Photography / Editorial / Print

As featured in Unfolded Magazine Issue 11

Thai-born pop artist, Pakpoom Silaphan, describes how "advertising hoardings and posters became my environment" when growing up in Thailand and his work explores the pervasiveness of corporate and mass media through colourful collages and mixed media works. Silaphan studied Fine Art at Silpakorm University in Thailand, and worked in advertising for a period, before moving to London 15 years ago to continue his studies in fine art. Travelling back and forth from Thailand to other countries, he saw parallels with cultural icons, logos, media and advertising signs which led him to think about globalisation and how it can shape our minds and culture.

Using vintage Pepsi and Coca-cola hoardings and signs as his canvas, Silaphan creates portraits of people he finds 'influential' which in the past have featured Che Guevera, John Lennon and the Queen. He tell us that when he first saw an image of Warhol in Thailand, he at first "thought he was a mad scientist" because of his White hair, before he came to "know more about his work." Some of the works, which we saw at Moniker Art Fair, featured Warhol pictured on top of advertising signs and used in collages. He tells us "it reflects the infiltration of corporate branding, pop art and western imagery" to the market and rural Thailand where he grew up.  There are also works featuring Jean-Michel Basquiat, which also seeks to further explore the  dialogue between portraits of artists and popular culture.

Silaphan lives and works in the same space and tells us about the thought processes behind the Batman collage, "the background is everyday newsprint"  and he creates "collages of prints, newspapers cuttings, paint and varnish" to show how a cultural icon such as Batman can be randomly related to other people and stories, as we all have the "same image of batman in our head" and "together they form one image".  The work explores how people recognise familiar things, as seen with the Elvis Presley  and the image of his hair juxtaposed against vivid colour and images of famous people, politicians and actors that alludes to a globalised view of the world - "how we are all connected".

"People will have their own interpretation of my work," and "Elvis is quite big in Thailand." If you ask anybody to "draw Elvis, the first thing that is recognisable is the hair", for others the symbol "may be something else", the Rock and Roll music, the gyrating hips, the loud and ornate suits. 

Colour is important. When he moved to London, he tells us how he "had to learn everything again so rather than trying to understand everything, I used symbols and colours to remember." Especially when he "first started trying to navigate the London Underground," which can still be a "difficult  task for most people", he says with a laugh. "Symbols may be more important than language." Ultimately, in  his art there is "a common ground that people can see through my work and of symbols", images in general are "all part of popular culture" and "become a language."

The work in a way tells us how Silaphan, in inhabiting two very different cultures, grew up with the same backdrop of imagery, symbols and logos. Of future work, Silaphan is working on some more pieces in this series and will seek to "explore the subject of diversity and direction."

Interview and Portraits: Nardip Singh

Images of artworks supplied with kind permission by  Scream London, Copyright © Pakpoom Silaphan
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