An Interview With: Naraphat Sakarthornsap
Give us a little insight in to who you are as a photographer. What does your work deal with, and what are your ambitions?
I always try to remind myself to not think of myself as a photographer or artist. I often tell myself that I am just an ordinary person who loves to work in art and the camera is the medium used to best communicate my abstract emotions. No matter what I do, if the work I design can create feelings for the audience, that is the highest goal.
In the end, I learned the ephemeral of all things through my own work. It is unbelievable that the work of art will only give us the answer to what we want to know, but that answer allows us to progress and learn more about ourselves.
I’ve always used flowers as the main objects in creating art. It is not only because flowers are beautiful but flowers also represent all my feelings. Every picture in my childhood album is from my constant walking around to look for a variety of flowers to sniff, to see and to take pictures of. I’ve never thought of growing up to be a full-time artist. These deep-seated memories are the best tools to reflect my identity.
In 2017 you had work at Bangkok’s National Gallery as part of the Young Thai Artist Awards, while as part of Photo Bangkok 2015 your work Gushing Out My Confession was also exhibited. How has being part of these events, amongst others, developed your creative sense of self?
“It's like climbing stairs with more steps than ever." I really feel that way. Presenting artwork in a great place is what many people dream of. Being awarded the prize for artistic creation is also a wonderful and incomparable memory.
However, will we continue to indulge in these? I admit that for a moment I was attached to these proud things. If asked how would I feel to show a great work and awards? I can answer that I’ve "learned" and know myself more. That would be the best foundation for me to keep creating artworks in the future.
From what I understand, public nudity is heavily frowned upon in Thailand. Did this affect how you approached your subject? How has it been received overall?
When creating “Gushing Out My Confession” I didn’t know that it would be displayed at Bangkok’s Whitespace Gallery. At that time, I just wanted to create another piece of art. After I graduated from the university, my life goes into society, office work, power and social roles that almost swallow me whole. Sadness, disappointment, and everything made me so weak that I nearly hurt myself because of the despair.
Finally, this piece of work helped heal my mind to the point that I could return to being myself again, and the models that were willing to pose half-naked are my friends since childhood and the teachers who taught me in the university. I did not even know that my work would finally be considered Nudity.
This is because I think nakedness is pure art. It's more like opening your mind without covering up. The fact that my country looks at the problem of making clothes or nudity is wrong, as well as sex toys being illegal in Thailand. But people in my country worship “Palad Khik", a sacred wooden penis (“honourable surrogate penis”). They also worship some sacred objects that look like nude people. That makes me think of belief and faith including ancient traditions may be something that people give more importance to than the law.
So, if the art I created cause issue in society, I believe the gallery space is like a piece of thin fabric that filters out the people who come to the exhibition and I have not encountered any problems from doing this show. However, if my work will cause me to be charged with an offense, I’d just made my artwork a sacred object. I might be above the law for a while.
While the flowers are an important element to your work, so too are the words, which you have described as a “secret code” to guide the viewers to the truth. Is there a singular truth to your photographs, or do these words play amidst a broader narrative?
If you notice the text written by me under the picture even the specified date are all grammatically incorrect. Mistakes were even made on uppercasing, lowercasing, or even punctuation marks. Everything seems to have been incorrect.
However, if you truly sort my works correctly, the text below will be sorted out as a perfect paragraph and the message will take you to the final answer of this series. I secretly and openly confessed to something.
What do you know now that would have been helpful during your times as a student?
I am one of the people who like drawing since I can remember. I’ve entered drawing contests for prizes since childhood until when I attended the university. Studying aesthetics, philosophy and psychology made me open the door to another world I never thought existed.
Having studied in a society full of art lovers made us see art, more variety of thought processes. That is an excellent driving force that makes our work develop. If I could go back in time I would return to my own time in school and say thank you to me for never giving up due to any disappointment and having always kept going for me to be me today.
What are you working on right now, and what can we expect to see from you in the future?
I still use flowers as the main object in making art but the work I'm creating now is more public in terms of concept and presentation. My personal story will still be implemented into the artwork. But its uniqueness is that other people must be able to understand it on the basis of each person's perception.
If asked what will be seen in my artwork in the future, it is a work of art that is expressed in a simple way but if you really understand the work, it would feel like being slapped in the face without knowing it.