Represented artist

Chatchai Puipia

Chatchai Puipia (b. 1964) is today one of Thailand’s most internationally celebrated contemporary artists. Puipia was born in Thailand’s rural, northeastern, rice-growing province of Mahasarakham, near Khon Kaen. His parents were both teachers and educational administrators in upper schools or universities in the region (his only sibling, a sister, is also a teacher), and shortly after Puipia exhibited real artistic facility, he was sent to Bangkok to complete is secondary studies at the prestigious Suankularb Wittayalai School (founded by King Chulalongkorn in the early 1880s).

After graduating in 1988 with a Bachelor’s degree (Painting) from Silpakorn University—Thailand’s premier art academy—Puipia emerged professionally among a first generation of truly progressive, Thai avant-garde practitioners, among them Montien Boonma (1953–2000) and Kamin Lertchaiprasert (b. 1964), who by the early 1990s were new expressive and conceptual approaches to their work (as it related to both regional and international developments) in the wake of a long history (since the 1950s) of artists’ earnest assimilation and adaptation of Euro-American (a.k.a. “Euramerican”) styles and practices to the Thai context. 

Puipia’s name has since become synonymous with a “first wave” of Asian progressive contemporaries to be featured, for instance, in the groundbreaking exhibition Traditions/Tensions: Contemporary Art in Asia, at the Asia Society and Museum, New York, in 1996. On that particular occasion, Puipia’s theatrical self-portrait, Siamese Smile (1995), which graced the exhibition’s catalog cover, immediately came to symbolize the “coming of age” of an entire Asian contemporary generation struggling to come to terms with numerous personal and collective challenges, indeed at the dawn of an unforgiving era of hyper-consumerism, regional socio-political struggle, and post-colonial identity formation.

Having started out as a painter of abstract assemblage in the early 1990s, by 1994 Puipia had taken up self-portraiture and other figurative modes of working, thereafter innovating a unique mode of Thai “Magic Realism.” He is known principally today for his self-portraiture, still-life painting, and semi-narrative figurative tableau and sculpture that either satirize the international art world or allude to private ruminations on the malleability of self-identity and the challenge to reason in a world seemingly increasingly hostile to measured reflection. 

Puipia has had numerous solo exhibitions, including Hymn of Fire, at Silom Art Space, Bangkok (1993); Take Me Somewhere, Tell Me Something, at Dialogue Gallery, Bangkok (1994); Paradise Perhaps, at Bangkok University Art Gallery (1996), Paradise Perhaps 2, at ISE Cultural Foundation, New York (2001), and Chatchai Puipia: Sites of Solitude, at 100 Tonson Gallery (2015). In 2010, signaling his desire to retreat from the art world for a period of working solitude, Puipia published a major artist’s book, Chatchai is dead. If not, he should be (Bangkok, 2010). 

Puipia has also participated in numerous group exhibitions both in Thailand and abroad, including Five Young Artists of the Year 1988, at Silpakorn University Art Gallery, Bangkok (1988); Les Peintres Thailandais Traditionnels et Contemporains, at Espace Pierre Cardin, Paris (1989); New Art from Southeast Asia 1992, at Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space (subsequently traveled to Fukuoka, Hiroshima, and Osaka; 1992); Traditions/Tensions: Contemporary Art in Asia, Asia Society Museum and the Queens Museum, New York (1996); Next Move – Contemporary Art from Thailand, at Earl Lu Gallery, LASALLE-SIA, Singapore (1999); Shanghai Biennale 2000, at Shanghai Art Museum (2000); Five Continents and One City, at The Third International Salon of Painting, Museum of Mexico City (2001); Singapore Biennale 2006, Singapore (2006); Thermocline of Art, New Asian Waves, at ZKM, Germany (2007). Puipia has received a number of prizes and awards in national art competitions. While the elemental relationship between fire and water is explored in much of his work, recent large-scale self-portraits indicate a shift toward his inner conscience, while alluding to socio-political tensions. He currently lives and works in Bangkok, Thailand.

For further information, including a comprehensive biography, bibliography, image database, and digitized publications, see the artist's entry at