British artist creates land art in tribute to Bangkok governor

It is fair to say that Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt has been a breath of fresh air to politics since he won the 2022 gubernatorial election by a landslide in May.

The 56 year old city chief has captured the imagination of Thailand’s capital city and made others around the kingdom sit up and take note of his “get things done” work ethic and honest approach as he continues forward with his electoral slogan of “Bangkok, a liveable city for everyone.”

From social concerns to economic problems and matters of the environment, Chadchart has been at the forefront of tackling the issues important to the people of Bangkok. He even accepted the blame when the city’s drains overflowed following flash floods last month. It wasn’t his fault of course but it was a refreshing change from the usual lying sociopaths in political positions of power around the globe.

But the governor has not only caught the attention of the Thai people, but foreigners too have been inspired by the man of the people, and one man, in particular, British land artist Justin Bateman.

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The 46 year old artist, who uses found and natural materials to create historical and contemporary subjects, paid homage to Chadchart in his latest project.

“I receive very high volumes of requests to make artwork featuring public figures. I had so many for Governor Chadchart that I decided to do something here in Chiang Mai. As I was working some local construction workers came over to help me. They saw what I was doing and approached to get a much closer look. After a while, they assisted me in placing pebbles to embed the final piece. I find these moments integrating with members of the local community deeply heartwarming. They clearly recognised, liked, and respected the governor.

“My work often illustrates people who have a powerful message or who have made significant contributions in their field of influence such as spiritual leaders, psychologists, politicians, mystics, entertainers, philosophers, and even local tradespeople. On this occasion, I had received a high volume of requests for Governor Chadchart and after a little research I realised he was very much walking the ‘path of the people.’ Highly celebrated as an honest and authentic leader, I felt honoured to pay homage by creating a site-specific illustration near a pathway by my home in Nimman.”

British artist creates land art in tribute to Bangkok governor | News by Thaiger

Tackling climate change and the environment are issues very close to Chadchart’s heart. And he’s sure to be heartened by the former art teacher from Hampshire using natural resources to create his works of art.

“The materials I use are very accessible, making the work inclusive to people from all socio-economic backgrounds. The materials and location of the work are deliberately intended to reduce the boundary between the audience and the art. Most of my work is impermanent. It is created with stones I find on location and brushed away after completion, something akin to a Buddhist sand mandala. However, on this occasion, I decided to buy my own stones from all over Thailand and after exhibiting them on the street, I transported them to my studio to make them permanent. The piece is now preserved for purposes of a future art exhibition. Only 10% of my work becomes permanent and the demand is incredibly high for these pieces.

“You might say that Governor Chadchart has been depicted here as a man of the earth, on the earth, by the earth. The canvas, palette, and subject depict someone who walks ‘the path of the people.’

British artist creates land art in tribute to Bangkok governor | News by Thaiger

Bateman left his home in Southsea, Hampshire four years ago to embark on an adventure, see the world, and fulfill an existential quest. And after 18 months of travel, it appears the artist has found his spiritual home in Thailand.

“One of my students sent me a good luck card, which had a quote about ‘leaving only footprints’ on our path through life. I decided this was a neat way to make artwork: use natural materials to make the art, take a photo, and then return the environment to its original state. I also came across the Buddhist sand mandalas, carefully constructed designs that are blown away upon completion.

“It all seemed to fit together so well – travel and ephemeral art. The work has led to immersive experiences in the natural and built environment and also fascinating community encounters. I call it ‘anarcheology’ or even ‘gorilla mosaic’ because abandoning the traditional tessera (square mosaic tile) makes it feel quite rebellious somehow. Sometimes it can be a very mindful, relaxing process and at other times it can be frustrating when things don’t work out as you hoped. Often, I have to restart a piece several times before everything fits together. In those moments I compare myself to Sisyphus – pushing the rock up the hill and never completing the task.

“When I first arrived in Chiang Mai it felt instantly familiar. The people were so kind, warm, and welcoming. I felt we really shared similar values. I did continue travelling but kept returning to Thailand and I spent the whole of lockdown here.

“I have been settled in Chiang Mai for a couple of years now, which means I have had the opportunity to develop processes to make my work permanent. My permanent work is in high demand, but I limit the number of pieces I make to avoid becoming an ‘art factory.’

“It is an honour to contribute something to the culture and community that has provided me with so much. I will always be grateful to Thailand for providing such warm hospitality and the opportunity to expand my creative practice.”

To find out more about Bateman’s artwork follow him on www.instagram.com/pebblepicassos or www.justinbateman.org.

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Bob Scott

Bob Scott is an experienced writer and editor with a passion for travel. Born and raised in Newcastle, England, he spent more than 10 years in Asia. He worked as a sports writer in the north of England and London before relocating to Asia. Now he resides in Bangkok, Thailand, where he is the Editor-in-Chief for The Thaiger English News. With a vast amount of experience from living and writing abroad, Bob Scott is an expert on all things related to Asian culture and lifestyle.

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