Boys’ toys at heart of whimsical art show

Jitti Jumnianwai employs childlike motifs
Jitti Jumnianwai employs childlike motifs. COURTESY OF JITTI JUMNIANWAI

Boys’ toys at heart of whimsical art show

Thai printmaker Jitti Jumnianwai’s new collection, on show in Phnom Penh through August, was inspired by childhood memories

Thai artist Jitti Jumnianwai has channelled the memories of happiness he felt as a child playing with toy robots into a fantastical set of prints now on display in Phnom Penh.

The exhibition, titled Robots, opened at Chinese House yesterday and runs through August.

“[The paintings] talk about how happy I was when I was a child,” the 34-year-old artist, who goes by “Jitti”, wrote in an email from Bangkok ahead of his flight to Cambodia for the opening.

When Jitti was a boy growing up in Lampang, northern Thailand, his father worked far away from the family home. When he returned, once a month, he brought toy robots for his young son to play with.

Jitti added a spaced-out backdrop to represent the infinite feeling of bliss, he explained.

The artist at work creating a new print
The artist at work creating a new print

“When you stay in outer space, you don’t know what time it is. You don’t know if it is day or night. You don’t know about the month or the year.

“I can put all my happiness in this.”

With a drypoint printmaking technique, Jitti uses needles to etch many layers of detail into his work.

Some are framed within three-dimensional cubes, hinting at the background of their creator, who was an animator for six years before becoming a full-time artist.

It was the documentary film Traveling with Yoshitomo Nara, a portrait of an eccentric Japanese artist who drew inspiration from animation, which prompted him to give up his day job.

The film follows Nara as he creates an imaginary town filled with his images – quirky pop art often featuring doe-eyed animals and humans, which attracted a following in the 1990s.

“I thought, this is the way I want to be,” said Jitti, who studied printmaking at Chiang Mai University.

The Thai artist’s work shares the same whimsical influence as his Japanese inspiration. Jitti’s back catalogue, which has shown in Japan, South Korea, China and Thailand, reveals a pre-occupation with space.

Each painting takes him a week to finish, although he spends a month on larger pieces, working in his studio from 10am until 11pm.

“I want to do the best in my work,” he said.

Robots is on display at Chinese House, Sisowath Quay. The gallery is open from 6pm until 11:30pm.

One of the paintings featured in Robots
One of the paintings featured in Robots
Several of the works are framed in cubes
Several of the works are framed in cubes

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