Niwat Kosol is an artist from Northern Thailand, who sees beauty in simple lifestyles practiced within small rural Thai communities. His paintings reflect the wisdom and intelligence of the villagers who adapt their knowledge to their environment. The distribution of knowledge led to a trusting community with close knitted relationships amongst the villagers, so everyone became dependent on each other. Living in the same areas as siblings like this is what keeps the community warm and peaceful.
Ever since childhood, Kosol has always been neutral with academic study and didn’t have any specific areas that he preferred. His father became concerned for his future and always kept an eye out on his grades to see further improvement. After seeing that his overall performance wasn’t doing well, he thought that maybe continuing his studies wouldn’t be a good idea. Coinciding with that time, Rajamangala Institute of Technology Payap Campus, Chiang Mai Province, was announcing applications for students to attend vocational studies and his father had seen an application for fine arts, so Kosol studied according to his father’s will. “My plans were to end up as a teacher and just aim to do my best in achieving good grades – that was all. I still didn’t feel special,” He recalls.
Once he graduated with a vocational certificate, he realised that his grades had improved and overall, his academic performance had exponentially boosted. “I could study and I can do everything in the field except for finding passion. I still couldn’t find myself, but my tutors would always support me by giving recommendations and feedback to my work,” He states. His first pieces of work were nature based — painting tree roots and intricate environmental details that requires complex visualisation.
“While studying, I met a friend who was very serious and dedicated to making art — he was a very hardworking person. He also submitted his pieces to many competitions, so when I saw this, it opened a whole different world to me. I never knew art had something like this because I had never thought of it as a business or an industry,” The artist states. That was when he thought to himself that he would pursue creative work. He started submitting his pieces to contests and received awards after which boosted his confidence in his creative skills. After entering college he questioned many areas of his study: What is the purpose of working with art? What can it possibly communicate or deliver? To him, it’s not just the work that shows skill or technique. Most importantly, he wants to share his knowledge and teach others how to be an artist. This goal was what sparked his art career and go on a journey of his own into the art industry. For the first time, he had an interest.
Kosol’s style has always been consistent ever since vocational school. One of the advice from his tutors during university where to go back to his original roots and contemplate his inner self, which he did and realised that he was fascinated in local lifestyle or the life he had going into adulthood. “That didn’t give my work enough depth,” He said. “I went back to my hometown and studied it heavily. I observed every detail, from the routines to the functionalities of the lifestyle. This gave me better insight to my concept,” Kosol sums up. Experiencing the atmosphere and being able to absorb the emotions allowed him to expand his creativity. “I would wake up to the villagers taking various equipments hanging in the basement of the house to go work. I’d drop by to go help fish or till the fields. The women would cook food and take care of the house. These observations helped me give my work a better narrative,” He continues to explain. The artist would notice distinct characteristics of the countryside lifestyle, which elevated his content and enabled him to finally finish his project. Once he proposed this, the topic received a green light and he was able to successfully convey the feelings he got from his studies — both in terms of memories and real factual data.
Shadows and shading is a very important aspect for him to accentuate in his works. “I think it is representative of the way life changes everyday, just how the shadows of different lightings change each moment,” He states. This is a realistic idea that he brings with his artwork. The feedback received from Ajarn Pricha, his tutor at the time was: “Keep producing old fashioned work like this and people will come to accept you”. After his studies, his tutor invited him to join teaching, but he didn’t take the offer as he wanted to fully pursue his art career, so he went back to Chiang Mai. “My main encouragement was the award that I received from the Kasikorn art contest in 1993, which was for a piece about my past memories,” He recounts. Thinking back at this, the reason why he chose this topic was because he liked the feeling it had conveyed. The nostalgia and the reminiscent sense of community was reflected upon the movement of lifestyle presented through his artworks. Even though there weren’t individuals drawn, the surroundings of the locality is able to communicate the mechanics of the people well enough. “As an artist, communication is an ideal factor for me. To be able to narrate a story without words is a fantastic development for any artistic person,” He explains. Kosol’s aim is to deliver peace along with his art and create a still conscience for his viewers. “I want to give him a sense of being present and away from the chaos. To escape from the stress of life and relax — being happy is the essential factor to living a simple life,” He recaps his work.
“The charm of my art lies within the emotions that are felt — the happiness, the thoughts and the perspective that gets drawn when you stop and view my work. I want it to bring you back to the present and spark new viewpoints from within,” He summarizes his concept.
Kosol decided to stick with acrylic as it fits his criteria the most. “Originally, I started with poster colour, but found that it had limitations as it required coating. Plastic colour breaks in texture while oil cooler smells bad and dries too quickly,” He describes the procedure. While studying for his vocational certificate, there was a trend to sell imported acrylic colors in Thailand, which gave him the opportunity to experiment with it. Kosol was able to adapt to this and has been using certified-brand acrylic colors ever since.