [Thailand], Issue 162, August, 2009, p.58-61
Inga Walton, "The Art of Cultural Fusion: Works by Bundit Puangthong", Etchings, Issue 7: 'Chameleons', July, 2009, cover & p.58-69.
Ronnie Girdham, "There’s a lot going on: Bundit Puangthong’s loud and cheerful artwork blends East with West", Feature, The Sunday Mail, 29 November
"Why is Thailand difficult for street artists? Graffiti artist Bundit Puangthong explains", Feature, Art Radar, 2 July
"Coming to Grips with Graffiti", Feature, Bangkok Post, 25 June
Ronnie Girdham, "East Meets West on Canvas", Feature, The Sunday Mail, 7 September
"Framed", Feature, Vogue Australia, October, p. 141
Profiles, Art Almanac, August
"This Art Week", Australian Art Collector Magazine, 29 July
‘Expanded Canvas’ is a major exhibition at Town Hall Gallery exploring the dynamic and innovative nature of contemporary painting. The traditional grid and 2D picture plane are replaced by modern surfaces, including drop sheets, sign vinyl, virtual space, and the gallery wall itself.
Bundit’s mural painting will be exhibited in the major exhibition ‘Expanded Canvas’, showing at Hawthorn Arts Centre, Victoria - 23 April to Saturday 2 July 2022.
NGV is committed to providing creative experiences for young people and their families and sharing new ways to be creative. The gallery invited Bundit Puangthong to conduct a series of online workshops for their NGV Kids programme, during the 2021 Melbourne lockdown.
With a background in puppeteering, Bundit created a range of workshops with an introduction to making paper puppets.
The Sunshine Coast Art Prize is a dynamic visual arts award reflecting outstanding contemporary 2D arts practice in Australia. Now in its 16th year, this significant art award is the flagship event for the Sunshine Coast’s Regional Gallery in Caloundra, attracting entries from emerging and established artists across the nation.
Held every two years, the Arthur Guy Memorial Painting Prize attracts some of Australia’s most accomplished artists, awarding a generous acquisitive cash prize of $50,000. The Prize provides Bendigo Art Gallery with the opportunity to survey contemporary painting by established and emerging artists from across Australia.
Bundit Puangthong is a finalist in the 2021 prize with his work 'The Living Room' 2021.
Flash Forward is creating a connected network of laneways across Melbourne with their own stories, visuals and acoustic designs.
Showcasing Melbourne’s creative culture and unlocking the potential of some of the city’s lesser-known laneways, more than 80 creatives have been commissioned to create over 40 art installations, 40 albums and stage 40 gigs across the city.
As part of the project Bundit was commissioned to make a large-scale work in Rose Lane.
The 2021 Geelong contemporary art prize is a signature event that assists with the development of the Geelong Gallery’s collection while fostering Australian artists and contemporary painting practice in general.
Bundit Puangthong’s work ‘Skull splitter’ takes inspiration from a famous Buddhist story where a prince’s ship sinks, and he has to swim all the way back to shore. The story represents the challenges we all face, despite our social status, and the lessons we learn from them. Image: Bundit Puangthong ‘Skull splitter’, 2020, synthetic polymer paint and spray paint.
This exhibition brings together the work of five contemporary artists from Thailand who now live and work in Australia. Arriving in Australia independently of one another across the 1990s and 2000s, these five artists are based in the urban centres of Melbourne and Sydney and have continued their distinct individual practices since arriving in this country. The work on display in this exhibition is a diverse offering, including performance, painting, ceramics, sculpture, video and installation. Articulating multi-dimensional and layered histories, all of these artists are emboldened in their shared cultural experience of growing up in Thailand and then relocating to Australia while continuing to develop and refine their artistic practices. This exhibition features the work of Phaptawan Suwannakudt, Nakarin Aaron Jaikla, Bundit Puangthong, Pimpisa Tinpalit and Somchai Charoen. A Thai born Melbourne based artist, Vipoo Srivilasa has initiated and organised this exhibition because of his desire to provide visibility and voice for Thai Contemporary artists who have been working and living in Australia.
