Keith Schweitzer of ART(inter) in conversation with Thailand-based artist Lampu Kansanoh.
I first met Lampu Kansanoh when she visited New York last year. During my recent trip to Thailand, I had an opportunity to meet with her again. Her studio is located southwest of Bangkok in Amphawa, a coconut-tree and canal-lined district in the Samut Songkhram province. The studio walls open wide, allowing us to sit along the stream of water and under the coconut trees while we viewed her new series of paintings-in-progress. She’s been busy preparing for Love Impressions, her upcoming solo show, opening February 14th, Valentine’s Day, at ARDEL Gallery of Modern Art in Bangkok.
KS: This new series of oil paintings, Love Impressions, is delightful. Each canvas presents its own encapsulated story, with two recurring characters. Viewing them in sequence feels like watching a wonderful series of short films. Tell me about these new works and what inspired the series.
LK: One day I was thinking about my life in relation to my boyfriend; we have been together for 10 years. I started thinking about this because our families were worried about us not getting married and having children.
Over the last 10 years, he has always been beside me no matter what happened—happy or sad, rich or poor, beautiful or ugly. His wonderful spirit makes not only me, but other people also, automatically love him. Because of his love, I know that he will never leave me—whatever I am, regardless of my profession or the situation.
I am not saying that we will live happily ever after, because we never know what will happen. But throughout our entire relationship, I have felt his love and sincerity, and in turn, I love and appreciate him.
In this series, I have tried to show our relationship in many different situations—both happy and sad. Some of these are real and others I have imagined.
KS: These, like so much of your work, explode with drama and whimsy. Can you describe what’s happening in a few of these paintings, beginning with My Beloved Assistant Housewife?
LK: My boyfriend is always helping me do everything, even housework. In this painting, we are hanging laundry to dry, and I am hiding behind the clothes to scare him. I want to show both his light-hearted, playful side and the more thoughtful, helpful side of him.
LK: My boyfriend always takes care of me, even in small, daily ways like getting me food. Though he doesn’t really climb coconut trees for me, My Beloved Monkey shows how he will go to great lengths to make sure that I am cared for.
LK: In My Beloved Rubber-Man, I imagined that we were both working on a rubber farm, which is very common in southern Thailand. It is considered a very dangerous job here; the workers must extract the sap from the trees in the dark. There are many occupational hazards and the unrest in southern Thailand has made this job even more dangerous. We are extracting the sap and both scared together in the dark—of ghosts or unknown evils. This is a parallel for our darkest times together, when we couldn’t see what would happen, but my boyfriend has stood by me.
KS: Do you typically begin working directly on the canvas? Or do you work from sketches, or photos? Tell me about your process.
LK: My process involves several steps before working on the canvas. First, I imagine what will happen in the series as a whole—how many paintings and what each painting will show. Then I sketch each painting and make notes about the story told in each work. I then take photos where friends or acquaintances will pose for me. I use these photos for a second, more detailed sketch. I then work from the photos and sketches while painting the canvas.
KS: You visited New York last year. How do you find things in NYC as compared to Bangkok or Amphawa? Tell us about the paintings you made after your visit.
LK: In New York, things seemed more crazy than in Bangkok or Amphawa! The atmosphere is so much more urban—with skyscrapers and people rushing everywhere. There is much more freedom in New York; it seems like anything goes. In contrast, Amphawa is very calm with a lot of nature. In Thailand, our values are more traditional and people are more aware of their image. These paintings show “No Pants Day” on the subway in New York. This whole concept was crazy to me. I couldn’t imagine this happening in Thailand or anywhere else in the world. What Happens on the Subway!!! #1 shows an Asian person on the subway who is hiding his face, surrounded by people with no pants on. I tried to show the contrast in traditions and cultures between East and West here. What Happens on the Subway!!! #2 is showing other Americans reacting to “No Pants Day.” I saw so many different cultures and values in the US.
View more of Lampu Kansanoh’s artwork on her website.
Keith Schweitzer is a New York City based arts organizer, curator and producer. He is Co-Founder/Director of The Lodge Gallery, located on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He is also Director of Public Art for Fourth Arts Block, the nonprofit leadership organization for Manhattan’s officially designated Cultural District in the East Village. You can find him on Twitter as @Keith5chweitzer, and on Instagram as @pseudohaiku.