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Distorting realities

Melanie Stimmel Van Latum will be among the artists taking part in the Bangkok festival.

Publication Date : 20-02-2013


Living Arts Festival adds colour and dimension to Bangkok streets


After amazing crowds in Chiang Mai last year, street artists from all over the world are bringing their stunning works to Bangkok for the Living Arts Festival, starting February 27.

"I think art helps discipline the mind. Presenting works of art outside an art gallery, whether on the footpath or in any public area, can easily attract people at all levels to appreciate it and to closely interact with the artists," says organiser Yut Wanichanon of Nannapas Publisher. "And Ratchaprasong is the ideal space, as it's always packed with both Thais and foreigners."

"Ratchaprasong is like a presenter for Bangkok. It's where people come to shop, eat and attend events. It's also a transport hub, served by several buses and the Skytrain. Ratchaprasong has earned a reputation as one of the best New Year's countdown places, which is why these days spending over the festive season is as high as 10 billion baht (US$334 million)" says Wiwatchai Boonyapak of the Tourism Authority of Thailand's events department.

The Living Arts Festival, which is costing 40 million baht, is being organised by the Ratchaprasong Square Trade Association, the TAT and the Bangkok Mass Transit System. It will feature 19 street artists and performers under the theme "The Street of Art, the Street of Fun".

The street painters and living statues will turn Ratchaprasong into a museum of living art over 10 different areas covering an estimated 106,000 square metres. Spaces being turned into canvases include the ground in front of Gaysorn, InterContinental Bangkok, Amarin Plaza,the Erawan hotel and the BTS Skywalk from Chidlom Station to the entrance to Zen at CentralWorld. Admission is free and more than 1.5 million visitors are expected to come to the area to admire the street art firsthand.

"This year's concept allows people to interact with the street painters. It isn't only about 3D street art but also brings to Bangkok 10 living statues from several countries," says Yut.

"All the street artists are very well known and much in demand all over the world. This time, we will also be treated to 4D art, which is a kind of sensory art. I saw the sketch of Melanie [Stimmell Van Latum]'s girl doll blowing soap-bubbles and it was incredibly real," he says.

The nine living statues will portray such figures as Charlie Chaplin, Cupid, a jester and the apparently lifeless rock Terra. They will perform three rounds per day on March 2 and 3.

The 10 street artists include Americans Stimmell Van Latum, Julie Kirk-Purcell, Lysa Ashley, and Aimee Bonham, southern Utah's first lady of street painting.

Leon Keer, Ruben Poncia and Remko Van Schaik hail from the Netherlands and have all painted for prominent events in Europe. They'll be joined by Alex Maksiov from Ukraine, Italy's Tony Cuboliquido, a supervisor and producer of animated films, and Mexico's Juandres Vera, who uses naturalism as a basic tool to help the viewer to reinterpret certain visual concepts through the use of rhetorical figures.

The Nation chatted briefly with Kirk-Purcell before she put chalk to pavement and began by asking her how she started.

"Very young! Actually, my grandmother was an artist and I always thought it was something you did for a job. I started street painting during my second semester in school though if someone had told me then that I would make a career of drawing things on the ground that people would wash away, I'd have laughed!

"I started a company with my friend Melanie, who was in Thailand last year and we're doing very well."

What techniques will she be using for Bangkok?

"I'm using acrylic paints and some pigments and because it's the skywalk, it's going to be done on a special kind of adhesive paper. We paint on the paper. The first process is putting down the drawing and I usually set up a perspective line. I do some planning ahead of time for how to put it on the ground. But a lot of the way I do painting is by sight, when I get to the site that I am working on. So I look through the camera and I double-check things. I use strings and tapes to measure and figure out where I need to put the different objects. Then I go back and draw them."

Kirk-Purcell recently released her first book, "Sidewalk Canvas: Chalk Pavement Art at Your Feet", which explains street-painting techniques, including composing and materials.

"It's got really good reviews," she says delightedly. "A lot of people e-mailed me and said, 'Thanks. It really helps'. When I wrote the book a few years ago, I put almost everything I knew in the text. I'd never thought of writing even though I teach. But the publisher in London was looking for someone with my kind of background so they could explain things a little better. It was a really fun project for me."

Who is her favourite artist?

"Curt Winner," says Kirk-Purcell without hesitation. "He started the trend of 3D paintings. He is a very knowledgeable artist, with a lot of classical styles. He is a couple of steps above anybody else when it comes to understanding how to design paintings. He is well rounded and a very wonderful artist and designer.

"Now everybody is going 4D. It looks like people have done 3D enough. The public said, 'Oh, I have seen that before.' So now people are looking for other things they can do with paintings. One of the things that is becoming more popular is augmented reality - doing things with computers that adds to the painting in some way. That is something I am starting to do as well.

"The software is new. You use it with iPhone or other smartphones and build software that allows you can look at the paintings through the phone and see something different happening with the painting than it appears on the ground. It's pretty cool."

The Living Arts Festival runs from February 27 to March 10 in the Ratchaprasong neighbourhood of Bangkok. Follow the progress of the artists at or on Facebook at "Heart of Bangkok".


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