Now in its 15th year, the annual Paddington Art Prize is a national acquisitive award for a painting inspired by the Australian landscape – a significant contemporary genre with a long tradition in Australian painting and a key contributor to our national ethos.
The Paddington Art Prize offers $30,000 to the overall winner. Louisa Antico from Sofala Cottage will offer a selected artist a one week retreat at her historic miner’s cottage in Sofala in the beautiful Turon Valley, 40km north of Bathurst on the road to Hill End; and Defiance Gallery Directors, Campbell Robertson-Swann and Lauren Harvey will select two artists to have an exhibition with Defiance Gallery at Mary Place Gallery in Sydney. Winners of the Defiance Gallery Prize will also receive an invitation to the Nock Art Foundation Residency, Queenstown, New Zealand during 2019 including three weeks accommodation at ‘Giverny’ with studio facilities.
Designed as an invitational award, The Gold Award aims to acquire contemporary Australian painting to Rockhampton Art Gallery’s collection by means of the most outstanding work or works by an artist awarded a cash prize of $50,000 and acquired by Rockhampton Art Gallery. The Award was conceived in 2010 when the then Rockhampton Art Gallery Trust received a substantial bequest from the Estate of Moya Gold for the acquisition of Australian paintings. With industry review and guidance, the Trustees advised to expend the interest accumulated by the Gold Trust to fund a new painting award. Now in its fourth iteration The Gold Award has become a premier biennial event of national significance. Presented by Rockhampton Art Gallery, The Gold Award is a joint initiative of Rockhampton Art Gallery Philanthropy Board and Rockhampton Regional Council.
The Gold Award 2018 has been judged by Simon Elliott, Deputy Director, Collection and Exhibitions, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art.
The Drawing Wall is an ongoing series of site-specific, commissioned, temporary wall-based drawings or installations enlivening the foyer-space of the Eastbank Centre, directly outside Shepparton Art Museum. This year Bundit Puangthong has been commissioned to complete a drawing across the 4 x 12 metre space as well as conducting a stencil workshop in July.
Designed to attract some of Australia’s finest contemporary artists, the inaugural Arthur Guy Memorial Painting Prize and exhibition was first held in 2003 at Bendigo Art Gallery.
Every two years the Gallery invites artists to submit entries for the Arthur Guy Memorial Painting Prize. The most outstanding work as judged by the selection panel is awarded an acquisitive cash prize of $50,000.
Works from the shortlisted artists will be on display at Bendigo Art Gallery in the Arthur Guy Memorial Painting Prize exhibition from 17 June – 20 August 2017. The 2017 winner will be announced at the exhibition’s opening on Friday 16 June 2017.
This prize provides Bendigo Art Gallery with the opportunity to survey contemporary painting by attracting many high calibre and emerging artists from around Australia.
The Sunshine Coast Art Prize is a national contemporary acquisitive award presented by Sunshine Coast Council. The Award is open to any artist who is an Australian resident, working in a 2D medium.
Forty finalists have been selected for an exhibition at the Caloundra Regional Gallery and the winning work will be added to the Sunshine Coast Art Collection.
Angela Goddard is the judge for the Sunshine Coast Prize 2017. Angela is the Director of Griffith Artworks, responsible for the Griffith University Art Collection and the Griffith University Art Gallery, Brisbane. Angela was previously the Curator of Australian Art at the Queensland Art Gallery I Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA). Winners announced 31 August.
Melissa Pesa thoughtfully writes about Bundit Puangthong's latest exhibition in the current edition of Art Almanac. She writes:
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.
This March at the Festival of Live Art in Melbourne, Bundit Puangthong will take part in Asian Artists in Conversation. Participating artists will provide a critical overview of the Asian art landscape, and discuss the shifting boundaries and concepts of contemporary Asian art.
When: Sunday 6 March, 1pm – 5pm
Venue: FCAC Roslyn Smorgon Gallery
Cost: Free, bookings required
The Festival of Live Art is hosted by Arts House, Theatre Works and Footscray Community Arts Centre, and is current 1 – 13 March 2016. For more information, click here.
Bundit's forthcoming exhibition is from 4 - 22 October 2016.