A lifetime of fascination with the sea creates works of translucent beauty
Her origins are in Nakhon Ratchasima, the landlocked Isan province of Thailand’s northeast, but from an early age, Napaphat Niamkhunthod (Noi) was inexplicably drawn to the majesty and mystery of the sea. It’s a fascination that over the years has produced great beauty as well as tragedy for Noi ; who now lives and works in Phuket, right next to her inspiring Andaman Sea. When she first moved to Phuket, Noi set up home and a painting studio on Bang Tao Bay on the island’s northwest coast. You could do that then; many people were living and working on the beach and life was freer in those days , she says. I would see the sea as I woke up in the morning and watch it as I went to sleep at night. I would see storms and fine weather and everything in between. The sea became part of me. But at the end of 2004, the sea turned on Noi when the tsunami hit Phuket and her beachside studio was destroyed.
The sea left me with nothing, except my memory and imagination – but that’s all an artist needs. Undaunted, she moved a few kilometres inland and set up a new studio and gallery, where she works today. Drawing on her long experience of observing the sea, Noi creates works of translucent beauty that engulf the viewer with immense space and intense colour, reflecting constant changes within the shifting tides; the colours of sea and sky being transformed from one moment to the next. By painting the sea and often the same sea over and over again I paint the experience and not the thing. I depict what is happening. It’s always fresh and new. Her work becomes a distillation of key elements, rather than a description in detail. She explores boundaries where abstract marks come together to form a coherent image. This is a fine balance – if there’s too much recognition the imagination switches off because there’s no mystery. The Andaman Sea, such a vast expanse of space, is full of mystery. It’s more than anything we can understand, though it speaks a common language to us all.