Ittirawee Chotirawee abstract painter
‘My work has always been abstract with a personal language that I try to express. My early works are large scale, expressive with lots of vibrant colours and bold organic forms. They have less figurative elements. My work has gradually developed, with more layers and information embedded over time’.
Hello Tae. First of all, could you tell us about yourself, your background, and how you became an artist?
I was born in Thailand and I spent my childhood in the central and northern city, surrounded by magical nature and beautiful landscapes with vivid colours. This became my playground, making secret hideouts in jungle with my siblings and neighbours.
I was the youngest child in my family, my older brother introduced me to lots of foreign arts and cultures like American and Japanese comics, cartoons, films and music. I was fascinated by them and that made me want to do something creative when grew up.
Later I moved to Bangkok to study art and design. Art education there is much more skill based and I learnt a lot of creative skills.
But I guess I wanted to express my art more freely, with the result that in 1995 I decided to move to the UK.
In London I found many different cultures, communities, great art, music and met lots of people from different backgrounds.
After a foundation course at Cavendish College, I went on to do BA (Hons) and postgraduate at The Byam Shaw School of Arts from 1997-2002, and then completed my MA at Chelsea college of Arts in 2005.
Since 2003, I have been working at the Clubland Studios in south London.
I met my Japanese wife while studying at Cavendish College.
We often visit her family in Japan where I am always inspired by the environment. We now have two boys, eight and three years old.
Your paintings are abstract, and it feels like they are an abstract landscape (s) very different kinds of imagery and painting techniques combined in layers. Do you feel these refer to real places?
My paintings are a combination of memories, imagination and intuition. They are not representations of any specific place or events, they come from many different experiences. When I try to recall memories, they are slightly different every time and how I feel about them depends on the environment or situation I am in at that time. Things I read, watch and listen to also feed into the work.
I often take pictures as reference, photography helps me, not only remember things and collect information in my head but it also filters and distorts memories of the images I saw through my camera.
I have taken many pictures from my travels in different parts of Japan – from very stunning seasonal landscapes to almost unnoticeable tiny alleyways in the big cities.
Japan’s very rich culture has been a huge inspiration.
I am interested in the Japanese Zen philosophies. Particularly Wabi-sabi, the view or thought of finding beauty in every aspect of imperfection in nature. It is about the aesthetic of things in existence that are ‘imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete’. This has taken me to see things in a different perspective. I began to investigate techniques seen in traditional Japanese art such as byobu folding screen paintings and Ukiyo-e (wood block prints).
The use of flat images without much sense of depth (perspective, light and shadow), the use of blank spaces, clean lines and flat areas of colour, have really influenced me.
Could you describe your painting process, how do you begin a painting and what influences your choice of colour and material with each work.
I start by staining the canvas with pigments or something similar, like watered down coffee and spend a long time looking at the shapes and marks. I empty my mind and try to conjure up some feelings from the bank of my memories. I selectively transpose the feelings with colours and forms. Often I rearrange and shuffle them like playing cards.
Creating new space and compositions gives me a freedom to imagine a world that doesn’t exist, that I can freely travel into and later it becomes a memory that again feeds into my work.
It seems that your work shifts between stillness and movement, blank space and densely populated areas of the canvas, could you say something about this shifting and how your use of colour accentuates that feeling.
My painting often has contrasting areas, with blank parts and densely populated parts. It’s not about exact opposites but more about the creation of harmony and balance in different things. Memories have duality – good and bad, impressed and unimpressed, happy and sad. Memories can be clear and vivid or sometimes vague and blurry.
I try to capture these complex emotions within the layering and colour of my paintings.
You are a father of two young boys, how has this influenced your art?
This hasn’t impacted directly on the art itself, but it means having a limit on the time I spend in the studio. Consequently it has definitely changed the way I’m working.
Tell us how you spend your day, what is your routine? What is your studio like?
Before becoming a father, I used to go to and leave studio whenever I wanted to. But since having children I have to make the most of the available time in the studio, as a result I plan ahead much more.
At the end of the day in the studio, I take pictures of the painting I’m working on, so that I can continue to spend my evening looking at my work, planning what I will do the next day. I think having less time to physically work on a piece has kept my work more spontaneous.
My studio is in Camberwell. I am lucky to have found such a big studio in London. It’s now even larger than before. I have more wall space where I can hang my older work and they can be good references for the newer pieces.
Is there anything new in the pipeline, which you’d like to tell us about? What are you working on at the moment? Do you have any plans for the next couple of years.
I am currently working on series of paintings, tales of memories. Many of them have ‘Tale‘ in their titles. I was inspired by Japanese folk tales that have been told in traditional paintings.
I will continue to develop this idea creating my own ‘Tales’. In them I am using more simplified forms and less figurative elements and they are more colourful.
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