Artist, designer, and gallery founder Torlarp “Hern” Larpjaroensook doesn’t let much get in his way. On a beautiful sunny November day with the sounds of his assistants steadily working in the background, Hern and I sat down in his beautiful Chiang Mai home and studio space to talk about the evolution of his work, Gallery Seescape, and the art community of Chiang Mai.
Born on a houseboat in Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Thailand, Hern has been straddling history and modernity since the beginning. His work, wildly imaginative sci-fi fusions of traditional and antique Thai design with contemporary stylistic elements and technologies, speak to his upbringing in the quiet and historic former capital. His father was a carpenter, instilling an early curiosity in making. Outer space has also been of longstanding interest as Hern remembers his Chinese grandmother praying to the moon every day. He muses, “she went to the moon with spirituality like the Americans went with technology”. This fusion is the basis of his work and has particularly fueled the Spiritual Spaceship series.
Working in 2D, 3D, and now what he describes as 4D or interactive work, Hern is unencumbered by limitations of medium or material. With a desire for the public to physically engage with the work, Hern is currently working on a large-scale interactive installation that will be shown in both Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. “From the beginning I have wanted people to touch my work”, Hern says, with a desire for it to more than a purely visual experience. A fusion of the analog and the digital, handcraft and high fabrication, the work looks at the past to create a fantastical future. In his beautiful self-designed home/studio compound, he and (at least) two assistants are hard at work every day. Several projects are in the works simultaneously, scattered throughout a few buildings and outdoor spaces. With a relentless need to make, Hern is currently producing custom designed and fabricated porthole-like windows set to debut in December 2016 at Chiang Mai Design Week.
Hern graduated from Chiang Mai University in 2006 with a degree in painting. Hern remembers, “I had no money so I made lamps, notebooks, and movie props to make money out of school”. He soon opened up a small bar and restaurant, intended to be a space for the community to look at art, make conversation, and have a drink. While the impetus behind the bar was strong, the business folded not long after it opened. In 2008 he rekindled the idea, focusing solely on the creation and renovation of an art space he dubbed Gallery Seescape. Hern began by showing his own work and quickly began to invite other artists to exhibit. Since its inception Gallery Seescape has produced 78 exhibitions and events, sustaining itself without any support from the Thai government. Opened only a year and a half ago, the hip and impeccably designed SS1254372 Café now helps to support the gallery venture. Hern believes in the importance of art and has more than proven his dedication to bringing art conversation to the Chiang Mai community.