Incredible Chiang Mai artist: Sorapong Seechombhu

15:01 Amy 0 Comments

Chiang Mai is bursting with art.

Let me introduce Sorapong Seechombhu, an amazing Chiang Mai artist. He's well-known within Thai art circles, and has won national awards to recognise his art. In December, he's entering a London portrait competition before heading off to San Francisco next year. I can't believe that I haven't been able to find any articles about Sorapong in English yet! So, I am very proud and pleased to share this wonderful man's home-life and work with you.

This post is about the time I met this unbelievably friendly, welcoming and humble 40 year old artist and he shared his home and art with me.

Chiang Mai artist

There are so many artists, arts and crafts in Chiang Mai - it's one of the reasons why I love it so much.

Last week, Andy and I were wandering around Pongnoi Art Space. This little space is full of local Chiang Mai art, and is displayed on rotation. On this day, however, we were side-tracked by an enthusiastic Chiang Mai artist called Why.

Chiang Mai artist

Most days, Pongnoi is looked after by this sweet Chiang Mai artist, who's art is currently on display. After we said hello and he'd told me a little about Pongnoi, he informed us that he was going to go to his artist friend's house... and would we like to join him? He assured us that it was full of very interesting art. In his opinion, his friend's art was more interesting than the Pongnoi displays!

So we hopped on our motorbike and followed Why to his friend's house, with no idea what to expect.

He lead us to a normal looking housing area (known in Thailand as a muu-baan) and parked outside an old house. Hundreds of wooden easels, carvings and bits of discarded wood were cascading in a tidal wave out of the front porch, completely filling the area. An off-white picket fence struggled to keep the chaos from spilling out onto the road. There was no clear path to the front door, so Why picked his way through as best he could to knock on the door.

There followed an exclamation of surprise and a quick exchange in Thai. I assume Why announced our presence! After a couple of awkward moments of uncertainty and a lot of scuffling from behind the door, a handsome man burst out of the door, full of laughter, smiles and welcoming handshakes.

"Hello, hello! My name is Sorapong Seechombhu, you can call me Duly."

He apologised for the chaotic mess in the porch and ushered us inside, laughing, to reveal another chaotic space. Duly's dimly lit living room was also full to bursting. Magazines, newspapers, palette knives, books, paintbrushes and boxes were strewn over the floor and small coffee table, and the only clear space was an old armchair and the floor where the four of us stood.

Chiang Mai artist house

But that didn't matter, because stacked deep against the walls, shoved into every available crevice and displayed proudly on walls were canvases bearing Duly's art. It was amazing.

Chiang Mai artist house
Just enough room to sit and paint

Chiang Mai art
Studies of the male body

Chiang Mai art
A work in progress: painting a Western female nude

Chiang Mai art
Duly especially loves the painting at the front, which he completed in just two hours during a burst of creative energy.

Duly's life is art.

As we toured the little house, we found that every room was full of Duly's art. Canvases were stacked on the staircase and in every single room. Duly even sleeps surrounded by paints, brushes, easels, frames, sculptures, photographs and paintings. Most are completed, but plenty are unfinished and bursting with questions. Duly makes everything art-related in his house. His own easels, frames, carved teak wood palette knives etc.

His favourite subject is female nudes, and there's a whole upstairs room pretty much full of them. His models are mostly Thai ladies, but he's recently befriended some European women who want to be painted. There must have been close to a thousand canvases crammed inside that little house.

Chiang Mai artist workshop
Where Duly sleeps

As I tiptoed around his house, I noticed that I was seeing tigers and animal-print everywhere. "Tigers are my symbol!" Duly told me with a grin. He showed me his customised frames - in each corner, Duly attaches hand made roaring tiger sculptures.

Duly likes to create different paintings to the ones most Thai artists produce. He showed us his answer to the traditional painting of a vase of flowers on top of a short Lanna-style khantoke floor table: the same scene after he'd kicked the vase of roses off the table. He looked at the flowers and broken vase, and saw beauty.

Meditation, Buddhism and art

Before Duly paints, he usually spends time meditating to clear his mind and focus on one of the many ideas flying around his head. He sits in a quiet space, listens to the world outside and allows the vision to develop and sharpen. Then, he picks up his tools.

Duly's art is modern and unafraid, but still contains nods to Buddhism in almost every piece. The surrealist Dali  and Marylin Monroe inspired painting below is exploring the Buddhist notion that what's inside is more important than what's on the outside - a notion we're all familiar with. Duly says that beauty is important, and a good heart makes you the most beautiful.

Chiang Mai art

Check out these vibrant Jackson Pollack inspired nudes:

Chiang Mai art

I had the most amazing time exploring Duly's home and getting to know him a little.

You should meet him here in Chiang Mai before he leaves to travel the world! He teaches art at Pongnoi Art Space from 2 until 4p.m. almost every Tuesday and Thursday. You can just go in and he'll paint with you. It doesn't matter if you're a beginner or an expert - he believes that art lives inside everyone... and he's so happy to meet artists and art enthusiasts!

Pongnoi Art Space also hosts experimental music events. I keep trying to get to one, because they look SO GOOD:

Do you like Sorapong Seechombhu's art? Let me know in the comments section below!

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