Chatchai Puipia


Chatchai Puipia


Gregory Galligan

"For years I have been trying to find and live the way that I wanted, but it's not that easy. I've always had conflict with the meaning of success. Ever since I was young, I never liked being the centre of attention." - Chatchai Puipia

SITES OF SOLITUDE/Still-Life, Self-Portraiture, and the Living Archive
(9 April – 31 August 2015)

In the wake of Chatchai Puipia’s stunning artist’s book, Chatchai is dead. If not, he should be (2010), 100 Tonson, in creative collaboration with the artist’s A Leg Up Society and Thai Art Archives™, celebrates Puipia’s enduring achievement, legacy, and continuous development with the installation of a nine-month, “living archive” in the art space. It features selected works from the artist’s current, monumental self-portrait series; rarely-exhibited drawings, paintings, and sculptures; new documentary photography and video contributed by fashion-art photographer, Leewei Swee; and the debut of the Chatchai Puipia Archive, which comprehensively documents Puipia’s life and work at the new, 100 Tonson-sponsored digital platform,

The exhibition and digital archive take up Puipia’s life and work as a continuously evolving phenomenon, even through a recent period of self-imposed solitude (ca. 2010–2015). The exhibition and archive suggest that through numerous ‘sites’ of past and present creation, the living nature of the artist’s identity endures as an ever-shifting constellation of forces, mirroring Thailand’s own perpetually morphing, if periodically self-conflicted condition.

SITES OF SOLITUDE/Celluloid Traces
(24 September 2015 – 3 January 2016)

This exhibition marks the Thai Art Archives’s debut of three filmic portraits of Puipia, who speaks informally in two of the films about his past, present, and imagined future. Prompted by various interviewers and speaking candidly in his studios in Bangkok and Nakhon Chaisi, Puipia recounts his early studies and artistic development as a student at Silpakorn University; his early aspirations as a journalist; his artistic beginnings as an abstract painter; and—among other subjects—his subsequent ventures into self-portraiture, which featured a “Siamese Smile” that led to the artist’s global renown by the mid 1990s as a satirist of Thai society and its contemporary art scene.

Conceived by Thai Art Archives™ as a series of intimate windows onto Puipia’s creative life in self-imposed solitude since 2010, two digital interviews—recorded at sites of enduring significance to the artist—have been crafted by emerging filmmaker Ranitar Charitkul. A third film comprises a collaged “trace portrait” of Puipia, who is captured silently in unprecedented intimacy, including during a recent countryside sojourn with his son, emerging fashion designer Shone Puipia.

These filmic traces tease out from recent history poignant, lesser-known aspects of Puipia’s life and work—from his early life to the present—thus complementing the historical perspectives featured in CHATCHAI PUIPIA: SITES OF SOLITUDE/Still-Life, Self-Portraiture, and the Living Archive.

Special thanks:
Filmmaker: Ranitar Charitkul, Lecturer, Department of Computer Graphics and Multimedia, Bangkok University International College (BUIC)

Interviews with the Artist: Gregory Galligan, Ranitar Charitkul, and Vichaya Mukdamanee, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Oxford

Installation Design: Patri Vienravi, RA, NCARB, LEED AP, Director, Works-V™; Co-Founder/Creative Director, Thai Art Archives™, Bangkok

About the artist


Puipia has distinguished himself for over two decades as one of his generation’s most sophisticated and prodigious painters. Since graduating in the late 1980s from Silpakorn University, Puipia has painted in an idiom that might loosely be termed, Thai Magic Realism. Culling images from everyday life and his creative imagination—self-portrait, still-life, allegorical mise-en-scène, Puipia’s paintings (and more recently, sculpture) are sites of self-reflection, creative solitude, and social critique. His art lends lasting form to an artist’s dogged search for self-identity, while also alluding to his society’s simultaneous grappling with its own existential condition at an unprecedented historical threshold.

Puipia’s late-1990s self-portraits depict a seductive, yet discomfiting “Siamese Smile”—as he himself called it in an important solo exhibition of 1995—as well as countless, quasi-narrative pictures depicting a tragic-comic “jester” assuming inane postures (the artist frequently depicts himself doubled over and peering gleefully at his audience upside-down and backwards through his own haunches), suggest that a world observed from an inverted position perhaps makes more sense than when observed upright. For many observers, these recurring devices lend expression to a decisive moment in Thai art history itself, when regional artists’ conversations with old masters of the ‘West’, combined with satirical references to contemporary Thai mores, effectively represent the larger culture in spiritual and social crisis.

Back to main exhibitions