Saturday, 25 April 2015

14. Bangkok: Street Art WITHOUT Permission

As we mentioned in our last two posts, Bangkok's street artists are quite reluctant to paint in public places without permission. We've read that they consider it to be impolite - which kind of subverts the rebellious spirit that gave birth to graffiti in the first place. Still, it's not a bad self-preservation strategy in a military dictatorship, and Thailand is definitely that.

There are, however, a number of brave souls who pick up paint brush and spray cans, stickers and glue brushes and do what street artists the world over do - they go out in the wee hours of night, find a good wall and cover it in art. And, if you take enough metros, walk enough miles, go down enough alleys and climb under enough bridges, you might just find their work. We wouldn't want you to do that though. We've already done it and we're happy to share our discoveries with you.

Let's start with a shot that demonstrates that we don't just clip street art from the internet - we really do seek it out around the world. Here's Heather in her street-art-hunting gear, posing by a Bangkok canal, underneath overloaded hydro wires, with one of our finds:

Below, you'll find a random selection of some of our other discoveries. You'll note that there aren't any identifying signatures attached to the murals. But hey, if you'd just committed a crime in a military dictatorship, would you sign your name to it? Thought not.

We found a long stretch of murals (unusual for Bangkok), somewhat covered over with banana leaves and vines. We had to clear them away to get some of our shots:

Some of the murals were kind of bloody and ghoulish:

But as these last two murals show, Bangkok is no stranger to murder and mayhem.

Most of these are just good healthy outlets for youthful aggression - although we're not certain about the last one. To us it screams out "Psycho-Killer at work here". If we lived in Bangkok and bodies started showing up in our neighbourhood, we'd want a good full investigation into the painter behind this mural!

Thursday, 16 April 2015

13. Bangkok: More Street Art by Permission (+ a few Sculptures) 

For the past few years, Asian dynamo Bangkok has been trying to develop an area called W District as the city's arts zone. But artificially parachuting an arts district into an established neighbourhood isn't always the most successful formula.

Vibrant arts districts tend to grow organically out of  the talents of the people who live/work there. They're the ones who provide the heartbeat and pulse that sustain the areas' artistic health. Good examples include: London's Soho, Paris' Montmartre, New York's Chelsea, San Francisco's Mission District, and Toronto's West Queen West.

W District has, not surprisingly, experienced it's share of growing pains, including a surfeit of unrented space. But one good thing about the area is that it's been approved for street art - even if the art isn't actually on the street, but rather surrounds an internal courtyard. Bangkok street artists aren't overly inclined to paint where they're not invited.
Much of the artwork appears in the form of simple, stylized portraits of women, on otherwise unadorned white walls. They include these sad-looking clowns by Bangkok artists Sir Jorra (left) and Mamablues (right):

And this one by Zing Peerapong Uthaipan:

Other murals are more complex:

The one below includes contributions by several artists. The bear is Bonus TMC's trademark image, while the multi-coloured owl is typical of Rukkit's style:

One of the district's delights is the array of sculptures scattered around an open-air food court:

When we visited W District a few months ago, one of the galleries -  HOF - was hosting a crafts competition and sale. Here's the one we cast our vote for as best-in-show:

OK, so it won't fit in with everyone's living-room d├ęcor, but elephants are big in Thailand. (Come to think of it, they're pretty good-sized everywhere you find them!)

We were also lucky to take in an art exhibition at Goja gallery, featuring the work of Cambodian street artists Peap Tarr and Lisa Mam. Here's one of their designs on canvas:

If you'd like to see more street art in Bangkok, please check out post no.28 on our sister blog:

Our next post on STREETsmART will focus on Bangkok street murals that were painted without official approval.