Bangkok’s cultural scene never fails to impress us with its new talents and thought-provoking arts. The city has become a hot haven for dynamic up-and-coming artists, welcoming innovative ideas and talents with open arms. Dedicated to all these creatives in town, this series explores the journey and the edgy personalities of some of the most notable rising stars in the country. 

We got candid with the uber-cool, stylish, sharp-witted artist, Dhanut Tungsuwan, also known as Balm. Balm is a talented Bangkok-born and British-bred emerging artist, who predominantly creates oil paintings and experimental recoloured landscapes with unique interpretations. He is a true city person who adores vintage items and a complete hoarder who loves collecting objects, because he believes that each object has a story and experience to offer. Apart from being very open-minded with a carefree approach to life, Balm is one chatty individual who gets a raw, deep conversation started with real ease.

[All image courtesy of Dhanut Tungsuwan]

Dhabut Tungsuwan, Balm, No Filter, interview with Dhabut Tungsuwan, The Standard Bangkok, The Standard London, emerging thai artist

If you’ve been to London this year, you’ve probably seen his dynamic work painted on the walls of The Standard, London. The wall between The Standard, London’s ground floor bar Double Standard, and Euston Road, perceived as “another space”, is reserved for young, up-and-coming artists who speak as much to London with their relentless energy. Balm defines his latest creation, ‘Found’ at The Standard, London, as a spaceship vessel that carries the survival of a fruitful creative culture and fuel for inspiration. Whilst Balm moved to London after the age of 9 and spent a lot of his time abroad, he is currently in Bangkok continuing to explore his inner creativity. From his favourite spot in London to being a vintage tee lover, here’s a snippet of Balm’s artsy personality and free-spirited lifestyle for your monthly dose of inspiration. Also, afterward, you might be eagerly waiting for his line of branded T-shirts that is all about redefining your individuality.

Dhabut Tungsuwan, Balm, No Filter, interview with Dhabut Tungsuwan, The Standard Bangkok, The Standard London, emerging thai artist

 

Describe yourself in three words.

Curious. Indecisive. Sentimental. 

What do you like about painting? And how did you get into it?

I kind of stumbled into it. Basically, when I went to school, it was the only subject I didn’t have to think about much. It was more technical and I could just paint. And I like that because I had more academic subjects like math. I kind of grew to like it; I kept painting and I got a scholarship which forced me to do art. I didn’t really like it and didn’t understand what painting was until I was 20. I mean it’s what you imbue into these pieces of objects you know – whether it’s painting, sculpture, or anything. So, I fell in love with it in uni and found out how it’s literally conversations in history kind of imbued into objects.

Name the last TV show you binge-watched.

The last one I binge-watched was Westworld. It’s actually about this theme park where rich people pay to go live this alternative life, which to me is similar to online games, but this is like in reality where everyone is a robot. It’s like a dream to me, I would love to do that.

What is your favourite part about being an artist?

Freedom. Not exactly physical freedom but the freedom of thought and that I could channel my curiosity into things that I’m interested in. I mean everyone who has a career is relatively interested in what they are doing, but with me, it’s very free. I can read about space today or robots next week — which is what I’m interested in — because I feel it’s the future of mankind. I feel like in the future we are all going to be robots. Seriously, we would look back and think “can’t believe we used to have flesh and blood 

Dhabut Tungsuwan, Balm, No Filter, interview with Dhabut Tungsuwan, The Standard Bangkok, The Standard London, emerging thai artist

What is a character you would like to play from a TV show or movie?

As a kid, I always related to the cool, bad guy that becomes good at the end, like the terminators. The really powerful, badass guys. I think there is some sort of attraction to being evil; dark but not actually being dark, but rather misunderstood or redeeming yourself. I always appreciate those kind of characters — anti-heroes.

If you could only choose one song to play every time you walked into a room for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Lessons by SOHN is really good. It’s one of the songs that take you on a journey and it’s kind of dark.

Who do you think is the most underrated artist?

There is a friend of mine named Christian. I think he is insane. He is interested in making his own pigments at the moment and he is into Buddhism. He’s from London actually and I feel he doesn’t have enough recognition.

Who is your favourite artist?

Adam Savage who did MythBusters on Discovery Channel. He used to be a prop maker and he made all these props for films including franchise movies like Star Wars. I’ve always been inspired by him because he is the kind of guy who is so passionate — he loves what he does so much. He could tell you about screws and you’d be interested!

If you were not an artist, what would you be?

I would probably do something related to computer science. Be a coder, or make apps, because that’s interesting and it’s a lot of money. I think I understand the basics as I’ve read some stuff but these things you really have to study and dedicate your time.

 

What is an Instagram account you’re obsessed with?

I don’t have one. I don’t spend that much time on Instagram, probably just an hour a day, mostly just replying to messages.

I spend a lot of time on YouTube and I watch a bunch of random stuff like cooking videos, but I don’t really cook that much. I watch the cooking videos from Adam Ragusea – he’s like a professor, very technical, and I like the whole process of learning.
Another one on YouTube: Nardwuar the Human Serviette – he’s insanely intelligent. He interviews artists and deeply researches about their childhood. He interviewed almost everyone from Travis Scott to Nirvana.

Dhabut Tungsuwan, Balm, No Filter, interview with Dhabut Tungsuwan, The Standard Bangkok, The Standard London, emerging thai artist

What are you currently reading?

