Melancholy At Play

Art therapy vs retail therapyβ€”you probably have a preferred method of dealing with bad days. But the acrylic paintings of BYBAMBAM tap into a bit of both. Whether she’s smiling with the supernatural strength of a billboard ad, scowling in a dusty aisle of condiments, or stuck in bed surrounded by various products; the Thai artist’s colorful self-portraits brim with a blend of joyful pop playfulness and challenging melancholy.

It all started with a bout of insomnia that deprived Bam of sleep for days, forcing her to seek help for what she learned was really depression. The doctor suggested she write a diary, but she preferred to draw one instead, allowing her to reflect on her emotions at any particular moment. “Before this, I was just living my life and didn’t have time to reflect on how I felt or why I’d get sad,” she explains. “When I draw, I have to look back at myself. It’s like a mirror into my life.” That diary eventually grew into her first solo show, featuring a series of her laying prone in bed or sinking underwater in various rooms around the house. Sheep wander uncounted and exhausted, she’s all dressed up with nowhere to go, and her easel is set up but empty. Despite the dark subject matter, everything is painted in candy colors and stylized in bubbly shapes. “I wanted to contrast the sad nature with colorful things, because this is me. It’s still very cute!”

Although Bam found her artistic identity through art therapy, her relationship with painting isn’t as clear cut: “When I’m painting every day I want to stop so bad. But once I stop and have free time, I miss it so bad that I just end up back at the canvas.” She’s also decided to temper the emotions in the paintings a bit to make them easier to hang in someone’s home. One painting finds her in a shirt that reads, “A Little Bit Dramatic,” poking a bit of fun at herself. But continued therapy and medication have also improved her mood, so it’s not exactly a compromise.

Her second solo show finds Bam out and about. She visits the park to try and pet stand-offish stray cats, takes selfies with friends, and snacks voraciously. A dog so furry it resembles a cloud appears in most pieces. There’s a tinge of manic feeling in a day with Bam at this moment, but things are clearly looking up here. “I think it’s fun to see how people view me when they look at my paintings.”

Her most recent show, which is in the MRT subway station at Phahon Yothin, falls directly into the retail side of things: It’s a grocery store full of Bam products. There are rows of stuffed bears, paintings shaped like grocery bags, plastic produce with eyes painted on them, and even cleaning products and food stuffs with her own packaging (empty of course). There are puddles painted onto the floor, a caution sign she designed, and a check-out booth. Of course, there are new paintings as well, but these ones are focused on product designs that pop, packed with references to Ben & Jerry’s and Brillo pads. “This show is for normal people who don’t study art; they’re full of cute things that people will recognize immediately,” she explains. “It makes me happy because random people take pictures and tag me. Just everyday people taking the train, it’s very special. It reaches ordinary people.”