The Arts

Asian Diaspora and Identity

Born in a quiet village where everything sleeps at 8 pm, Nakhon Pathom (Jiab), is a self-taught portrait painter now living in Lyon, known for her contemporary pieces. She was inspired to paint after viewing a David Hockney retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery. Having won the BP Portrait Award from The National Portrait Gallery has made a huge difference in her life, giving her the confidence to further explore her subject matters as well as to get involved in an art ecosystem with the support of curators and galleries. Her pieces mainly engage in the Asain diaspora and Asian identity. Let’s explore deeper into the artsy mind of the Thai award-winning artist. 


What do most of your art pieces portray?

Most of my work portrays a fleeting moment and reflection through the inner emotions of the sitter themselves as well as objects and surroundings of the painting. This is what audiences feel from my works when they see them. It develops itself around my own identity, how I grew up and see the world as a person. When I paint, I always ask myself two questions – What message do I want to communicate? How can I bring that message to the canvas? I do that to communicate to myself firsthand and I think that’s how the message could be transferred to an audience and could touch them because we all build up our own identity very similarly through our five senses.

I once heard that in ancient times humans started to draw and make sculptures purely to communicate about something of that certain time. I think artwork nowadays is still serving that purpose – to communicate certain topics about which we might all think and feel the same way even if we don’t come from the same background.


As your work focuses on "Mixed Identity", could you tell us why and how you got the idea of your Art?

I strongly believe identity comes from our five basic senses which are touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste, and this is shared by every individual. Wherever we go we keep looking for those particular preferences that comfort us consciously or subconsciously. The more experiences we gain or share, the more complex those senses become.

Identity is similar. A lot of the time it forms itself by involving itself in a place where we live, with people who we spend our time with. Whether it is the choice of food we cook at home or the clothes we choose to wear. When we don’t exist or live in that place anymore, part of the identity that had formed remains in us, while some other parts slowly fade away and we always look for traces of that identity because it's comforting to us. At this point, mixed identity could become a spoiled identity (as written and explained in ‘Stigma, Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity’ by Erving Goffman).

Gradually a new identity is formed in new places within ourselves, and the more of the identity we adopt, the more complex we become. I feel that it is important to take a closer look at my identity, to unfold any complexion and embrace it with a sense of clarity. Only by doing so can I move forward and become a little unit of a society’s mechanism.


What kind of Art do you most identify with and which do you most enjoy doing?

Definitely contemporary art. 


Which artist inspires you most and what is your ultimate dream project?

My inspirations took off in films from director Yazujiro Ozu, Aki Kaurismaki, Eric Rohmer and Apicharpong Weerasethakul. Then after I took interest in art more closely, I got inspired very much by the work of Ron Mueck, Kerry James Marshall, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Agnes Martin, Wu Tsang, Boy Child.  The list could expand endlessly!


My ultimate dream project is to let my art represent Asian identity, to be able to reference an Asian diaspora life in a contemporary art ecosystem. 


What’s your favourite piece of art you have worked on?


‘Night Talk’ is definitely one of my favourites. It speaks to me, a reflection of my life and its success in communicating what speaks to me and to others as well. 


Could you tell us about your upcoming exhibitions? How is that coming along? What's the theme? How does COVID 19 affect the preparations? 


My upcoming exhibition is titled ‘14 Years’ at Friends Indeed Gallery in San Francisco January 22 - March 5, 2021 -


The whole exhibition is about looking closer at my Asian Identity. I think there are cliches around Asian Identity but not much on how this identity really evolves over time and in different living realities. It is how I see Asians who remain in Europe. They build a new identity which didn’t exist either in the place they live or even the place where they came from and I want to make this visible. It’s really how I deal with my mixed identity, really. I offer myself and those who are like me to count yourself in. The paintings that give me a ground to stand on. 

Although the pandemic might affect me joining the opening of the exhibition in San Francisco, I do hope things might develop in a better perspective.


What is an artistic outlook on life? 

To appreciate the beauty of our own flaws. 


As a Thai artist working outside Thailand, how would you compare the art environment in Europe and Thailand? How do you see this improving in the future?

I have never lived in Thailand as an artist so I can only share my view as a foreign artist who lived and worked in Europe. For that, I have the freedom to explore without a certain mindset. For instance, freedom to use yellow or red colors in my work. While it’s more common and accepted to live as an artist in Europe, it doesn’t mean it’s easier. Being an artist is a lifelong progress and we artists do need strong support from friends, family and society to pursue our dreams.