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari and Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max Tegmark. 

If you were to write an autobiography, what would the title be?

3,001. It’s the name for the world I’ve made up – which is the world between reality and the digital world. Pretty much the world we live in. None of us exists solely in reality – like you’re attached to your Instagram account or Facebook account, and all your digital footprint, and that’s why I guess all my paintings exist. The name comes from one of my favourite films, 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick and I just added another 1,000 years to it.

What is your catch phrase?

“It’s only upwards from here.”

Actually, I’m working on a brand to make tees that are kind of loosely related to my paintings. It’s one of the screenprints I came up with. So it’s true, “it’s only upwards from here” and in life, it can only get better.

When can we expect the tees?

Probably around January next year. I don’t want it to be a massive rant nor like a piece of art. I just want people to see it and find it cool, whether it’s the caption or the prints. I’m trying to reclaim the power of individuality here. I want to break away from the mainstream brands because I think Thailand has so much to offer, on the same level as Tokyo.

Dhabut Tungsuwan, Balm, No Filter, interview with Dhabut Tungsuwan, The Standard Bangkok, The Standard London, emerging thai artist

What’s a wardrobe staple everyone should own?

A nice vintage T-shirt because I appreciate nice T-shirts that feel good on you, and you can wear it all the time. You are helping the environment too by using vintage.

Name 3 essential items you like to always carry in your bag.

Headphones. Because that’s essential and I just like how it transforms your whole experience of traveling.

A sketchbook and a pen. Not that I like to draw but I like to write stuff down, and not on a notepad. It’s different probably because I like physical objects.

Sweets. I just love eating sweets — just any kind like M&Ms or Hi-Chew candies.

Your favourite spot in Bangkok? And the best thing about this city?

My favourite spot is probably Chatuchak. It’s like this crazy place where all these objects come to meet — all these random objects from Kansas or tees from Paris, and other places. I also love that it’s such a tourist hub but also at the same time there is a real community there of people who sell certain things and they all know each other. There is an energy there and I really appreciate places which bring different people together. I just love its randomness of everything.

The best thing about this city is the food. People assume it’s the street food but it’s not just that. You can get the best sushi here. You can the best Italian or burgers here and it’s not expensive too. We have Jay Fai which is a one-Michelin starred street food restaurant. It’s incredible.

Your favourite spot in London? And the best thing about this city?

I don’t really have one but I like Ladbroke Grove, Notting Hill Gate. I think it’s like a living manifestation — it’s one of the richest areas of London where you go a bit north and there are lots of council estates. You go to a bar around there, see a millionaire’s kids, a Thai rich kid, or even Chinese dancing to reggae. It’s very random but very good. It’s really nice aesthetically and a rich area. You will not even see a Starbucks but an organic chai latte or something.

I am a city kind of person and I like the chaotic vibe – I like it when there’s a lot of people. I think London is so cool because it’s multicultural and I don’t ever see colour or even social standing. It’s like you just judge people on what they are doing based on their field. It’s like people move in and out all the time whereas Bangkok is very stagnant. In Bangkok, people are attached to more where they are supposed to be socially and bond over, and that’s why I appreciate London because it’s changing all the time. Even for me, I’m four months in London and then back here.

Dhabut Tungsuwan, Balm, No Filter, interview with Dhabut Tungsuwan, The Standard Bangkok, The Standard London, emerging thai artist
The Standard, London
Could you tell us about Found? And why did you choose to name it ‘Found’?

Finding Utopia was the brief I was given by The Standard London and then ‘Found’ is what Finding Utopia is, and it’s a play of words. It stems from the thought that they wanted it to be multicultural and a creative space where like-minded people could drink, get drunk, hang out, and have stimulating conversations. I think that’s what Finding Utopia means.

Do you have any favourite from your own work?

They each kind of hold a place in my heart but I believe their purpose is to hold a place out there as supposed to be kept. So, I try to detach from my work afterward but this one is my favourite which is really different from what I usually do.

Maybe, also because it was that time in my life when I painted it — it was really old. It’s an oil painting – there are horizons in the middle and there is a rocket going up in the space as if we don’t know what’s going up there. Just like in life. It kind of resonates with me and it’s the only one I want to keep and I wouldn’t sell. Because I feel like I painted it for me.

Dhabut Tungsuwan, Balm, No Filter, interview with Dhabut Tungsuwan, The Standard Bangkok, The Standard London, emerging thai artist

Would you like to add anything else? A message for young inspiring artists who want to pursue this as a career?

I think the most important thing is don’t compare yourself to other people. We all have our own pace, time, and interest and I think that will always prevail — your own interest and being yourself. Of course, no one is original and we’ve all been inspired by different things. I’m definitely an accumulation of different people I’ve met and learned from.

Also, I think social media is now deeper than just comparing yourselves. You base yourselves on affirmation from the online world, not even people or things you see, which is not great for your mental health. So, my message would be to take your time, work on your own pace, and just be sure and understand why you like certain things or what you don’t, as a comparison to what you are told.

Alisha Pawa
Writer
Alisha is a passionate dancer and is always creating her own choreographies. She is a fan of rom-com novels, a coffee-drinker who loves tea, and is always on-the-go for her midnight chocolate cravings. She hopes to tick-off her never-ending bucket list one day by hosting her own travel show.