There’s an invasion and a revolution taking place right now on the streets of Bangkok. If you don’t hear the deafening sounds of machine guns and the scraping of tank treads on the hot surface of the Thai capital’s roads, that is because the invasion is visual on the abandoned walls of Bangkok and the revolution is in the Thai art circles.
Graffiti and Urban Street Art by Thai artists
The beginning of 2016 saw the second edition of Bukruk, an urban art festival which brought together ten European and four Asian artists (two of which were Thai) with one mission in mind: to visually stimulate with their graffiti art everyone living or passing through Bangkok. For ten days, street artists from Romania, Spain, the Netherlands, Korea, Greece, Austria, Belgium, Italy and the host country, Thailand, were given wall space and artistic freedom to “redecorate” the center of Bangkok according to their artistic vision. Their work is still visible and the locations of each graffiti are pinpointed on a map available at bukruk.com.
The most amazing part of this urban art festival is the fact that it gave passers-by the opportunity to see the art coming to life on the walls right in front of them as the artists “performed” their graffiti live. While only two Thai artists, known in the art word as Lolay and Nop, exhibited this year at Bukruk, there are many more Thai street artists who’ve long since left their mark on abandoned buildings and walls in Bangkok.
One of them is 35-year-old Ekkrhat Nhak-anukhor, known by his graffiti tag name ASIN, who, as a child, sold his first cartoon drawing to his own mother for five baht. “That moment made me very happy and I’ve been drawing ever since,” said ASIN recollecting how his passion for art has started.
His first attempt at graffiti was during his vocational college time when he bought a can of spray paint and drew a tag on an overpass, which is basically the artist’s name in his own typography style. We see plenty of these everywhere in Bangkok, but to reach the status of street artist requires more than just vandalizing public facilities.
After ASIN graduated with a degree in art and design from Poh-Chang Academy of Arts he entered the workforce as a graphic designer and his passion for graffiti was rekindled. It is at this time when he truly dedicated himself in establishing his name as a street artist with a recognizable style and character.
The graffiti scene in Thailand is split between two groups. The first one, following Western ideas and concepts, is mostly engaged in legal and illegal “tagging,” “bombing,” and “throw-up” which are less complex in design and can be easily done in a very short period of time. As they are usually spray painted on public or private properties without consent from the authorities or owners, many associate these graffiti pieces with youth urban vandalism. “After all,” mused ASIN, “laws are made to be broken.”
The second group has taken graffiti to an actual urban street art. “These artists use their creativity constructively by making abandoned spaces visually beautiful and thus encouraging people to see the aesthetics side of graffiti. I don’t judge either of them and it’s not my place to say who’s right or wrong. It’s up to your own viewpoint as both artist and audience,” explained ASIN.
All street artists who take their passion seriously work hard to establish their own recognizable tag names and characters. For Ekkrhat Nhak-anukho, his the tag name ASIN is a combination of his name and the word “sin” which he chose due to his fascination with the movie “Seven” in which a serial killer uses the seven biblical sins to commit murders. “But I still have to create a set of art works to represent this concept,” confessed ASIN.
The second, and probably most recognizable trademark of ASIN’s street art is his character, Chicken. “The inspiration came from a Japanese children’s book which compared life at school with that on a farm. On the farm, the chickens are free to move around as they wish and eat all day long. On top of that, my family has had a chicken farm since I was a young boy… I’m still pretty good at making chicken sounds,” said ASIA laughingly.
The way ASIN uses his Chicken to send a message via his graffiti is both visually and mentally stimulating. “My inspiration comes from what I see around me as a member of our society. Anything can impact me and I use Chicken to tell a story. Sometimes it’s my story, sometimes it’s yours,” explained ASIN. So, next time you see Chicken on the streets of Bangkok, stop for a moment and think about it. Is your own story right there on the wall?
If you want to see ASIN working on graffiti right in front of you, then don’t miss his first solo exhibition “Lost in Connection,” where he will perform several live graffiti paintings. The other works on display will be a combination of spray painting mixed with oil.
“The concept of the exhibition focuses on how we communicate in this world called ‘Social Media.’ It unconsciously influences our living and daily routine. Some people lose themselves in this world and forget to communicate in the old-fashioned way by looking people in the eyes and hugging each other,” said ASIN. “The purpose of the exhibition is to raise some questions in the audience’s mind, not to provide a ‘Right’ or ‘Wrong’ answer. Rather, I want people to ask themselves, ‘Is it real?’”
The opening of ASIN’s exhibition will be at Midnice Gallery on April 23, 2016 from 7pm until late. The exhibition will stay open until May 20, 2016. Don’t miss your chance at seeing a local street artist paint right in front of your eyes! If you want to keep track of ASIN’s work, like his Facebook Page. Keep up with what’s happening on the graffiti scene in Thailand by visiting bkkgraff.com.
Photography by Sirirak Chantorn
Initially published in Mango Metro (April 2016)