PORNCHAI SEREEMONGKONPOL

While most of us have outgrown the “draw-on-the-wall-and-get-yelled-at”phase, Jirachai “Keng” Taweesarn is still there. The 27-year-old turned his family’s house into a gallery of nightmarish cartoonish monsters, and he didn’t stop there. Keng has drawn on everything from a toilet seat to a motorcycle, a water cooler, his own body and more.

He is about to give the public a look at his imagination for the first time at “POM: Politics of Me”, an exhibition to be held from Jun 28-Jul 29 at Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (Tue-Sun 10am-9pm, 939 Rama I Road,02-214-6630-8, www.bacc.or.th, BTS National Stadium).We sit down with him to talk about the girl who broke his heart, his fascination with cockroaches, and his first official public exhibition.

GRAFFITI IN DA HOUSE

Keng may look like he would beat you up if you crossed him but he is rather sweet and more sensitive than what you may assume about a guy who creates such wacky work.In the middle of our photo shoot, Keng stops to open a door for a mother pushing a stroller and he ends his sentences with the polite “krub” a bit too often.

Drawing has always been a means to escape an unpleasant reality and/or express personal feelings for Keng.”I’ve been drawing since I was a kid; the usual Japanese cartoon stuff like Dragon Ball,” he recalls.”I had to serve in the army for one year after I graduated [with a fine arts degree from Rajamangala University of Technology Thanyaburi]. It was a harsh life and there were many rules so I drew in my free time to relieve stress.”

However, what really triggered his “house art” and unwittingly set Keng on his creative path was a girl who broke his heart.”When we broke up, I was thinking,’How can she not be thinking of me at all?’ over and again in

my head. It got so bad to the point where I was sleeping for most of the day and my mum got worried because I wasn’t eating,”Keng recalls. That may explain why images from this period of his life are mostly of monsters.

A broken heart motivated him to draw on the walls of his house. Keng says,”I knew I had to stop myself from thinking about her.I channelled my frustration and anger through drawing. At that time, it was too much of an effort for me to stretch a canvas on a frame. I stared at the white wall of my house and thought ‘Why not?'”

Keng didn’t stop there.”My parents kept many items in our house that were no longer used,” he continues.”I figured I should turn them into something of value instead of throwing them away.” Whether it was a wall or an old orange juicer, he painted on them all the same.

“The more I drew, the more I realised I was drawing for myself, simply because I wanted to. I didn’t care if anyone liked the output or not.”

His parents weren’t too pleased but they let him draw a two-headed hunchback monster crawling past a window anyway. He combined a gas stove and a keyboard and turned them into screaming monsters with some handy paintwork. A blue dust pan was turned into a robot monster with the sole magic of a black marker. A blender became the hairy leg of a monster.

DRAWER AND DREAMER

It seems Keng painted surreal monsters on the

wall to keep his own demons at bay.”I really don’t know how to explain where the monsters come from but I don’t want to be pigeonholed as the guy who draws only surreal stuff.” Perhaps, his style may have something to do with the fact that he looks to street artist Blu and rocker Marilyn Manson for visual inspiration.

“It was cool to come home and see all of these things I had created and live among them. It was like I was making my own world. The pieces made me happy. It was fun to see how people respond to my imagination too.”Keng started taking pictures of his works and posted them on Facebook (facebook.com/kengrunpaicowcow) and, as it

turned out, people also think

they are cool.

Although Keng isn’t a genuine street artist,he has painted on walls at both private properties and public toilets alike.”In public toilets, you see either numbers for hooking up or vocational

students writing their institute

is better than their rivals’

on the wall. This kind of scribble seem pointless. I thought,’Why not surprise someone in a good way with a drawings instead?’For example, I was in a public toilet after someone stole my stuff. I was pissed and wanted to give the thief some bullets so I drew a gun on the lock.”

After a few short stints of working as a graphic designer, Keng found office life to be another reality he dislikes.”I was sitting across the table with these three people. They seemed to get along well but when one of them left the table the other two started gossiping about the person and I was like ‘What the hell!?’ I don’t want to be in that kind of environment and I don’t want to work just for money.”

He decided to dedicate his life to drawing.”Even if I might not achieve my entire dream, at least I will have tried to make it happen and I will have no regrets on my deathbed.”

Keng has garnered over 6,000 likes on his Facebook page. From this interest, he has received two painting jobs,which he was paid for with food and accommodation in the north of Thailand. One was for a guesthouse in Chiang Mai and the other was for a bar in Pai. But by and large, he was still undiscovered.

GETTING DISCOVERED

Among the people who have liked Keng’s wacky artworks is an artist who put him in touch with BACC. Keng was subsequently asked to take part in “POM: Politics of Me”.The contemporary art exhibition will see 17 young artists discoursing their individual circumstances and issues. Originally the plan was to display the everyday items Keng had transformed into artworks but, unfortunately,they were damaged or lost during the flood last year.

Instead Keng has been given a prime wall near BACC’s entrance on the third floor to draw on. His canvas – a four-and-a-halfby-six-metre white wall – seems to befit Keng who has worked on less conventional canvases before.

At the time of interview, he hadn’t finished the mural yet. The picture basically resembled Keng with fiery hair covered in tattoos with a ball in his hand.

“These days I feel it’s harder to live. The traffic is bad. The globe is warming. There are more selfish people, more negative things in the news. I want to say that, regardless of the bad stuff, the only thing that matters and remains unaffected is your dream. If you don’t allow negative elements to affect you,there’s nothing to stop you from achieving your dream.”

When asked what he feels about his debut,he replies,”I’m not too nervous about it. I’m not concerned about people who don’t like my work so long as I like it and I know I put my best effort in. I just hope my work will make people feel better when they look at it.”

Regarding his ultimate dream, Keng says,”It would be so cool to have people lining up to buy my drawings one day.” Transforming a house and everything in it by drawing is also part of the plan.

In the meantime, Keng will continue to make hand-painted T-shirts for a living, for which he accepts orders via his Facebook page. He wears one on which he painted a cockroach. He also uses a cockroach as his Facebook cover photo. Why cockroaches?

“I don’t like how they look at all but they are stubborn and can’t be easily killed, which is like me in a way. They keep going no matter what.”G

YOUNG TALENT

Besides Keng, there will be 16 other young artists showing their work at the exhibition. Pan Pan Narkprasert and Chulayarnnon Siriphol,both of whom who have been featured in Guru ,are involved in the exhibition. Here are three other talents worth checking out.

Keereerat “Joe” Ngandee,18, is an awardwinning B-boy who has won at local and foreign competitions. His graffiti can be found at Buddha Bar in Lat Phrao and DC Pub in RCA. His latest work is featured in the movie,Art Idol .

Niwat “Max” Manatpiyalert,25, had his work shown at three group exhibitions from 2009-2011. He is known for his collaborative approach, inviting people to partake in his art projects.

Prasit “Faed” Limpasatirakit,25, works as a columnist and photographer for CG+magazine.His illustrations have been featured in several magazines such as a day ,Be and CG+. He is known for combining iconic images from different eras and digitally altering them in a new context.

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