All Thai’d up in art: festival displays variety of artwork

thaid-up-in-artAll Thai’d up in art: festival displays variety of artwork

The Vox, Spokane, WA
September 2008
Staff Writer Emily Steckler

On the weekend of Aug. 2, the annual two-day art festival in Bigfork, MT displayed a wide variety of artwork ranging from mirrors made of recycled cans, to artists who painted with cattle markers.

All eyes seemed to be attracted to one of the more unique presenters, Sunti Pichetchaiyakul of Thailand, and his American wife, Erica. One of his more popular pieces is the sculpture of an 86-year old holy monk from Thailand. The international Thai artist loves to see the expressions of people’s faces, as they stand mesmerized by the meditating monk.

Once they realize the monk is just a sculpture, the “holy cows” and “oh my god’s” start pouring out. Intricate details include blue-purple veins in the arms, age spots on the face, cracks in the lips, wrinkles in the forehead, and even the dark purple eyelids as if the monk hasn’t gotten enough sleep.

“The reaction is always similar, but it’s quite encouraging to see individuals from all over the world, speaking different languages and respecting different religions all experiencing my work with astonishment,” Sunti said.

Even though Erica tries to persuade the viewers to come into the booth and enjoy Sunti’s other paintings and oils, the viewers cannot seem to take their eyes off the monk.

Born in Chumpuang, Nakhon Ratchasima, Sunti started drawing at age two, but the pictures did not become animals and people until age four. He remembers sculpting at age four with clay from his local river.

“I enjoyed sculpting Buddhas and elephants,” Sunti Said. At age six years old he was selling sculptures of UFO’s, spaceships, and superheroes to friends; at seven he won a regional art contest.

“Whatever I have to create art with is whatever I use. I love creating my own designs with recycled materials,” Sunti said.

“It’s very powerful and spiritually gratifying to be taken away with Sunti to another dimension through his artwork,” Erica said. “From blades of grass, the texture of sand, shadows on the wall, and backlight of a tree… Sunti sees the world as if experiencing it for the first time.”

His meditating monk, mostly made of clay, is just one step in the multi-step process in creating fiberglass resin sculptures. The process also uses wax, plaster, and concrete.

He begins the process taking many pictures from numerous angles of his subject. He then attaches his clay to a wooden support structure quickly so the cay does not dry out. He immediately coats the clay in plaster. A wax mold is formed to be used for creating the fine detail. The wax gets coated in another plaster coat to create a mold of silicone and then a fiberglass model. He paints the sculpture with acrylic paint to produce the final product.

At age 36, Sunti has produced artwork for over 50 temples in Thailand. He has been featured on television in Thailand, Japan, Korea, China, and also UBC and CNN World. Sunti owns two galleries in Bangkok and hopes to temporarily get a studio in Flathead Valley within the next month or two.

“I am so eager to see the world and continue my art wherever I go. I love to see different styles of art integrated with culture,” Sunti said.